This Guy Founded A Male Exotic Dance Troupe In (Of All Places) Singapore


  • Leonard Heng, 28, is a full-time exotic dancer in Singapore with a three-year-old daughter.
  • Heng is also a creative director at his young exotic dance company Queen of Hearts.
  • He shares how he juggles his two huge life commitments with three main principles.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Leonard Heng, a 28-year-old father and exotic dancer in Singapore. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

Growing up, my life was never without dance. Contemporary, street style, jazz — you name it, I’ve tried it. 

My love story with dance began with Latin dance sport at seven years old. While my sister was taking classes, I would learn the steps from outside the studio looking in. 

Eventually, I was living and breathing dance.


leonard heng

Leonard Heng has been dancing for 21 years and counting.

Leonard Heng



For 10 years, I studied dance in art schools. I did the International Baccalaureate program at School of the Arts Singapore, then went on to pursue a diploma in dance at LASALLE College of the Arts, where I focused on ballet and contemporary dance.

But after having a “falling out” with dancing — where I felt a huge sense of frustration and wasn’t where I wanted to be — I dropped out of LASALLE to pursue personal training instead.

Of all the genres I’ve tried, nothing moves me quite like exotic dancing. 

I was first introduced to the genre at 18, when an acquaintance of mine offered me a gig opportunity and asked if I wanted to try. I agreed.

And just like that, I took my first step into the world of exotic dancing. 

Albeit heavily misunderstood, it’s an art form that’s not only extremely technical but also incredibly challenging. 

I’ve pursued many hobbies in my life, but the sense of fulfillment that exotic dance has given me —as well as the way it’s pushed me to be better and more disciplined in everything I do — led me to choose it as my full-time job. 

Most would think it’s just stripping and moving your hips sensually, but there’s the mastery of intimacy and respecting boundaries, all while perfecting the physically demanding task of dancing. 


fitness

Keeping his fitness and nutrition in check is all part of Heng’s duty as a full-time exotic dancer.

Leonard Heng



As a dancer, I have to constantly keep my nutrition, fitness, and techniques in check. And as the creative director of a Singapore-based exotic dance company, Queen of Hearts, which I founded last year, I also have to be adept at communicating and having business sense. 

Diving into the world of exotic dance challenges me like no other, and the challenges I constantly face have been making me an even better version of myself every day. 

It’s a lot to handle. But as a parent of a soon-to-be three-year-old daughter, I’m no stranger to juggling multiple tasks at a time, while making sure nobody gets upset. 

To top it all off, everything is incredibly new to me.

There was no rehearsal before I dived into the arduous but rewarding duty of raising my daughter. And as the founder of one of Singapore’s first male exotic dance troupes, there was no blueprint for that either. 

With no former success stories of exotic dancing locally, I had to convince the business partners and dance troupe members with my faith and vision alone. A few of my dancers are my students, while others were recommended to me by friends.

Thankfully, they all believed in me, and my dream of Queen of Hearts was able to become reality. 


QUEEN OF HEARTS

Queen of Hearts is currently a dance troupe of eight, and debuted last year on New Year’s Eve.

Leonard Heng



We currently find gigs through word of mouth, and for our productions, we generally only go shirtless depending on the venue’s license.

I live with my parents, who fortunately have helped me take care of my young daughter while I’m away at work. I’m also co-parenting her with her mother.

It definitely took me time to devise my own formula for managing these huge commitments in my life, but there were a few principles that helped me get to where I am today. 

Here are my top three hacks for juggling life’s greatest challenges.

1. Have a list of non-negotiables, and stick to it.

I used to dabble in a lot of side hustles, from working as a yoga instructor, personal trainer, acrobatics instructor, to even modeling.

But then my daughter came along in July 2020, and she became the greatest non-negotiable in my life. 

Now, my list of non-negotiables is guided by three main rules: make me a better person, a better parent, and help change people’s lives. 

So I dropped all my various hobbies, and prioritized being a good father, a skilled physical therapist, as well as a reliable creative director to my dance troupe of eight. 

With both my kid and company both so young, I always have to be on top of things and be ready to deflect any curveballs thrown my way. 

With a strict list of non-negotiables, my goals are clear and I know what I have to stay focused on at all times.

2. Show up for yourself.

A parent’s life often revolves around the kid as parenting is extremely demanding both physically and mentally.

This is why most people inevitably end up giving up their passion and hobbies for fear of being inadequate parents.

But for me, showing up for myself is one of the life lessons I really wanted to impart to my daughter.

 

I hope she sees how pursuing my passion for exotic dancing has made me a better person, and that it may inspire her to lead a life full of dreams and passion too. 

The desire to be the best version of myself for me and my family is what helps me power through many ordeals.

3. Trust your gut.

Oftentimes, particularly when you’re managing more than one important thing at once, you won’t have much energy or time to go over every motivation or decision you make. 

And it may be best to trust your gut at times like these. 

With my daughter, trusting my gut is second nature. When she cries, I know I’m doing a bad job. 

With my company though, it may have seemed reckless to follow my intuition about things. 

Yet it was trusting my gut that helped me realize my vision of a Magic Mike Live-inspired dance production crew. 

 

Before Queen of Hearts, there were no success stories of male exotic dance troupes in Singapore, where the nightlife industry definitely isn’t as vibrant as that in the US. 

But I really wanted to introduce a new perspective on exotic dance that didn’t quite exist in Singapore’s nightlife industry, and at the same time reduce the stigma surrounding the genre. 

Exotic dancing and stripping are close in nature and the two are often seen as synonymous, but our dance troupe identifies itself with the former. 

The reality of things may have been discouraging, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that this was something that could work, and a dream I wanted to achieve. 

Thankfully, our crew’s debut on December 31 last year was met with overwhelming success, and more opportunities for growth started coming up. For now, we are preparing for a big production end of May, though the date hasn’t been set.

I still have a long way to go with raising both my child and my dance company, but with my family’s support and these principles close at hand, I’m ready for anything. 



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