"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #165, Thursday, January 15, 2004
Dancing in Thailand
Indeed it was a wonderful experience to travel thru Thailand and learn about Ballroom and Latin Dancing in that part of the world. To put it simply; "It was great". Let me share some thoughts with you.
What is the level of dancing in Thailand? I would say; quite good! Most dancers were dead serious about learning and they had uniformity.
What Style? Mostly what I saw was so called English Style. This is also referred to as International. There was obviously European and Australian influence due to closer proximity of these continents.
How Expensive? An average 1 hour lesson was 1000 bhat. There being 40 bhats to a US dollar, the approximate price in dollar was $25.00. Average ordinary income is 6000 to 8000 bhat per month. So you can imagine how expensive it is.
Status of Schools? There were several studios I was able to visit. Some were very modest and makeshift type in personal residences and others very elaborate in fashionable Malls.
Certification Standards? To my knowledge there was no real certification authority in Thailand and to be honest I did not meet any teachers who would claim any international certification.
General Comments: There is much interest in both Ballroom and Latin dancing. I was told that most men tend to shy away from dancing and they leave it for their wives. Rich ladies invest heavily into hiring private teachers and buying expensive outfits. It is not unusual for a lady student to be escorted by a teacher for an evening of dancing in a high society environment (club or restaurant). I was told that a teacher could be compensated upto 50 to 60 dollars (2500 bhats) or so for an evening of dancing, dinner excluded. This is akin to an old English system where ladies will pay a male dancer for their courtesy, something like a ticket or coupon system for each dance. The general atmosphere of a dance floor was superb with dancers seriously trying to do their best. The quality of Music was exceptional. Mostly "Live Bands" with wonderful rhythm, tempo and lyrics. With a mixture of western music and Thai Lyrics it was a hilarious experience. Karaoke seemed to be quite popular and this was also danceable music. The popular spots I visited were, The Galaxie, Le Danang at Sofitel Central and the Bangkok Military Club. Food was excellent but "Hot, Hot, Hot" no matter how you begged for less chili.
Well, everything cant be so good; so what was it that I can raise a finger? I felt that due to their cultural traditions, the environment tended to be more reserved. Certainly each lady had a partner to herself and there was hardly any mingling or changing partners. I broke the ice and it was a sensation. The main reason for this was also, I was told that each teacher was getting paid for his duties. I felt there were less amateur couples and more pro-ams. There were more male teachers 4:1. or perhaps more. There seemed to be more regimentation. The social evenings were more like practice sessions. It was usually 15 minutes of continuous waltz, then tango and fox-trot and so on and so forth and then another session of different latin rhythms continuous one after the other. Imagine Viennese Waltz being played for 15 minutes. The lead singers were elaborately dressed in old French/English style outfits with furls and fluffs, you know what I mean? This created an aura of Vaudeville, but I saw this sort of thing only at one night club. I would think these beauties would look a lot more graceful and charming in natural sophisticated evening outfits with a touch of Thai.
Choreography: Thailand is no different. Most couples tended to engage in complex routines, sometimes quite advanced. However when it came to basic syllabus figures there was much lack of understanding and experience. One teacher outright told me that Basic is boring and many students leave them if they emphasize the basic figures.
The grace and courteous behavior of Thai people is superb and cannot be described in words. If it wasn't for the great hospitality of my most gracious host Pantini, I would have missed out all this fantastic exposure.
The above should be taken with a grain of salt and it is purely my personal observation and not necessarily the official word. I would like to see some comments from my Thai friends or otherwise. On a scale of 1 to 10 I think Thailand dance scene deserves 8.5.
Hope you had a fantastic transition into the New Year and with Best Wishes for a happy new year, Sincerely, Max