HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ballet - History, and its future in Thailand

Chess where the players never got bored

Field research for young CMIS botanists

Ballet - History, and its future in Thailand

ML Preeyapun Sridhavat
Director of the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy

Ballet has existed since the Italian court introduced dancing over 500 years ago and it was then known as ‘ballo’. Ballet first began to spread around the world when Catherine of Medici brought ballet masters with her to teach in the French courts and gave the steps French names for easier understanding. Ballet has since developed into different styles such as French, Russian, Danish and the US Ballet.

A group of happy young dancers with an experienced ballet teacher who has a vision for the youngsters’ future.

Ballet was first introduced to Thailand by Madam Sawasthanapibarl in 1946. Mrs. Sheila Pavitt was another pioneer who first introduced ballet testing with systematic exams from the U.K. in 1968.

Will today’s young students be able to receive the best quality teaching and, thus become polished professionals? It is hard work!

Thailand has recently made its presence felt on the international stage with young Thai ballerinas winning prizes and contracts around the globe. Ms. Natnaree Pipithsuksunt, won first prize (the Gold medal of Adelene Genee award) at the Genee International Competition in the U.K. in 2001, and she has now landed a contract as a soloist with the San Francisco Ballet.

That’s the vision. That’s how they all want to be!

Another highly accomplished dancer is Ms. Sarawanee Tanatanit, who won a prize at the Prix de Lauzanne in 2001 and is now with the American Ballet Theater in New York.

This year Ms. Sarassanan Chantharabart and Ms. Nootchanart Sai-udom won first and second prizes for ballet, at the International Dance Competitions of the 25th Theatrical Festival in Australia.

What kind of training is needed to enable them to achieve a professional career on the international stage? Besides Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there is also ballet training available in Chiang Rai, Lampang, Khon Kaen, Mahasarakam, Nakonrajasrima, Ayudhaya, Samutsakorn, Nakonpathom, Chonburi and Phuket province. Most of the ballet schools have a set syllabus, and are associated with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), UK. Other schools are associated with the Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing (CSTD), Australia, while some are associated with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), also from the UK. Still others operate on a free syllabus basis; using French, Cecchetti or Russian techniques which mean that they have a corporate syllabus of their own.

There are many talented Thai dancers who wish to launch a professional career, but unfortunately the Thai community in the past has not supported them. Many parents have an incorrect concept of ballet, allowing their children to do dance because they are not ‘smart enough’ to pursue other subjects, or considering ballet only as a leisure activity for the children.

Perhaps another reason why children are held back is that dancing is not considered to be a career through which one can earn a decent living. Ballet also requires a large commitment of time and practice, perhaps more so than other forms of dancing.

Suggestions have been made by experienced ballet teachers for a vision for the future. With the existing circumstances, how much we can achieve depends on how good is the training. The teacher should both possess a thorough knowledge of the human body and an artistic eye for the dance spectacle.

Another point is what kind of training should be given? Should the classes have a set syllabus or a free-based syllabus? Most of the schools with young teachers prefer to have a set syllabus but this is only possible if they have a teacher registered with an affiliated accredited organization.

Other schools that have no affiliation with recognized dance organizations do their own classes with free class work. There are both strong and weak points with this method of instruction. The danger is that an inexperienced may not realize the basic techniques required for some difficult moves or steps. Past evidence has shown this can result in injuries, resulting in the fact that these children cannot dance any more.

Whereas the set syllabus is very useful for teachers as it has been researched to implement dance procedures step by step. One possible negative outcome of a set syllabus, however, could be a lack of individual creativity. When students remember all the steps repeated in every class and execute the steps with the music already in their mind, it may be more like an ordinary aerobic class and not for the purpose of artistic achievement. This could stifle the dancer’s talent, as no artistic skills will be developed.

Real development depends on how well the teachers teach. There are some teachers who really understand how to combine the two aspects of art and science together providing a framework for understanding and expression. On the other hand, there are still many teachers who do not realize the potential hazards of sub-standard instruction.

Will today’s young students be able to receive the best quality teaching and, thus become polished professionals? The government is not yet able to maintain close supervision, therefore; this matter is solely up to the teachers and parents to decide!

In conclusion, it seems that a combination of the two techniques would be the best solution. Dancers would be able to have the advantage of a structured class, with qualified teachers, and also gain artistic skills and a good ear for music. This would allow more Thai ballet dancers to turn what could have started as a hobby into a profession, and to then achieve even more on the international stage. If more teachers could be trained to combine technical expertise with artistic expression, ballet standards in Thailand could be raised, and as the profile of the Thai ballerina becomes more prestigious on the world stage, so it will in Thailand too.

Chess where the players never got bored

Dominique Leutwiler

After two weeks of intensive chess training some students at the Christian German School Chiang Mai (CDSC) were able to compete with accomplished masters. The tournament took place at the CDSC last Thursday and was attended by some of the best players in town.

Looking down on the players

Dirk Reps, a chess trainer from Germany held a two week chess course which was initially supposed to be for advanced players only. But with sufficient chess boards in stock and the support of some parents the CDSC was also able to offer in depth lessons for young beginners.

After all this practicing, CDSC principal Dirk Massinger organized the tournament so the newly gained knowledge could be measured against the best.

The children are very concentrated: Front left Kim Wiessmann, right Micha Dorn.

The game was played under the Swiss Tournament System. A total of 8 rounds, each one lasting approximately 15 minutes were played, so each competitor could play against every other opponent. This system was computer controlled, determining which two parties played the next round.

The adults are playing as well, Sebastian Schmidt and right Dirk Massinger, the new principle of the CDSC.

This introduction to chess was made possible and initiated by a parent at the CDSC and tournaments with other schools are planned in the near future. Hopefully other chess players in Chiang Mai will join those already fascinated by the game. If anybody is interested to join contact Sebastian Schmidt at [email protected] spbsoft ware

Field research for young CMIS botanists

CMIS information

Grade 3 students at Chiang Mai International School (CMIS) took an exciting trip to the Queen’s Botanic Gardens as part of their study unit on rainforests.

CMIS Grade 3 students with clipboards in hand, ready for hands-on research.

Bubbling with anticipation at the opportunity to get off campus, the students piled into vehicles and headed off with parent chaperones in tow. Clip-boards and worksheets in hand, the 8 and 9 year-olds spent the morning investigating the complex’s “simulated forests” and sketching their findings.

Young scientists from CMIS gathering data at in a greenhouse.

The students were able to see a number of plants they had studied in class, including an extensive collection of ferns, orchids and aquatic plants. They were all fascinated by the devious “pitcher plant” that lures insects with its sweet smell, only to capture them in a sticky liquid. The young scientists also observed how a forest works as a “whole,” and the many parts that make up the forest ecosystem.

Grade 3 teacher Lois Couch with CMIS students.

The Grade 3 students at CMIS are now building model rainforests in their classrooms, complete with an accurate representation of the different layers of leaves, flowers and animals. Their large classroom model will even have a pool with water and fish on the “forest floor.”

This hands-on approach to education is typical of the teaching style at CMIS, where most elementary classes are focused around “units” or a common theme. Many areas of instruction (for example science, writing, art and music) can be integrated around the theme, allowing students to explore a topic in depth from a variety of angles.