A dynasty of dancers
Sophatai Kanthatham and the Sangdao Performing Arts School
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.
of the Sangdao Performing Arts School’s teachers giving a jazz hip-hop
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.
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!
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
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!