Movement

Discipline and Dance: The Ultimate Guide to Dance Etiquette

If there’s one thing about dance that my parents are ever grateful for, it’s the values of discipline, determination and hard work that dance has instilled in me. To many, the word ‘etiquette’ may sound daunting or pretentious, but this isn’t about identifying the salad fork or lifting your pinky when you drink…oops I meant sip your tea. In fact, dance etiquette comes down to the basic foundations of functioning in the real world, especially when it comes to understanding working culture and effective communication.

 

Rise and Shine! Be on Time!

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 The first rule of dance etiquette is to be on time, and by that I mean be at least 10 -15 minutes early at the studio so that you have time to warm-up your body. This allows you to prepare your mind and body to focus and move beyond your limits. Tardiness is never tolerated in the studio or on the stage, so be sure that time is on your side. It may seem annoying to have to wake up at 6:00am every day to get to your morning dance class, but it’s a routine that will set you up for the demands of the real world.

 

In a Manner of Speaking

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Prince Charming was onto something, because the art of charm can take you far in life. It goes without saying that it is important to use your manners in addressing and communicating with your teachers and peers in dance class. Dance examinations are the ultimate test to whether you’ve been practicing your curtsies, greetings and manners. As old school as it may seem, it’s all about reciprocating respect. Sing it Aretha! Eh-hem! Oh right…Sing it Mrs. Franklin! R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

 

The Studio is Your Second Home

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A dance studio is like every flawless MUJI inspired home…shoes off at the front door! Dance studio floors can put a dent in the bank accounts, so don’t dent the studio floors with your stilettos. Dance styles that require footwear like ballroom, tap, or hip hop either have floors that can handle the impact or they require you to bring ‘indoor only’ dance shoes. So play by the rules and keep those studio floors flawless!

 

Come Prepared

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Make sure you pack your bag with all your necessary dance accessories, and if you’re a ‘Forgetful Freddy’, then make a list or set a reminder on your phone. Dance teachers are not too fond of students who forget their dance slippers or tights. “My dog ate my wrap skirt” will not work here. At a certain point, every dancer is responsible for themselves, from doing their own buns, to packing their own bags, or getting to class on their own. Dance instils team work in a dance routine, but it’s all about responsibility and independence when you are managing your own dance career.

 

Dance Because You Love To

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The last and final rule is to dance because you love to. The only way to be successful at dancing is to enjoy it. If you master this first, all the rules, etiquette, hard work and determination will fall into place naturally.


Photo Credits: Beto Franklin from Pexels, The Center Berlin, and The Dancewear Centre

 

Loving Your Body: The Key to Enjoying Dance

Times are changing, and we as a dance society are slowly but surely moving away from the idea that the body is simply just a frame, and instead we are beginning to see the body as a whole. From the inside of our body which fuels, moves and supports us, to the outside of our body which allows us to express ourselves, while discovering and exploring all that life has to offer!

Loving the body, and treating it with kindness is the key to fully experiencing the joys of dance, as well as discovering the full capacity of your dance abilities. Knowing how to take care of your body is all about truly listening to yourself and your needs, from physical training to rest and nutrition!


Physical Training

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Remember that we all have uniquely different bodies, even if we can be somewhat “categorised”, our bodies are still entirely different from one another. Which is why it is important to give yourself the time to try out different dance styles and supplemental forms of physical training that allow you to reap the most benefits. Common forms of supplemental training that dancers turn to include Pilates, Yoga, Cross-Fit, Running, and Swimming. But have you ever thought about taking up Muay Thai Boxing, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Ice Skating, Rock Climbing, or maybe even joining a Trampoline Dodgeball team? By training the body through different types of physical activity, we are setting up the body to be more versatile in dance. We expose the body to unfamiliar movement patterns, rewire our muscle memory, and even target muscle groups that have never been touched! So instead of hitting the gym next time, think about trying a new form of physical training, and who knows you might surprise yourself!

Rest

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With all that talk on the importance of physical training, we sometimes forget that we need to let our bodies rest. Once again, the definition of rest can vary from person to person. Some of us need to let our bodies completely rest by avoiding all forms of physical activity. While others, may define ‘rest’ as being gently mobile throughout the day, doing light stretching or mobility sequences. It is important to know when to rest the body, to avoid overuse injuries. Dancers tend to need that extra rest reminder, as their determination to train and ‘push through’ is one that sometimes causes serious injuries overtime. Resting the body is the first step, but resting the mind also allows dancers to refresh and rejuvenate their ability to pick up choreography or combat those performance nerves.

