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
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
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
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
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
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
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?