Hip-hopping to happiness

Weighing 133kg, Nattakorn Thavornchat can effortlessly do the splits on the dance floor, whereas the 165kg Suebpong Pongpetchdee can swiftly cha-cha-cha as well as elegantly glide through a waltz routine.

The choreography challenges Nattakorn Thavornchat to do daring dance moves.

Learning of the reality competition, Dance Your Fat Off, the heavyweight hopefuls didn't hesitate to audition for the TV show as it would allow them to test their talent while shedding weight.

"Losing weight requires commitment and self-control. It's very hard for me to control my eating habits, and that's why I'm still overweight even though I exercise via dancing," said 23-year-old Suebpong, who likes jazz and ballroom dancing.

"I want to weigh around 100kg, which will make it easier for me to find clothing and look as good as slimmer guys."

Both Suebpong and Nattakorn made it as one of the 12 contestants who will battle it out in the new TV show, premiering this Saturday, on Channel 3, from 5.45pm.

A Thai version of the American Dance Your Ass Off, the reality competition houses finalists together for a weight-loss programme supervised by a physician, a nutritionist and a fitness trainer. They are also coached by a dance trainer in order to perform in front of a panel of judges, who will give them a dance score which is combined with a weight-loss score. Each week, the contestant with the lowest total score is eliminated and ultimately one is crowned the champion.

"We expected around 300 to 400 big-size applicants, but unexpectedly more than 1,000 turned up for the auditions," said Manee Eab, managing director of IPG Mediabrands, who brought the rights to the US TV format.

"They were also surprisingly good in dancing which, coupled with their cheerful personalities, made the auditions a lot of fun for the panel of judges.

"However, we could only pick 12 contestants, who will surely make it an entertaining show, which differs from the many singing contests on Thai TV."

Dance Your Fat Off is the second reality dance show to entice Thai viewers after Dancing With The Stars debuted in January on Channel 7. Nattakorn, Suebpong and the other contestants will be challenged with various dance styles, from classic ballroom to modern K-pop, with their performances judged by Jan Dara's leading actress Yaya Ying, DJ Eakky (Eakachai Ueasangkomsate), and singer/actor Kiatkamol Lata.

"Being overweight poses a problem in dancing, but what overcomes this obstacle is the contestants' passion and confidence," said Yaya Ying, who's also a singer/dancer.

"As a dancer, I will comment on their physical performance and overall presentation as well as their development each week."

Nattakorn views the competition as a stage to develop dancing skills while being a life-changer _ show's slogan is "Dancing can change your life".

"My slim friends often joke that being fat would make it difficult to find a big enough coffin when leaving this world," said the 26-year-old contestant.

"Committed to both the dancing and the weight loss, I'm going to show them that I can be slimmer and healthier after participating in this TV show."

_ Kanokporn Chanasongkram