Nutrition

It goes without saying that our daily diets are never one in the same. We all have different food preferences, tastes, and dietary restrictions. Of course, there are plenty of books, experts, television shows and articles that provide recommendations for a healthy diet. But as dancers, it is important to listen to your body. How does your body respond or react to different types of foods? How often do you need to fuel your body so that you can grand jeté all day? Ideally as dancers, we want to aim for foods that energize us, provide our body with nutrients so that we can use both our brains and our bodies, and of course food that tastes good! Don’t forget to bring your water bottle to class, because staying hydrated allows you to spin, leap and glide for hours on end. One reason why we dance is because it is part of the many joys of life, which is the same reason we love food too! For all the dance foodies out there, be sure to check our Dancers’ Cookbook page!

Give yourself the biggest hug and learn how to find the right balance of training, resting and fuelling your body. Everybody deserves a little TLC! So be patient and take the time to respect the beauty of your uniqueness and individuality. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to treat myself to some dark chocolate, a couple of minutes of shavasana, and maybe even try out tree trekking!

Photo Credits: Dancewear Centre, and Bruce Mars from Pexels

 

What’s in a Contemporary Dancer’s Bag? With the National Dance Company Wales

People often look up to big name singers, athletes, and movie stars, but for every young aspiring dancer out there, it’s a different story. Looking up to professional dancers, renowned choreographers, and dancing legends, these are our idols. Besides our interest in a professional dancer’s training routine and performances, we’re also curious about the little things, like a professional dancer’s favourite warm-up tune, or even what’s inside a dancer’s bag!

Unzipping our most burning questions for the dancer-on-the-go, Hong Kong Dance Moms (HKDM) sat down with three of the company dancers from the National Dance Company Wales while they were on tour in Hong Kong as part of ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces. Sporting our exclusive HKDM dance bags, dancers Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Marine Tournet and Julia Rieder gave us an inside look into their dance bags, sharing their invaluable rehearsal, performance and preparation tips! 


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Cyril Durand-Gasselin

Greeting us with a warm and friendly smile was Cyril Durand-Gasselin, who has been a full-time dancer with the company since 2017. Having recently performed in the National Dance Company Wales’ Double-Bill Performance in Hong Kong, Cyril moves with flawless precision and a presence that can fill an entire stage. From discussing his own supplemental dance training to advocating hydration, Cyril gave us some insightful tips.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

C.DG.: “For rehearsal, of course my dance clothes, just because I like to wear city clothes when I’m outside. I have my bottle of water, it’s really important. I have knee pads, it’s not the protective ones. I mean I could have this, but it’s in case during the day you have a weak knee, it can be really useful to use it.

I have a notebook that’s really important in the creative process, or during rehearsal, if I need to take notes or just find ideas for myself. I have two tennis balls in socks for massaging. I also have a cereal bar, because of course during the day you need some time to get energy back if you’re feeling a bit tired. 

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I have my headphones which is useful if you just want to have a moment for yourself to listen to music without disturbing anyone. Or if during a rehearsal, I’m asked to work on something on my own, I’ll use my headphones on the side to work on my section in the piece of choreography. I have my glasses, but I wear contact lens because it’s really hard to dance with glasses. There is some paracetamol in case I have a headache, though I just need to make sure that I don’t take it before I go and dance, because when you have pain in your body it’s better to feel it so that you don’t get injured more. For performance, I have my jock strap and my makeup, and that’s the only difference”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

C.DG.: “It’s my bottle of water, because I think it’s really important. You always need to drink water”. 

What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

C.DG.: “I wouldn’t say I have a specific one, I just fold my clothes correctly and I try to put my pants on the side, and all the t-shirts on the other side. And in the center, all my makeup and toiletries. And because I like to do yoga, I’ll put my yoga mat in there which is quite hard to fit, but when placed lengthwise it works!”

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

C.DG.: “My best advice would be to take care of your body, because this is the tool you’ll use all your life if you want to be a dancer. So it’s really important to eat healthy and drink a lot of water. But also to think physically about balancing the body. For example, when doing a certain choreographic movement, most of the time you won’t do right and left. So you end up working one side of the body more than the other. Before or after class, stretch or do some strengthening to get the body balanced. I’m using yoga for example, so I think yoga is a really nice tool to do that and to centre and balance the body”.


