Mom Luang Preeyapun Sridhavat
talks to the Chiang Mai Mail
Mom Luang Preeyapun, thank you so much for agreeing to talk with the
Chiang Mai Mail. Firstly, I’m sure our readers would like to know something
about you yourself. Were you born in Chiang Mai, and have you always lived
Luang Preeyapun Sridhavat, the director of the Chiang Mai Ballet School.
My family are originally from Bangkok, and are part of the Royal Family;
hence I have a title in front of my first name, “Mom Luang”. I was born in
Lampang province, my family having moved there on the appointment of my
father as a government official. When I was only 6 months old, the family
moved again, this time to Chiang Mai province.
Could you tell us how old you were when you started to take dance lessons,
and about your training?
I was 7 years old when I began to study ballet, and my first teacher was a
doctor who was working with the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai
University, and who had trained in dance in the USA. He had no family, so,
in his spare time, he taught ballet to local children and young people.
Later, I was fortunate to be able to continue my studies with Linda
Campbell, a teacher from Vancouver, Canada.
Before you began to teach, did you have a stage career, or was your passion
always to teach? If you did perform, did you use a stage name?
In the past, as classical ballet was not well known in Thailand, it was not
possible to make a career in the world of dance, as one would not have been
able to earn a living. Even though I was passionate about dance, my parents
would not support me in any way which would have allowed me to pursue a
career abroad. I was allowed to dance only as a hobby, and had no choice but
to pursue my academic studies. As a result, I gained a Bachelors’ degree in
Economics at Chiang Mai University, and later a Masters’ degree in Cultural
Management, (specialising in Performing Arts), at Chulalongkorn University
scene from the classical ballet “La Bayadere”, originally choreographed by
Marius Petipa, the “father of dance”.
When I was able to have my own income, it enabled me to study outside
Thailand. I travelled first to Canada; later I travelled more extensively,
visiting ballet schools and dance companies in Asia, Australia, North and
South America and Europe, in order to learn about the many different styles
of teaching. As it seemed too late for me to embark on a dancing career, I
decided to go to London, where I gained my Teaching Diploma with studies
including anatomy, child psychology and teaching practice. I became a
registered dance teacher at the Royal Academy of Dance, where I stayed for 4
years. After that, I gained the Jazz and Ballet Dance certificate from the
Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing, Australia, the Latin Dance Gold
Medal from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in the UK and the
Flamenco Dance certificate from Taller Flamenco, Spain. Recently I have been
appointed by the Royal Academy of Dance to the position of RAD Practical
Teaching Supervisor, which involves evaluating classes given by students who
are studying for the RAD teacher’s certificate.
You opened your school here in 1987; was this always your ambition?
I began teaching as assistant to Linda Campbell, and later briefly taught
ballet classes in Chiang Mai for the children of lecturers at Chiang Mai
University. I also taught young children at the YMCA and the Yamaha Music
School, and went on to teach in London and Singapore. Lately I have been
teaching Japanese students in Bangkok.
Having gained a great deal of teaching experience, in 1987 I decided to
found the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy. I have always aimed for the highest of
standards, both in my own work and in my academy, and this approach was
rewarded in the year 2000, when HM the King presented the academy with his
Royal Award for the highest standards achieved by any Thai dance school.
Could you tell us about the school’s development and that of its students?
Do you have ex-students who are dancing professionally either in Bangkok or
The academy has been fortunate to have trained many fine dancers over a long
period of time. Ex-students have diversified in to many different fields of
dance. One girl is now dancing professionally in a Contemporary Dance
company in New York, has her artist’s visa and is making a very good life
for herself both in the city and in touring across the USA. Two former
students are teaching in Australia, others have opened their own dance
schools in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and some are dance teachers in my
schools. Many are working in entertainment businesses in Bangkok such as
Grammy PLC and R.S. Promotions PLC, others are free-lance dancers for event
organisers in Bangkok, and some have become models and air hostesses.
There seems to be a growing interest both in classical and modern ballet in
Asia; what level of interest have you found here in Thailand?
Classical ballet was first introduced into Thailand in 1934; however, the
modern dance forms are still not well known here, although some Thais are
familiar with them through travelling abroad or attending the twice-yearly
performances in Bangkok. Classical ballet has gained more popularity because
of its greater exposure both in the theatre, the media and on television.
In our previous conversation, you mentioned the benefits to young people of
training in dance; could you explain your feelings about this to our
Classical ballet training can be of great benefit to very young children in
many ways. Posture, in a young child, can be vastly improved, as training
straightens the baby “S” curve in the spine, which also becomes lengthened.
Full body muscle tone is strengthened, and the muscles themselves are
elongated. The grace and erect elegance of movement this encourages will
continue into adulthood.
