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A dynasty of dancers

Captain Crabtree Writes


A dynasty of dancers

Sophatai Kanthatham and the Sangdao Performing Arts School

Elena Edwards
With a mother who is one of the three famous pioneers of Western Dance in Thailand, and a grandmother who loved to dance in both Thai and Western styles, it’s no surprise that Sophatai Kanthatham became an accomplished dancer in her own right! Brought up whilst her mother, Pornpimol Kanthathan, (now teaching at the Sangdao Performing Arts School), together with Mom Luang Suchira Visitkul and Thanpuying Varaporn Pramoj na Ayuddhaya were popularising and teaching classical ballet in Bangkok, Sophatai studied first with her mother and other well-known teachers in the kingdom and in the USA before undertaking full-time dance education at the famous Arts Educational School in London, UK.

One of the Sangdao Performing Arts School’s teachers giving a jazz hip-hop class.
Her success in her studies brought her a scholarship to the Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon. in France, after which she was offered and accepted several professional contracts in Europe. Having dedicated herself to the exacting and exhausting world of the dance, she continued her career by passing on her knowledge and experience teaching in Holland, before returning to Thailand to teach with her mother and manage the Sangdao Performing Arts School. Sophatai is also, importantly, co-founder of the Child in Motion Foundation, which helps to develop underprivileged children through the performing arts.

Sophatai Kanthatham shown in ‘grande jete’, during a solo from the ballet Scheherazade, choreographed in 1910 by Michel Fokine.
However, dance training and experience, together with a passion for teaching and helping others, were not the only assets she brought with her from Europe...accompanying her to Thailand was her husband, Glenn Van der Hoff, whom she had met and fallen for on her travels! Glenn, of course, with over 30 years’ experience in the performing arts, is an accomplished dancer in his own right, having been the artistic director and founder of the well-known Djazzex Dance Company, which has performed in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Aruba, Canada and the USA. A choreographer, theatre producer and guest teacher of dance to many companies worldwide, Glenn’s wide experience and expertise has been invaluable, both to his wife and to their school. Other assignments for this energetic and dedicated dancer include National Administrator, (Thailand), for the Royal Academy of Dance, (England); member of the Research Committee for the Dutch Professional Arts Education, chairman of the Audit Committee for Arts Education, member of the Dance Committee of the Council for Culture, member of the statutory advisory committee for the Ministry of Culture, programmer of the Binnenhof Festival, co-founder of the Child in Motion Foundation, coordinator for the Cultural Collaboration Holland-Indonesia and member of the graduation jury of Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of Performing Arts! And he still manages to find time to spend with Sophatai and their baby son, who is, unsurprisingly, at just less than 1 year old, already showing a talent for dance!

Sophatai Kanthatham gives a classical ballet class.
The Sangdao Performing Arts School is a merger of two schools, the Pornpimol Sophatai Dance School from Bangkok and the Aree School of Dance Arts in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Its methods of teaching are based on many different styles and techniques, with a primary and essential focus on the individual needs, qualities and capacities of their students. Whether the style is ballet, jazz or contemporary, all teachers at SPAS are committed to providing quality dance education, advice, service and care. The school has 3 dance studios, two of which are multifunctional and can be transformed into a presentation area where performing arts of different kinds can be created and displayed to Chiang Mai audiences. All three studios are specially designed with: professional sprung dance floors to prevent injuries, teakwood barres and high quality music installations.
Ballet classes provide an essential foundation for more modern dance styles such as Jazz and Spanish, whilst giving the student a better and more graceful posture and social awareness. The Royal Academy of Dance, (RAD) system used involves a yearly examination, confirmed by a certificate. Students can also take class in Spanish Dance; creative classes for the very young, (from 3 years old), provide a basic for beginners’ ballet, and are fun and educational; choreography and composition classes give dance teachers and students with more then 4 years’ training the skills to expand and enhance their personal styles and ways of expression. Special classes are available for boys, who need a different focus to their ballet training, and there are repertoire classes during which excerpts from famous ballets are taught, plus classes for more mature adult students. One of the most popular dance crazes at present amongst young people is Jazz Hip-Hop, with its amazing and complicated movements set to upbeat modern jazz rhythms. Classes at SPAS provide the framework of the technique and skills necessary, which, in their turn, give students incredible flexibility, concentration and self esteem!
Sophatai, her mother Pornpimol, Glenn, and everyone at SPAS are dedicated to their goals of providing a high standard of dance education and cultural awareness in Chiang Mai by sharing their international knowledge and experience with the next generation. They believe that dance education for children and adults, both female and male, can form the basis for a higher appreciation and deeper understanding of the arts in general. The school, they hope, will become a meeting point for dance lovers which will grow into a platform where different artistes can meet and exchange their skills and talents with each other and the audience.
The Sangdao Performing Arts School is located on the Hang Dong Road next to the Siam Commercial Bank, on the 3rd floor of the new Yamaha Building. For more details, please contact Sophatai 053 274 841 or Glenn on 085 1564 562. For details of the Child in Motion Foundation, please visit


Captain Crabtree Writes

Archie James
I was minding my business enjoying a jar
Down at the Peak, in the MTVee Bar
(A bar that I favour, mostly perhaps
Because it seems popular with mainly just chaps)
When I heard a voice calling, nearby from a cab
As its owner descended, “My God, it’s the Crab!”

Sixty-odd years disappeared in a flash
And I was a schoolboy again, awkward and brash.
It was Rupert Vaughan-Willoughby, School Captain and star
Whom everyone worshipped – our king, mogul, tsar.
He captained the Fifteen, stroked the First Eight,
Kept for the Eleven, was Rupert the Great!
There almost was nothing that he couldn’t do.
He went up to Cambridge but just missed his Blue.

And here he was now. But I cannot deny
I was almost embarrassed to meet the man’s eye.
He wore a ripped t-shirt; his feet they were bare;
He wore a sarong and pony-tailed hair.
He professed no great interest in chaps from The School,
What they did and were doing. He beat me at Pool.

I could forbear no longer. “But listen, old chum,
Rupert, oh Rupert, of you what’s become?”
It turned out he owns some bar on some beach
On some island somewhere that’s far out of reach.
He gets up at noon to prepare for the night
When he’s also DJ—and he often gets tight.

Just then two young women in halters and shorts
Arrived to meet Rupert. Imagine my thoughts
As they meted and greeted the unfortunate man.
He said one was called Arthur, the other was Stan.
I drained my last Singha and said, with a frown,
“Rupert Vaughan-Willoughby, you’ve let us all down!
I’ve served in the forces, am no Doubting Thomas,
But you could have been someone, were so full of promise!
A lawyer, librarian, accountant. Ambition
Could even have made you a Tory politician.
You could be a dentist or – last resort – teach.
Instead you decay on some soft Thailand beach.

You don’t rise before mid-day; you develop your tan
You consort with strange ladies called Arthur and Stan
You get tight every evening and dance almost bare
And – this is the worst of it –you simply don’t care!”

I made my excuses, marched off in a daze
Blinking back tears for those dear, far-off days.
Did he never remember at School what he’d been?
I prayed it evade the Old Boys’ Magazine.
They’d be saddened to hear it, our old pedagogues,
That Rupert Vaughan-Willoughby has gone to the dogs.
Who’d ever have thought it? What awfully bad taste
To live solely for pleasure! I mean, what a waste!