Entrepreneur and pioneer of Singapore Malay dance
Som Said is a pioneering and award-winning Malay dance choreographer as well as an entrepreneur.
Picking up dance as a hobby when she was a schoolgirl, it became her all-consuming passion in life and in 1987 it earned her the prestigious Cultural Medallion.
In 1965, when she was a teenager, Som joined the Sriwana cultural group as a pioneer member and quickly began a leading member of the troupe. Keen to raise the standard of Malay dance, she formed in 1974 the Sriwana Children’s Dance section. Many of her students have become professional dancers. In 1985, Som became Sriwana’s artistic director.
As her dance skills developed, Som felt a need for Singapore to develop its own approach to Malay dance instead of relying on Indonesian traditions. She began to create and choreograph her own works, fusing traditional Malay dance routines with more contemporary moves and pan-Asian gestures.
Som has choreographed numerous performances of Malay dance for television, festivals and parades since 1974, and she has performed in major dance and folk festivals around the world.
In 1997, Som founded Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts, Singapore’s first fully professional Malay dance company. Its artistes, who are all trained in multi-disciplinary art forms, perform at many events locally and internationally every year.
Sri Warisan also runs training programmes, conducting more than 3,000 dance and music workshops and courses in schools each year under the auspices of the National Arts Council’s Arts Education Programme. In 2011 the company ran an intensive workshop in traditional Malay dance and music for the Singapore cast of the Lion King musical.
Som is a pioneer not just of a Singapore form of Malay dance but also of wedding services. She founded Singapore’s first Malay wedding boutique, Ratu Sari Bridal House & Photo Studio, where she used to personally design wedding apparel.
Her many awards and honours include the National Youth Service Award (1979), Cultural Medallion (1987), Public Service Medal (1992), and the Anugerah Warisan Kencana (2007) from the Malay Heritage Centre.
In 2004, she was awarded the Special International Friendship Award by the Festival Internazionale del Folklore, an Italian festival organised annually in Agrigento, Sicily. The award was in recognition of her efforts in taking Singapore arts to the international arena.
More recently, Som was named Achiever of the Year 2009 by Berita Harian, and in 2013 Samarpana, the Asian festival of classical dance, honoured Som with its Samarpana Citation for her invaluable contributions fo Malay dance.
"You have to learn through experience. You have to go through difficulties. Face them as they come. Don’t think of problems before they happen because they might never happen!"