Viet Nam News
By Mộc Miên
At 6pm every Wednesday, when many people are weaving as best as they can between long lines of vehicles in a traffic jam, heading for gym, yoga, zumba classes and so on, Hoàng Linh is at the door of the Kinergie Studio.
She is there to attend a course for adult ballet learners.
At first glance, it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine Linh, a 30-year-old woman, 1.6m in height and weighing 60kg, as a ballet dancer.
“For many, ballet is a classic, tough dance performed by very skinny and hard-working people. They don’t know that ballet can be for anyone who is passionate enough about it,” Linh said.
To get the confidence she needed to become a ballet dancer, Linh spent a lot of time working under the instruction of Đỗ Hoàng Thi Ngọc, a co-founder of the Kinergie Studio.
Ngọc, a graduate of the Vietnam Dance College, went on to become a principal of the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Theater. He pursued further education in France and worked for the famous ballet company Alantique. After returning home, Ngọc established a studio to pass on his love and inspiration for dance, and help others connect with this art.
Ngọc said that in Việt Nam, ballet is quite popular with young kids as an extra curricular activity, but few adults dare to try and learn it because of fears about age, posture, inflexible bone structure, and being overweight.
“They should not compare themselves to professionals when it comes to ballet. Being skinny, beautiful and young are really not the eligibility conditions for pursuing ballet.
“Actually, ballet is a very good art that anyone can use to become physically and mentally stronger, more beautiful and elegant. This is not to mention experiencing a sublimation of the spirit,” Ngọc said.
In a room painted black with lighting and sound system like a real stage, Linh and other learners look very disciplined even though they are just doing warm-up exercises. Everyone understands that the 10-15 minutes of warming up should be taken seriously to avoid unexpected injuries.
For an hour or so, they do a variety of ballet exercises with increasing intensity, which is no different from formal training courses. Ngọc always takes care to see that the music helps learners free their minds. Mostly, the selections are classical music compositions for ballet, mostly played on the piano.
Soft touch: Đỗ Hoàng Thi Ngọc carefully corrects the posture of an adult ballet student. — Photos Kinergie studio
All students wear skin-tight clothes and ballet shoes with an up-do hairstyle so Ngọc can see their bodies and help correct their movements and postures.
In case of new movements, the instructor will demonstrate and explain it in detail before the learners imitate him.
In ballet, the spinning movement is rather challenging for most students. It starts with one or both knees bent and the heels raised, balanced on toe tips. The force of the arms determines the spin so it is important to stay focused.
“When you spin, if you use too little force with your arms, it will negatively affect your movement. Imagine that you are in a pool, sweeping out the water with your arms. That’s the same force that you should obtain with your arms when you spin,” Ngọc said.
In trying to perform ballet movements in a beautiful and exact manner, most learners suffer physical pain.
“We are all afraid of pain, but it is pain that triggers relief hormones throughout the body, so that we can have a mind-body balance. Music, besides, has a healing function. I have become addicted to this kind of training without my knowing it,” said 24-year-old Đinh Hoàng Lan.
The ballet class has also attracted expatriates. Meghan Frisch, an American woman, has been in the class for more than a year.
“I strongly recommend this class because the instructor is so easy going, passionate, and talented. He always makes sure that everyone understands the movements. Thanks to him, I have a different perspective of ballet,” she said.
Meeting different needs
Now, Ngọc not only runs basic and intermediate ballet classes but a ballet fitness class for those who wish to burn their fat and lose weight. In this class, exercises are more intense and have faster movements that make learners sweat more.
Frisch said: “It doesn’t matter if I cannot become a professional ballet dancer. But it really matters that I have a great chance to experience this classic art form in my adulthood.
"I heard that many of Victoria’s Secret models get their dream bodies thanks to ballet. So why not me?” — VNS