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Marine Tournet

A freelance dancer and former full-time dancer with the company, Marine Tournet’s humble, kind and optimistic comportment was absolutely contagious! Creating disjunct movements with her body, Marine’s movement style has an utterly unique and inspirational flair. Highlighting the importance of having a healthy and positive mind in dance, Marine gave us her personal life mantras that have taken her far in her dance career.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

M.T.: “For rehearsal, I always have deodorant because it’s important. Also in the U.K., it’s always important to have an umbrella and tissues as well. I always take this little towel to wipe up the sweat after class or during rehearsal. I have this pouch of medicine, and tiger balm incase I injure myself or if I am sore. This is a foot roller to massage the feet either before or after rehearsal. This is a theraband to stretch or exercise the legs, depending on what you need. I have an extra t-shirt in case I’m too sweaty and need to change, and also a pair of shorts and a pair of trousers. Depending on the work we do, I need to change sometimes. This is a foam roller, usually I just leave it in the company studio, so I don’t need to bring it everyday. But it’s really nice to roll over the muscles, the legs and the back. 

And I always have my ipod with me, I don’t actually use it when we rehearse like some people do to warm-up. I actually use it more for auditions to focus on myself and be in my bubble and centre. But for a normal warm-up in the company, I don’t really use it. 

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I always have my water bottle, it’s very important. For a performance, the only difference would be bringing my makeup and hair kit. I also bring my warm-up shoes to wear between rehearsals and the show, and in the evening I will wear them to keep my feet warm”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

M.T.: “I think it would be my hairbands, because it would be a problem if I didn’t have any!”


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

M.T.: “I would like to have one, because I don’t have one. I just squish everything into my luggage and sit on it”.

Marine’s Take Care Tip: To help dancers with any pain or soreness, Marine recommends macadamia oil mixed with a few drops of wintergreen essential oil.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

M.T.: “To always be positive. Even when you go through a hard time, especially if you get injured, you can get depressed very easily. Especially if you see your friends who keep dancing, and you come to class to watch them on the side. It can be a very hard time, but just know that it is going to go away soon and you’ll recover. And you can learn a lot through watching as well, so it’s important to watch. 

Be a sponge. Whenever the teacher gives a correction, even if it’s not for you, just always take it for yourself as if it was for you, because that’s how you learn. Just keep watching everyone, and taking everyone’s corrections

Watch videos! I spent my life watching videos on Youtube when I was younger and wanted to be a dancer. I watched a lot of ballet videos, because I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I just watched a lot of things and went to see shows, to learn about the dance world outside; all the choreographers, all the styles, it’s very important to know and learn about everything. 

Be curious, even if it’s not dance related, it will always be beneficial to maybe learn about acting or martial arts or music… or anything! You will find out later that it can relate to dance in a way that you didn’t know before. So stay curious and learn! Be generous, be yourself and be honest with yourself and with the people around you. The only competition is with yourself, it’s not with the others. Believe in yourself, and trust your body and its knowledge. Trust your body, because it knows if you can keep pushing or not. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work with them intelligently”.


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Julia Rieder

Having danced full-time with NDCWales for the last two years, Julia Rieder creates a serene atmosphere with her poise, maturity, and sweet smile. Moving fluidly as though submerged in water, Julia dances with such tranquility, clarity and flow. Creating a checklist of things to bring in our dance bag may be one thing, but Julia sheds light on the most important thing to bring to rehearsal, an open mind and body.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

J.R.: “In my dance bag, I’ll never go to class without my water bottle. A reusable one, not plastic. I have tennis balls for massage. I have some tiger balm to heat the muscles. And for class, I bring a little snack for breaks. And then the essentials, some tissue, some plasters. I have a little pocket where I put all the urgent stuff. Some hair pins, phone, headphones, charger, and knee pads just in case we do lots of floorwork”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

J.R.: “I’d probably say water or a snack. Just because you couldn’t go even half a day without fuel”.


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

J.R.: “I usually roll my clothes to make more space in my luggage. It’s quite basic, just monitor the amount of dance clothes you need for class as well as some change of clothes because you will sweat a lot. But the usual things, and some city clothes as well just in case we visit some sites and do not want to look too casual”.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

J.R.: “It’s lots of hard work, but don’t overthink too much because a lot can happen by luck. It takes some luck to do everything you wish for. 

Just enjoy the ride, because there are so many occasions to connect with people and great audiences as well. Enjoy every night, and take what’s there for you as if it were the last time. 

It makes your day full. And staying open and balanced”.

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So now that the NDCWales has created the ultimate checklist for your next dance bag packing mission, be sure to pass on the torch and let the next generation of dancers know about your own personal life hacks in dance! Until next time, that’s a zip!

A Special Thanks to the National Dance Company Wales and ArtisTree!