During class, exercise releases endorphins, (the “happiness hormone”), a
very enjoyable experience for the ballet-trained child. Performing on stage
and even the taking of examinations builds confidence and a good
Most importantly, ballet training stimulates the performance of the right
side of the brain, which is then more able to work with the left side,
(which is already being stimulated by academic studies), thus improving the
brain’s overall performance.
Young dancers learn to count the rhythm, calculate the amount of space a
movement will use, and to plan ahead, culminating in skills which will be
useful in later life. One of the greatest benefits to a young child is the
use of imagination and the creative thinking ability which this stimulates.
Even if, in adult life, an academic or other career is followed, there will
be so much more enjoyment and appreciation of beauty, wherever it is found,
and of the arts, as a result of dance training.
What are your feelings about the future of dance in Thailand?
Many students from dance schools in Thailand have already won awards in
international dance competitions abroad, and many are earning their livings
in Australia, Europe and the USA. These successful ex-students are good
examples for young dancers to follow in order to fulfil their dreams of
becoming prima ballerinas in the international dance arena. Ballet in
Thailand has every chance to become more accomplished and to achieve ever
Please tell us something about the school’s upcoming performances of “La
Bayadere” and “Peter Pan” - about the students, their ambitions, their
As a dance teacher, I am always careful to give the best opportunities
to my students to gain more confidence and to employ their increasing
maturity on stage. Proceeds from the upcoming performance will go to the
Chiang Mai Red Cross and the Mentally Retarded People’s Welfare Centre in
Chiang Mai. I encourage the students to view the performance as an
opportunity for merit-making.
This year’s production is a double bill consisting of La Bayadere, a
classical ballet with an Indian theme choreographed by Marius Petipa, the
father of classical ballet, and Peter Pan 2008, a modern/jazz dance ballet
based on the famous children’s book. Amongst the dancers will be 18 dancers
who have won international awards from Australia and Singapore, together
with a Thai male dancer who trained in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, when the
country was still part of the USSR. All of the professional dancers are
looking forward to dancing with the students from the Academy, who, of
course, are thrilled to be dancing with them.
Dance students seen performing in “Peter Pan
a jazz and modern style ballet based on the well-known children’s story.
Lanna here, Lanna there, and smiles everywhere
Menus and friendship exchanged on a perfect evening
Some while ago, in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, a young
Thai/Chinese couple, Malee and John, started a Thai restaurant which
subsequently became very popular with nearby residents. Because Malee
was originally from Chiang Mai, they had decided to call it the Lanna
Restaurant. Geoff Crawford and his partner Margaret lived nearby, and
had become regulars and friends of Malee and John, particularly as, with
their love for travel, they had visited Thailand many times. A good
friend of Geoff’s for almost 40 years, Dr. Iain Corness, the Pattaya
Mail’s much appreciated medical and motor correspondent, lives in
Pattaya, and was another reason for their visits to the Land of Smiles.
Aware of Geoff and Margaret’s upcoming trip, Dr. Iain suggested that, as
the couple were planning to visit Chiang Mai as part of their itinerary,
they should eat out one night at a restaurant of the same name in the
city, compare food and exchange menus. Which is where the CM Mail came
in! Amazingly, we could only find two restaurants of that name, and
decided on the Lanna Restaurant at the Amari Rincome Hotel.
smiles at the Amari’s Lanna restaurant, with both menus and special
Lanna Thai dishes.
Geoff and Margaret arrived in Chiang Mai on May 4, having taken the
“Jungle Train” from Kuala Lumpur plus an 8 hour bus journey to the
south, where they had spent time roaming the islands, swimming,
snorkelling, walking and relaxing. Another 8 hour bus trip took them to
Bangkok, where they caught a plane to Chiang Mai. As they had already
arranged a 4 day trek up into the hills, the Chiang Mai Mail’s columnist
met up with them at the Lanna Restaurant on the evening of May 5 for a
very special evening. Geoff’s motto, “Life is all about creating good
memories”, held true that night; the food, (a very generous and
delicious Monday night barbecue, finished off with a seriously wicked
white chocolate mousse!), the conversation, the wonderfully attentive
staff fascinated by Malee and John’s Australian Lanna Restaurant menu
and their photos, all added up to a night to remember. Then came the
surprises. Firstly, as the cameras were brought out, two special Thai
dishes, beautifully prepared and decorated, were brought to the table to
be included in the photos of menus from both restaurants being
exchanged. Of course, they had also to be eaten! Delicious, even though
too much had possibly been eaten already… Finally, when Geoff requested
the bill, he was told that the entire meal was “on the house”!
A generous and perfect ending to a perfect evening. Many thanks are due
to Wim Fagel, the GM of the Amari Rincome, and to his staff, for making
it truly an occasion to remember.
