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On pointe: Where can you learn ballet in Macao?

Whether you want to pirouette your way to good posture or perform ‘Swan Lake’, ballet is on the rise in the city. Here’s where to sign up for classes.

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Whether you want to pirouette your way to good posture or perform ‘Swan Lake’, ballet is on the rise in the city. Here’s where to sign up for classes.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 8:05 am

Ballet, a graceful dance form that developed during the 15th-century Italian Renaissance, is experiencing its renaissance in Macao.

Arts of Dance Studio owner and teacher Joanne Liew, 42, sees two primary motivations behind the trend: “Some [new adult dancers] had a dream to learn ballet when they were very young but didn’t get a chance, while others just want to get better posture.”

Either way, Liew says interest in ballet has grown over the past decade, especially amongst adults. In addition to a desire to perform theatrically emotive classics like “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker”, and “Romeo and Juliet” on stage in a tutu, the physical and mental benefits of practising ballet have encouraged people to sign themselves up for classes, often, alongside their children. 

The dance form improves posture, flexibility, and sensory and motor skills. For many, however, dancing is simply a fun way to work out. And even when just a hobby, “ballet teaches discipline, teamwork, focus and patience,” says Liew. 

“It forms the basis for several other dance genres, like jazz, modern and Chinese dance. With a background in ballet, it’s easier to pick up most other dance genres because the coordination and muscle training, among other things, are already there.”

Liew says that “ballet is for everyone,” regardless of age or gender. “Most people in Macao think that ballet is for girls or women, but actually, there are so many male ballet dancers around the world, especially in Europe, who are very strong,” she says, adding that several high-profile American football players, like Herschel Walker and Lynn Swann, also trained in ballet before exchanging their dancing shoes for cleats.

As Macao’s aspiring ballerinas prepare to practise their pirouettes, we’ve rounded up the city’s six best places for adults and children to learn the iconic dance form.

Arabesque Dance Arts Education Centre

Arabesque Dance Arts Education Centre
Parents and children can forge lasting bonds by learning ballet together – Photo courtesy of Arabesque Dance Arts Education Centre

Ballet teachers Anna Leong, Casta Lau and Vanessa de Jesus Pao – collectively boasting over 60 years of ballet experience – started the Arabesque Dance Arts Centre in 2015. The school operates 25 ballet classes across two venues: one near Lou Lim Ioc Garden; the other near the Red Market.

Offering a relaxed and fun atmosphere, the school aims to promote artistic education while developing an interest in ballet and music. According to Leong, building confidence is integral to the school’s teaching style, so instructors tend to focus on encouragement rather than criticism. 

“Not everyone is born with good flexibility or perfect body conditions for ballet. As an amateur ballet school, we welcome all kinds of students, and we don’t want to make them feel pressured when coming to class,” she adds.

Arabesque Dance Arts Centre currently counts 355 students between 2 and 45 years old. The school covers 16 different grades of ballet progression based on the UK-based Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus, which starts at Pre-Primary and progresses to Grade 8 before students can advance to vocational grades like Intermediate or Advanced. A student usually completes one grade per year and will move to the next level upon passing the RAD examination.  

The youngest students, aged 2.5 to 3, start with a play-based preschool class. At this level, the teachers incorporate storytelling, from fairytales to pretend animals, to encourage creativity and movement.  

Some of Arabesque’s adult students are mothers of the school’s young dancers, who decided to join after initially bringing their children to learn ballet. “Learning ballet together has developed a common interest between these mothers and their daughters,” says Leong.  

Addresses: Rua do Padre Antonio Roliz 43, Edificio Industrial Si Toi, 4/F, Macao

Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida 74D, Edificio I Cheong Kok, R/C, Macao

Phone:  (853) 6392 5577

Arts of Dance Studio 

Arts of Dance Studio
Young children enjoy fun-filled classes that build flexibility and strength – Photo courtesy of Arts of Dance Studio

Malaysia-born Liew established the Arts of Dance Studio in NAPE in 2018. Liew began learning ballet at age 12 and trained to be a professional ballet instructor in the United Kingdom, where she lived for 11 years.  

In 2010, Liew relocated to Macao and taught ballet privately until starting her school. She and her team currently teach more than 120 students, aged between 3 and 70, across 13 classes and 11 grade levels. 

The class styles range widely depending on the age group. For example, ballet lessons for toddlers feel like fun playgroups to develop an interest in ballet while focusing on body coordination, flexibility and strength. Meanwhile, young and middle-aged adults will partake in a more vigorous workout. As they get older, students may ease into a more gentle style of training that exercises flexibility and coordination.

Liew says children start at the entry-level grade, Grade 1, learning about ballet postures and fundamental positions, such as plie (knee-bend) and battement tendu (a brushing movement with one’s feet). This practice will help strengthen the muscles required to stand on pointe (on the tips of the toes) later. 

Adults with some dance experience can start from Grade 3 or 4, while those without experience start with beginner’s classes. Top-level students learn more challenging techniques like pirouettes (full turns on one foot) and allegro (rapid tempo movements with jumping steps), Liew adds. Older students typically train twice a week, one to 1.5 hours each time, in a relatively serious and focused environment.