Strings, Simplicity & Sheer Movement - A Dance Review on "Lullaby"

A Dance Performance Review on ArTISTREE SELECTS: Panta Rei Danseteater’s Lullaby

A lullaby suggests song, innocence, youth and protection. Directly addressed in the title Lullaby, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production invokes subtle undertones of these images and meanings to shed light on today’s political climate around the world. As part of ArtisTree’s Moving Pieces dance season,  Panta Rei Danseteater (Oslo, Norway) performed a double-bill dance production entitled Lullaby. Featuring live musical accompaniment and three virtuosically powerful male dancers, Lullaby was an overwhelming performance experience that traversed a spectrum of emotions.  

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Part 1

Preluding with a live string duo, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility was immediately established. As the music performed by Gustavo Tavares and Sverre Indris Joner continued to build, the jovial and playful movements of the three male dancers, Matias Rønningen, Johnny Autin, and Robert Guy escalated into forceful and impactful movements that formed hostilely aggressive relationships amongst the dancers. Choreographed by Anne Holck Ekenes and Pia Holden, this piece displayed a contrast between the play of games and the play of power. The simple act of mirroring movement was innovatively explored, as one dancer moved  as a soloist but in synchronisation with another dancer who was dancing in a duo. The play on cause and effect was so compelling. Suggesting that one can be affected by tensions without being physically touched.

The music composed by Sverre Indris Joner was filled with such care and detail, creating moments in which the melodies of universal lullabies could be faintly heard under the starkly melancholic score. The basic wooden school chairs were more than just props, as they signified territories, barricades, rest, unity and division. There was strength in the use of relatable symbols, from the costumes that were casual and recognisable, to the gestures that were clearly identifiable. The first part of Lullaby explored dark and intense themes that kept us locked on the edge of our seats . 

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Part 2

Returning to their instruments after changing into a suit and bowtie, a new beginning was set. The stage set itself was changed, as the wooden school chairs were replaced with 6 white toddler chairs with cute cartoon silhouettes of animals engraved into the middle struts of the backrest. Opening with an upbeat and jazzy music score, a spotlight hovered over one of the male dancers who was all suited up in black with a dapper smirk on his face. The contemporary dance movements of the three males were so fluid, dynamic and dazzling that they seemed to mimic qualities similar to a magician. Playing with the toddler chairs as though playing musical chairs, the second part of Lullaby showcased the juvenile lightheartedness of this seven letter word. The humorous use of language and numbers was ingeniously used by choreographer Hélène Blackburn and dramaturge Kjell Moberg. The use of lighting created this mystical magical mood as lighting designer Joakim Brink strategically placed the timing of the lighting effects in line with the dancer’s movements. In juxtaposition with the first part of the production, tensions were low and spirits were high as the performers banded together to display their humorous wit and vitality. 

Rising to the occasion, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production of Lullaby uses various elements of art and theatre to take its audience on an emotional journey. Challenging us all to think critically and playfully about the world we live in.

WIN a chance to see one of the amazing dance performances during ArtisTree’s dance season of Moving Pieces! Click here for more details.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of ArtisTree and Panta Rei Danseteater. Photos by: Trine Sirnes

Back to School & Back to the Barre

A List of Dance Schools in Hong Kong

It’s time to go back to school and back to the barre! Most dance studios begin their new school year in September, so now’s the time to get moving and grooving. Wondering where to learn dance in Hong Kong? Not to worry, as Hong Kong Dance Moms has got you covered. To help you find the right fit, we’ve listed nearly 200 dance schools in Hong Kong!

With so many dance schools in Hong Kong, it can be difficult to narrow down your options. Hong Kong Dance Moms has created a directory of all the dance schools in this great big city, which you can visit by clicking here. We’ve categorised the studios under twelve different dance styles, so that you can easily navigate and discover the diversity of Hong Kong’s dance community! 

Want to know a little bit more about each dance style? Read on and find the groove that suits you!

All-Round

The majority of dance studios in Hong Kong offer multiple dance styles and classes to provide students with a one-stop service that allows for more options and versatility in their body training. Primarily offering foundational dance styles such as ballet, jazz and contemporary, these studios may also branch out into hip-hop, urban dance, yoga, pilates, and supplemental strength and flexibility training. Studios like this are important in creating well-rounded dance artists. Plus, it is more convenient for students as they get to learn multiple dance styles under one roof. 


