How it all started
The Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA) was established in 1958 as a merger of the Frances School of Dancing and the Malaya School of Ballet, then two famous ballet schools in Singapore. The Academy is founded on the ideals of creating awareness of ballet being a beautiful art form, providing training to the highest standard and a platform for stage performances.
Throughout the Years
Ballet in Singapore has a relatively short history. However, ballet developments found impetus and direction along with the growth of the Academy during the 1960s.
Under the dynamic direction of three dedicated personalities – Frances Poh, Vernon Martinus and Soonee Goh – the Academy rapidly flourished and played a significant role in raising the profile of dance in Singapore’s arts scene and in nurturing many talented dancers. During its early years, the Academy students and its plethora of diverse programmes entertained audiences in both Singapore and then Federation of Malaya.
With Goh Choo San, a senior student of the Academy as resident choreographer, the late sixties was a period of experimentation and prolific incubation of bold and challenging new works for SBA. As an example, the staging of the technically and emotionally demanding Giselle performed by Goh Soo Khim & Goh Choo San in 1966 struck a deep memorable note for Singapore audiences.
In 1971 SBA came under the competent and inspiring guidance of Goh Soo Khim upon her return to Singapore from professional training at the Australian Ballet School. Choo San and Soonee had left the Academy to embark on ventures abroad. During the seventies and the eighties, backed by the enthusiasm and creativity of both Soo Khim and senior student Cecilia Hon, the Academy’s students were actively performing innovative and original works at National Day celebrations, the Singapore Arts Festivals as well as the Singapore Dance Festivals. Many also concurrently pursued full-time training overseas and returned as professional dancers and teachers.
With the founding of SDT, Singapore’s first professional dance company, by Soo Khim and Anthony Then in 1988, doors were opened for more performing opportunities for the students. Four SBA alumni joined SDT as key founding members and professional dancers namely Jamaludin Jalil, Chantal Pestana, Elizabeth Thng and Mohamed Noor Sarman.
The Academy became officially affiliated to SDT in 1995. The direct link with a professional dance company was a step forward which further motivated aspiring dancers to take dance education to higher levels while developing a lifelong passion for the art. Subsequently, Jeffrey Tan, Cheah Mei Sing, Ginny Gan, Alison Carroll, Elaine Heng, Janice Chan, Chua Biru and Kwok Min Yi were accepted into the Company after completing their professional training overseas.
Since the ‘90s, an increasing number of students from the Academy have been accepted into prestigious professional dance schools overseas, including the Australian Ballet School, New Zealand School of Dance, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Boston Conservatory, Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, English National Ballet School and Central School of Ballet. Over the years, it has been richly rewarding to see many SBA alumni as prominent professionals in the performing and pedagogical dance fields in Singapore and the international dance scene.
Ballet is both a beautiful and unique art form. In keeping with the Academy’s ideals of “creating awareness of ballet being a beautiful art form,” the Academy will offer training to the highest standard, provide a good platform for performances and continue to produce dancers of the highest calibre for the dance world.