Taiwanese ballroom dancing queen Serena Liu Chen died at age 44 on Sunday following a drawn-out hospital stay, where she was awaiting a heart transplant after heart valve replacement surgery.
A staple of the Taiwanese entertainment scene for more than 15 years, Liu leaves behind her husband, singer Shin Lung, 48, and their four-year-old daughter, Ni Ni.
Liu suffered from poor heart function after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery at Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb 7.
She went for another operation later to remove a blood clot in her brain. She was also put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a life support machine, while waiting for a heart transplant.
Veteran Taiwanese host Jacky Wu, 57, who runs the artist management company that Shin belongs to, held a press conference yesterday on behalf of Shin.
He said Liu’s life support was pulled after it was determined that there was no hope left for her. “The medical team did everything they could do for her, but at the final stages, it appeared there was nothing left to be done. But Shin did not want to let her go.”
He revealed that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, a former doctor and professor at National Taiwan University College of Medicine, whose speciality includes organ transplant, ECMO and artificial organs, was invited to assess Liu’s condition. Mr Ko later told Shin there was “no chance” left for Liu.
Liu’s family, including her parents who did not want to see their daughter suffer, later decided to take her off life support.
Liu, a regular guest on Taiwanese variety shows, had done hosting and acting, but first came to the public’s attention as a beautiful dancer.
She had learnt ballet as a child for 12 years and picked up ballroom and Latin dance as an undergraduate of the National Chengchi University in Taiwan. She said her love of the art form – characterised by partner dances – blossomed after watching the film Dirty Dancing (1987).
In 2004, she was invited to a variety programme to dance with Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau. Her good looks, svelte figure and smooth moves catapulted her to fame, as more programmes invited her to perform her dance routines.
Liu was later a frequent guest on the long-running talk show Mr Con & Ms Hsi (2004 to 2016) hosted by Kevin Tsai and Dee Hsu.
Hsu and Liu shared an onscreen rivalry as Hsu, who also trained in ballroom dancing, often mocked her dancing skills in jest, proclaiming her skills to be superior to Liu’s.
Their dynamic was played up on screen, but the two shared a cordial relationship in real life.
According to Taiwanese news outlets, Hsu broke into tears when told of Liu’s death. She said: “I hope she has many beautiful shoes in heaven to wear and she can keep dancing.”
Liu was said to be a shoe fanatic, with a large collection of high heels.
Liu’s relationship with her husband was also envied by the public. The couple first met when they were both judges on a reality television series in 2012.
The gruff-looking Shin and the sweet, demure Liu seemed an odd match, but Shin was known to be a devoted boyfriend and, later, husband.
Comedian Tai Chih-yuan said Shin turned down invitations to go out with him, instead making bento (lunchbox) meals and bird’s nest for Liu when the two were dating.
The couple reportedly first began dating on July 22. They previously mentioned in interviews that they had a small celebration on the 22nd of every month with gestures such as giving each other cakes or gifts.
In a tragic twist, Liu died on March 22, at 10.22pm.
In a statement delivered by Wu, Shin said he was “heartbroken”.
Wu said: “He has expressed some worrying, ill thoughts. We will be there for him and will assist in his daughter’s care and future too.”
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