Lanna Restaurant staff, with the Assistant
Food and Beverage Manager, comparing Geoff and Margaret’s local Lanna
Restaurant menu with theirs!
Geoff and Margaret, with the Assistant Food
and Beverage Manager at the Lanna Restaurant, Amari Rincome Hotel,
admiring the specially presented Thai dishes.
Soroptimists and celebrities
team up to aid single mothers
Multi-talented people with one single aim
Pictured at the Empress hotel, Tananan
Willson, (Fashion Designer), Thannaree Portbuntum (PR Empress Hotel), Dr
Carolina Thompson (President Soroptimist International), Donna
Dauenhauer and Wit from Hair Pro, after a working lunch organising the
upcoming Fashion Extraordinaire Fundraiser.
The already announced “Taking Action in Style” Fashion Extraordinaire
Fundraiser to be held at the Empress Hotel Convention Centre on May 17
is a joint project of which all concerned expat and Thai members of the
city’s community should be proud, as it has brought together so many
major talents, both in the design and hairdressing fields and in the
fields of organisation, volunteering and caring. Here in Thailand, the
combined problems of single parenthood and poverty cause desperation and
misery to young mothers in that sad situation. Organisations such as the
Soroptimists and their many supporters are vital to the welfare of this
seriously disadvantaged section of society.
Soroptimists International - the word itself is taken from the Greek
words “soros” and “optima”, meaning “sister” and “giving the best of
oneself” - was founded over 80 years ago, and have more than 90,000
members worldwide; all are women in management and the professions, and
all are committed to promoting social justice and the empowerment of
women through economic independence and greater participation in
decision-making at all levels of society. The Chiang Mai chapter of the
organisation is newly chartered, just under one year old, and has
already initiated the “Single Mothers’ Project”, aimed at supporting
single mothers by reimbursement of medical costs and providing
scholarship grants for their children when needed. Other objectives are
to liaise with employers who support single mothers, and to provide
training in basic business ethics to help single mothers make the
necessary adjustments in the work place.
The celebrities involved in the Fashion Show are no less committed to
the cause of the disadvantaged. Tannanon Willson, Fashion Designer of
the Year 2006, (an award given by the Vocational Education Commission of
Thailand), is now retired after many successful years designing for
celebrities, beauty pageant contestants, concert artists and also the
Mayor of Chiang Mai! He is now the treasurer of the Committee of Public
Relations and Marketing Association of Northern Thailand, which itself
supports many charity events in the north, and is also taking care of
his mother’s business, Lok Chai Nerve Massage Institute, since her
retirement after 40 years of hard work running a business and raising
Tannanon and his brother on her own. The family came form a poor
background, and Tannanon feels very fortunate that he has the means and
the opportunity to give something back to the local community.
The well-known Wit Boonma, owner of the two Hair-Pro salons in Chiang
Mai, is also very involved in helping disadvantaged members of the local
community, and is particularly committed to the Single Mothers Project.
Since last year he has been supporting Mae Wang Hospital by helping to
provide meals for diabetes patients, as well as, together with his
entire staff and Soroptimist members, travelling regularly to local
villages to cut hair for free! He also trains would-be hairdressers at
the School for Life.
The Chiang Mai “celeb” models who will be gracing the catwalk at the
fashion show, together with 8 professional models, will include Anchalee
Kalmapijit, of Skål Int and the Elephant Life Experience, Chatima
Pingpayom of G-Create Ltd, Duenpen Chaladlam of BTS Travel, Esther Ting
of the River Ping Palace, Celeste Tolibas-Holland, volunteer
extraordinaire and member of Ferc and Zonta, and Winifred Ho, the
“wearable arts” designer. A very special modelling treat will be
provided by the guest appearance of Michael Morrow, the US
Consul-General, and his wife, Shannon, also a Soroptimist.
The show will be opened with a welcome by HSH Dr Mom Chao Duangduan na
Chiengmai, and M/C’d by Pim Kemasingki of Citylife and Artchariya P. San
Miguel Pratummanee. The renowned Antoine, recently returned to Chiang
Mai, will entertain during a superb dinner as will the famed Remi, with
her unique style of music. For everyone’s enjoyment, a silent auction
with exciting prizes will take place, as well as a Lucky Draw, the Grand
Prize of which will be two roundtrip tickets to Bangkok, kindly donated
by Bangkok Airways.
Tickets for this unmissable event are available from Hair Pro salons,
Classic Touch, (053 278 325), Hillside 4 Condos reception desk, Café
Pandau, (085 715 3787), and Spa de Siam, (086 911 1158). For further
information, contact Dr Carolina Thompson on 089 557 5388, email
csmtthai @gmail.com, or Maureen on 081 025 6222, email mauree