The school uses the London-based Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing’s (ISTD) Imperial Classical Ballet syllabus for its exams, concentrating on solid technique, poise, musical interpretation and enjoyment. 

Address: Dynasty Plaza, 6/F R, Alameda Dr. Carlos d’Assumpçào 411-417, NAPE, Macao

Phone: (853) 6801 8381

Hong Peng Wa Ballet School 

Hong Peng Wa Ballet School
Over 4,000 students have trained at Hong Peng Wa, Macao’s longest-running ballet school – Photo courtesy of Hong Peng Wa Ballet School

Chinese ballet dancers Hong Peng Wa and Cheong Son Seng graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1963, joined the National Ballet of China and eventually became principal dancers. In the early 1980s, the duo relocated to Macao to open the city’s first private ballet institute, Hong Peng Wa Ballet School, in 1982.

Over the past four decades, the school has grown from a humble 23-square-metre studio into a spacious 315-square-metre venue in the NAPE area. More than 4,000 students have learned ballet at Hong Peng Wa Ballet School in that time – most taking classes as a hobby, although the most serious students have gone on to join professional ballet schools overseas.   

Geared toward children and young adults, the school currently teaches 300 students, divided by age group across 15 classes. The students usually attend two classes per week, ranging from one to two hours, depending on their age and level. 

To accommodate younger students, the school operates classes after school and on weekends and also offers changing rooms for students and rest areas for parents. Hong Peng Wa also uses the internationally recognised RAD syllabus for its ballet exams.

Address: Rua Cidade de Santarém No 406, NAPE, Macao

Phone: (853) 2875 0722

Macao Royal Ballet Centre

Macao Royal Ballet Centre
Opened in 2022, Macao Royal Ballet Centre already teaches about 250 students across 27 ballet classes – Photo courtesy of Macao Royal Ballet Centre

Drawing from years of experience performing and teaching ballet, dancers Elzira Jonas do Rosário and Michelle Wu opened the Macao Royal Ballet Centre (MRBC) in NAPE in 2022.  

“Our mission is to instil a love of dance into our students,” says Rosário. “We inspire them to attain self-confidence and discipline, as well as to gain appreciation and respect for performing arts.”

Welcoming dancers of all ages, the school currently has about 250 students, aged between 2 and 50, across 27 ballet classes. Following the RAD syllabus, the school’s entry-level lessons teach foundational ballet techniques like muscle strengthening and body conditioning.

One of the better choices for aspiring professionals, MRBC has an international presence and helps students participate in competitions, performances, and various art programmes worldwide. 

Address: Dynasty Plaza, 4/F A, Alameda Dr. Carlos d’Assumpçào No. 411-417, NAPE, Macao

Phone: (853) 6803 0953 

Macau Art Ignition Education Centre

Macau Art Ignition Education Centre
The Macau Art Ignition Education Centre teaches ballet as well as adult hip-hop, Chinese dance and aerial yoga – Photo courtesy of Macau Art Ignition Education Centre

The Macau Art Ignition Education Centre was established in January 2022 by Shanghai-born ballerina Faye Leung and Chinese dance instructor Calico U, among other partners.

Leung, 44, was a former principal dancer at the Hong Kong Ballet and later starred in the “House of Dancing Water” show at City of Dreams for ten years. Leung started teaching when the show was indefinitely suspended in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Macau Art Ignition Education Centre teaches around 100 students across 24 classes, covering ballet and various other dance and movement options, from adult hip-hop to Chinese dance and aerial yoga.  

The school currently sets its own ballet syllabus but may adopt the RAD syllabus shortly. In addition, Leung says the school is more oriented towards performances and competitions, meaning it’s better for those who enjoy the spotlight or have more serious ambitions. 

Address: Avenida dos Jardins Oceano No 370, Jardins Oceano B7, Ocean Tower in Taipa, Macao

Phone: (853) 6383 6683

Stella & Artists Dance Education Centre

Stella & Artists Dance Education Centre
With a focus on ballet and Chinese dance, Stella & Artists Dance Education Centre is a great place to learn for both adults and children – Photo courtesy of Stella & Artists Dance Education Centre

Located in Fai Chi Kei, the Stella & Artists (SA) Dance Education Centre was founded in 2017 by Stella Ho, one of the city’s best-known Chinese classical dance teachers and the school’s artistic director.

Ho, who has been an instructor for the Chinese Dance Graded Examination since 1995, received her Chinese dance teaching qualification from the Beijing Dance Academy Graded Examination Committee. 

Catering to children and adults, the school primarily teaches ballet and Chinese dance classes alongside workshops in different dance genres. The majority — two-thirds of the school’s 270 students — study ballet across 15 lessons, which are held after school or work on weekdays and all day on weekends.

At the entry-level, students learn coordination, balance and flexibility and how to control their bodies in motion as they get introduced to basic ballet techniques, says Stella, who also uses the internationally recognised RAD syllabus. The syllabus aims to be fun and safe, encouraging students to progress at every stage, adds Ho.

In addition to hosting classes, the SA Dance Education Centre strives to promote the development of dance and nurture local talents in Macao through education and performances.

Address: Waterfront Duet, Block 1, HR/C, 2/F, Rua do Comandante João Belo in Fai Chi Kei, Macao

Phone: (853) 6300 6009

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 8:05 am

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