Weekly Local Biography

  M.L. Preeyapun Sridhavat

What has ballet, ballroom, Latin dancing, the Chiang Mai Juvenile and Family Court and Peru have in common? You would have to say, not much, but in fact there is a strong connection. That connection is the very stylish M.L. Preeyapun Sridhavat, the owner, director and principal of the Chiangmai Ballet Academy, an Associate Judge at the Chiang Mai Juvenile and Family Court and the Honorary Consul for Peru.

M.L. Preeyapun is a local lady, born in Lampang, but with her father moving around as a government officer, her important schooling was completed in Chiang Mai at the Prince Royal’s College.

When she was six years old she learned Thai classical dance from a Northern Princess, stimulating her interest in dancing as an art form, but when she saw classical ballet one year later, she told her father that was what she wanted to be - a ballerina! For many young aspiring “Alicia Tumblova’s” this is but a fleeting dream, but for M.L. Preeyapun it was no dream, but rather more of an obsession!

However, it was not just a simple expedient of getting a tutu and blocked toe shoes and practicing at the barre, academic ‘streaming’ at school propelled her into university, but not into the ‘arts’ side of things, but into economics, as she always had done well in science and mathematics. Pas de Deux and the Nutcracker Suite were put on hold while she completed her economics degree and joined a bank in Bangkok.

The nation’s capital did not excite her. The weather, the floods and the dull routine of banking did not suit her outgoing nature, and even a move to being the public relations officer of an advertising company was not enough to keep her there. Her widowed mother was in Chiang Mai and the local YWCA was looking for an executive secretary, so she returned to the north, staying with the YWCA for 12 years, eventually becoming the director.

During those 12 years she was also studying ballet in Chiang Mai and by 1987 had even opened the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy. Part of her passion for dancing was being assuaged, but not enough. “I needed more knowledge of ballet, so I went to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dance. This was four years and included study of anatomy, psychology, ballet history and the principles of teaching,” said M.L. Preeyapun.

I queried the study of anatomy for a teacher of dance, and was assured by her that ballet dancing helps pigeon toes and flat feet, unequal length legs, scoliosis and kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine). Knowledge of these conditions is required to allow remedial steps to be taken, as well as Pas de Chats steps!

During this time in London she also took jazz classes in the UK and remained interested in this variation of dancing when she returned to Thailand. Here she met with people from the Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing (CSTD) and went to Malaysia to sit their examinations and returned with the level of Honours Plus.

It seemed as if there were no style of dancing that did not fire her imagination and she embarked on ballroom and Latin dancing, taking courses in Bangkok and then sat examinations with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (UK), going through all the proscribed levels until she reached the zenith of Gold plus Honours in this discipline as well.

I asked M.L. Preeyapun if all these diplomas and awards were in some way restrictive, and she admitted that was the case. “You lose some of the ‘fun’ if you dance with someone who is not as good as yourself,” she said. (Since I was born with two left feet and can nominate a string of previous partners with crushed toes, I made a mental note to never ask M.L. Preeyapun for a dance!)

To be able to teach something as athletic as ballet, jazz and ballroom dancing requires the teacher to be able to lead the students through their routines, and I asked M.L. Preeyapun how she managed to remain so athletically supple. The secret for her, she confided, was to take advantage of all opportunities to exercise. She even has a very large bathroom so that she can do stretching exercises after her shower and can limber up while cleaning her teeth! This is true dedication to one’s art.

If all this were not enough, she combines all her exercising and teaching with duties in the Juvenile and Family Courts, an association that began ten years ago. She is also a member of the Professional Women’s Association of Thailand and became president in 1999. During her presidency she met the Peruvian ambassador who mentioned that they wanted to open a consulate in Chiang Mai and eventually she agreed to become the Honorary Consul for Peru. To help Peruvians here, she is now learning Spanish, as well as having visited the country with a Thai trade mission. Surely this would be enough, but no! She is currently taking a Master’s degree in cultural management at Chulalongkorn University.

Other awards (amongst many) that she has received include the Asia Pacific Women’s Inspire Award in Art and the Royal Award from H.M. the King for schools with the highest standards.

But dance is still her passion. Her Ballet Academy has had hundreds of children come through the ranks and it is not unusual for her to have 300 children in the evenings and weekends, covering classes from Kindy, Primary and Secondary students.

Her ambition is to see one of her students join a professional international company. “I have one who is suitable, and another who is currently teaching in the UK,” she said with some pride, “unfortunately parents these days want their children to excel in the business world, rather than dancing.”

When M.L. Preeyapun has a spare moment she enjoys movies. And what does she watch? Ballet and Arnold Schwarzenegger! Can he dance, I wonder?