Ballet

Known as one of the foundational forms of dance technique, ballet is great for developing flexibility, strength, agility, and artistry. Ballet is often epitomized as graceful and elegant, but if you ever speak with someone who has learned this highly intense dance form, they will tell you that it is so much more. It trains your body to be dynamic and versatile, adapting your movements from soft and controlled, to sharp, powerful and expansive. On top of all that, ballet requires dancers to be expressive, tapping into their deepest emotions to create presence and communication through their face and body. Ballet can be taught under 3 different training systems; Vaganova (Russian ballet method), Royal Academy of Dance (UK-based), and Cecchetti (Italian-based). There is a lot of cross-over between these three methods, but there are also some variations amongst the movement vocabulary and the execution of dance steps. Ballet does include pointe work, but this is not for the faint of heart, as it is only taught to intermediate dancers who have developed the appropriate strength, stability and agility. Though ballet is known for being a tough, strict and serious dance form, it also has a fun side to it! The challenge is part of the fun, executing new movements and testing the limits of your body and artistry. Plus, you get to play different characters and roles when learning repertoire. Aside from the technical aspect of ballet, the determination, passion and perseverance required to master this art form is also what provides a great starting point in your dance training. 


Jazz

Showcasing sharp, slick and stylish movements, Jazz is all about technique, flair, finesse and sass. Though it shares some similar foundational dance vocabulary with ballet, Jazz dance is a more showy and commercial style of dance that is performed to upbeat music such as pop, rock, or jazz. Great for boosting your confidence and elevating your dance tricks, jazz dance brings you out of your box. Don’t get me wrong, Jazz dance still requires a lot of hard work, skill and discipline, but it also allows you to dance to your favourite tunes while feeling the glitz and glam of the spotlight.


Hip Hop & Urban Dance

With its roots in America, Hip Hop and Urban Dance branches out to so many different dance forms such as breaking, popping & locking, waacking, jazz funk, boogaloo, and the list goes on. Sure it may look “cool”, but it goes beyond superficial aesthetics, and into a deeper understanding of dance, culture and identity. Hip Hop is about finding your groove, your style, your voice and putting a mark on it. While you still learn foundational movements, Hip Hop embraces the distinctiveness of your mannerisms and natural movement qualities. Rather than trying to look like everyone else, hip hop challenges you to create your own style and image. Not to mention, it is great for training your strength, memory, agility, attitude and body isolations. 


Chinese Dance

In the heart of Hong Kong, lies a rich bounty of heritage, art and culture. While preserving important art forms and traditions, Chinese Dance also keeps up with the times and incorporates modern day elements and aesthetics. With a wide range of Chinese Dance styles that originate from different regions in China, there are so many different styles within this form that test a dancer’s versatility and adaptability. Known for its strict training regimen and disciplinary studio environment, Chinese Dance is also a very vibrant and dynamic dance form, as it has many dances with props such as hand fans, handkerchiefs, swords, lanterns, and much more!


Tap

Tap dance is the meeting point of rhythm, musicality, and movement. Learn complex rhythms and footwork that test the coordination of your mind and body. Heavily used in Musical Theatre, Tap dance is all about feeling the beat and being one with the rhythm. 


Rhythmic Gymnastics & Acrobatics

The first word that comes to mind is flexibility. However, strength, dynamics and agility are just as important in rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatics. Dance training itself cannot always develop the strength and flexibility that is required of an elite dancer. Therefore, many dancers also learn gymnastics and acrobatics in their early training to create a stronger foundation for their dance technique.


Latin & Ballroom Dance

Unlike most dance styles, Latin & Ballroom Dance introduces students to partnering work from day one. Dancing with a partner requires deep listening and an understanding of trust and support. Both parties in a couple must carry the weight and work impeccably as a team. Latin and Ballroom Dance feature both classical and upbeat dance styles. The fierceness of a Latin dancer is incomparable, and the poise of a ballroom dancer is utterly breathtaking. 


Learning Centres & Creative Dance

Catered towards preschool children and early childhood learning & development, learning centres offer students the basic foundations of academics, creativity and the arts. Various learning centres will offer creative dance classes for preschool children to introduce them to movement, music and imagination. The dance styles taught at learning centres emphasize learning development and growth rather than focusing on strong dance technique.


Flamenco

Fierce and fiery is this highly musical and intense dance form originating from Spain. Build strength in your rhythm, and power in your body with flamenco dance as you stomp and clap to create your own intricate and complex rhythms. 


Bollywood & Belly Dance

Ain’t no party like a bollywood party! Take a trip to India with the energetic and lively movements and music of Bollywood. You can’t help but smile when dancing Bollywood, it provides fun movement for the soul. Move towards the Middle East and discover the suppleness and fluidity of Belly dancing. A true test of isolation and controlling the body, Belly dance will have you moving seamlessly.


Irish Dance

Riverdance your way to stardom with Irish Dance! Work on your body alignment and posture, and discover some fancy footwork as your dabble into the world of jigs, reels and hornpipes.

Ready to discover the rhythm of the night (...or day if you’re a morning person)? Check out our Hong Kong Dance Schools Listing!

Photo Credit: Ivandrei Pretorius from Pexels