They say through travel you can find hidden gems and discovering Anurak Ngamta, principal dancer with the Bangkok City Ballet was wonderful! Upon arriving in Thailand, I was intrigued to visit the Bangkok City Ballet and learn about how classical ballet fits within this incredible South East Asian culture.
Bangkok City Ballet
Where I was expecting a big city ballet company, I found a small and intimate company with Anurak as it’s shining star. Bangkok City Ballet is housed in a skyscraper in the heart of buzzing Bangkok. The streets outside are choatic, but the moment you step into the studio it feels like an calm oasis of classical music, where you hear class conducted in a mix of Thai and French, the universal language of ballet.
Anurak Ngmata’s story is the classic country boy turned city star. Growing up in North East Thailand he started dancing at the age of 5 learning ballroom and traditional Thai dance. His love of dance and his natural ability took him to university where he studied jazz, hiphop and street dance. But it wasn’t until he was 17 that started learning ballet, “It was difficult, I had to overcome the physical challenges especially turning out! It also took time to understand ballet and to learn the technique”, explains Anurak.
But his natural flexibility, precise pirouettes, strong jumps, elegance and lyrical style saw him became an talented and beautiful dancer. Following graduation, he joined The Northeastern Ballet – the university dance company which is the big ballet company in North-East of Thailand.
After three years he moved to the small and intimate Bangkok City Ballet. “I like BCB’s structure and system, with daily ballet class and rehearsals it’s like any other ballet company around the world, it feels very professional”.
With the Bangkok City Ballet, Anurak has danced all the classical roles in Swan Lake, Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Romeo & Juliet and he tells me (through his interpreter) that his favourite ballet is Don Quixote because he loves the story and “Basilio and I have kind of the same character! I really like the expressiveness of the role and it’s a fun story with many great scenes”.
With the bright lights of Bangkok you might not think that there would be a place for the graceful art of ballet. But ballet is becoming more popular in the capital and across the country, “Ballet is for the new generation, kids like to take ballet and they have more opportunities to see ballet performed in Bangkok”, Anurak explains. “We how have ballet competitions in Bangkok, so a lot of young ballet dancers are getting involved”.
Anurak also took part in competitions after being inspired by watching videos on YouTube, “Participating in the competitions was like a dream come true – I’d come so far from the countryside and was competing on the same stage as the other dancers. It didn’t even feel like a competition, it just felt like dancing”.
It was these competitions that led Anurak to start contemporary dance, as he had to include it as part of his repertoire at a competition in Japan, “I decided to combine Thai traditional dance with different dance techniques that I had learned and created a unique fusion of Thai, jazz, hiphop and ballet to represent Thai culture”.
This experience inspired Anurak to begin choreographing his own work. And at the age of 33, this is a new direction for this talented dancer and creator. “My passion is combining Thai and contemporary dance, using Thai dance symbols to create something iconic to express feelings and the story I want to tell, but without a storyline or a narrative. It’s about expression through dance”.
And Anurak’s story will come full circle, from country to city returning to the country as he plans to go home, “When it comes time to leave the stage for good, my goal is to go back home and open a small dance studio and give the next generation the opportunity to learn and discover the benefits of dance”.
With Anurak’s success on stage and now with choreography, I have no doubt that he’ll achieve his dreams and discover the new future dance star!
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