Classical dance

Classes pop­ping up ev­ery­where, a re­flec­tion of in­creas­ing con­sumer dis­pos­able in­comes

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMAGONZALEZ

Bal­let stu­dios are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a grow­ing wave of pop­u­lar­ity in China as adults and chil­dren alike are dis­cov­er­ing the joys of danc­ing on point.

Anex­hausted 28-year oldHu Yulei stretches af­ter hav­ing fin­ished a bal­let rou­tine with her class­mates at theMorn­ing Star Bal­let Acad­emy in the San­l­i­tun area in cen­tral Beijing.

Hu started prac­tic­ing bal­let in­Nan­jing at the age of six and she now uses the classical dance as a way to ex­er­cise and to es­cape from her daily work­ing rou­tine.

“I thought it would be good for me to have an ac­tiv­ity where I can fo­cus and have fun,” saidHu.

Bal­let stu­dios are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a grow­ing wave of pop­u­lar­ity in China, as an in­creas­ing num­ber of both adults and chil­dren are dis­cov­er­ing the ben­e­fits of classical dance.

Bal­let teacher Adri­ana Wang, who has been teach­ing bal­let for 20 years in pub­lic and pri­vate schools in­China, points out that bal­let classes have been pop­ping up ev­ery­where lately across the coun­try.

“There are bal­let lessons in all the club houses in al­most ev­erycom­poundacrossChina, and most of them taught un­pro­fes­sion­ally, for fun or as an af­ter-school ac­tiv­ity,” ex­plained the bal­let teacher.

The bal­let boom is seen as a re­flec­tion ofChina’s in­creas­ing dis­pos­able in­come. Nowa­days, Chi­nese are ea­ger to spend a larger part of their in­come on leisure ac­tiv­i­ties that pro­vide emo­tional grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

“In­creased dis­cre­tionary spend­ing that pro­motes both phys­i­cal and emo­tional well­be­ing is ex­pected to take the lead in the near fu­ture in the leisure and en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket,” ex­plained Laurel Gu, an an­a­lyst at mar­ket re­search fir­mMin­tel China.

“There are lu­cra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties for mar­ket play­ers to cater to con­sumer’s evolv­ing emo­tional and ma­te­rial needs,” she added.

Last year, the leisure and en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket reached 1.5 tril­lion yuan ($225.3 bil­lion) in rev­enue, grow­ing at an av­er­age of 12.5 per­cent over the last five years, ac­cord­ing toMin­tel.

How­ever, given that it is a re­cent phe­nom­e­non, there are no of­fi­cial statis­tics to de­ter­mine the ex­act amount of bal­let stu­dios open­ing in the coun­try.

UK-based premium dance floor provider Har­lequin Floors has prof­ited from the re­cent boom of am­a­teur dance stu­dios.

The com­pany first en­tered the Chi­nese mar­ket in the 1980s to sell sprung floors, bal­let bar­res or dance handrails as well as tech­ni­cal the­ater so­lu­tions in the coun­try.

Since the in­au­gu­ra­tion of an of­fice in Hong Kong in 2008, the com­pany has ex­pe­ri­enced a steady growth year-on-year in the Chi­nese mar­ket thanks to this grow­ing pas­sion for dance.

“Over last five years, sales in China have in­creased from 15 per­cent to 32 per­cent”, said An­nie Shek, mar­ket­ing man­ager atHar­lequin Floors.

Morn­ing Star, one of the largest pri­vate bal­let stu­dios in the cap­i­tal, opened in Oc­to­ber 2014 to meet the in­creas­ing de­mand for bal­let lessons.

The acad­emy is di­vided into four large stu­dios, where chil­dren and adults prac­tice their tech­nique while live pi­ano mu­sic plays in the back­ground.

“When we first opened two years ago we had only a dozen stu­dents,” ex­plained Emma Wang, di­rec­tor of Morn­ing Star and a for­mer dancer of China’s Na­tional Bal­let.

“Nowa­days, we have more than 100 stu­dents (in­clud­ing chil­dren and adults) and our four stu­dios are al­ways full.”

Wang ex­pects this num­ber to keep grow­ing as more par­ents in China be­lieve that classical bal­let can have pos­i­tive effects in the aca­demic lives of their chil­dren.

“Par­ents ap­pre­ci­ate the mu­si­cal­ity of bal­let and the dis­ci­pline that it pro­motes,” added Wang. “How­ever, the most im­por­tant thing is that bal­let ex­ams are rec­og­nized by Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties.”

Nowa­days, a grow­ing num­ber of bal­let stu­dios in China are of­fer­ing prepa­ra­tion cour­ses for the Roy­alA­cademy of Dance in Bri­tain (RAD) ex­am­i­na­tion, a cer­tifi­cate that grants stu­dents bonus points when ap­ply­ing to en­ter a uni­ver­sity in the UK.

This year around 2,000 stu­dents took the RAD exam in Beijing and an­other 6,000 in Shang­hai, ac­cord­ing toWang.

Each year, around 230,000 can­di­dates from all over the world take the RAD ex­am­i­na­tion.

Pric­ing is also an at­trac­tive fac­tor to con­sider bal­let lessons, as the av­er­age cost of an hour’s class is 200 yuan ($30.3).

Nonethe­less, the bal­let bug is tran­scend­ing the tra­di­tional classical art and be­com­ing the new­work­out fad.

Five years ago Dan­ish en­tre­pre­neur Siri Nord­heim co-founded bou­tique fit­ness stu­dio club Z&B in Shang­hai, the first to in­tro­duce Xtend Barre in China, an ex­er­cise rou­tine that uses a bal­let barre and some of the moves of the classical dance.

“Barre is a total sculpt­ing and car­dio work­out that will cre­ate flat abs, a lifted seat, toned arms, and long lean legs,” saidNord­heim. “Women feel el­e­gant and grace­ful while do­ing it.”

The fit­ness com­pany is grow­ing quickly — hav­ing re­cently opened an­other stu­dio in Shang­hai — and the third one in the city just opened on Sept 10 as Chi­nese

Barre is a total sculpt­ing and car­dio work­out that will cre­ate flat abs, a lifted seat, toned arms, and long lean legs. Women feel el­e­gant and grace­ful while do­ing it.” Siri Nord­heim, co-founder of bou­tique fit­ness stu­dio club Z&B in Shang­hai

seek al­ter­na­tive work­outs.

“We started with two classes a week with 10 stu­dents in each,” said Nord­heim. “To­day we offer 150 classes and have around 5,000 book­ings per month.”

Most cus­tomers in­clude women be­tween ages 25-45, but the stu­dio also of­fers bal­let les­son for kids and even tod­dlers, with prices rang­ing be­tween 80-140 yuan per class for mem­bers and drop-in op­tions for 150 yuan per class.

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Dancers prac­tice at the Morn­ing Star Bal­let stu­dio in Beijing. Morn­ing Star is the first Royal Acad­emy of Dance-au­tho­rized school on the Chi­nese main­land.

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

An in­struc­tor helps trainees in a bal­let train­ing course in Beijing.

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