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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.