Art education is not uncommon in the west as it is considered as part of quality education for individuals. In Macao, quality education is becoming increasingly popular and more and more parents are paying attention to their children’s art education. In order to meet the growing demand, schools and commercial education centres are developing art education features for their curriculum, offering art courses for children and creating a new art education environment for children in the city.
In this issue, we have invited Premier School Affiliated to Hou Kong Middle School, dance studio TDSM Kid Dance and experienced art educator Bonnie Leong to share their take on art education for children in Macao.
Established in 2016, TDSM Kid Dance is the first street dance education centre in Macao that specially caters for children. The centre provides training on different street dance styles for children under 14. TDSM’s founder and coach Popeye Hong believes that learning street dance can help children build up their confidence and make them more outgoing. In Hong’s opinion, offering street dance courses for children will lay the foundation for them to build up their market scale.
Providing both conventional courses and professional courses
TDSM Kid Dance positions itself as a training centre with a focus on street dance for children. The courses are divided into conventional courses and professional courses specially designed for TDSM Kid Dance Crew. Students from conventional courses can enter the professional courses for advanced coaching if they pass the evaluation, Hong said. The difference between conventional and professional courses is that there are more types of courses that students can take, from hip hop and jazz to popping, locking, breaking, wrecking, etc. The professional courses are set up to train students to be able to dance for a professional dance crew. “TDSM’s Kid Dance Crew has represented the centre at several street dance competitions, which has provided students with more first-hand experience on stage,” Hong introduced. “Participating in competitions and winning awards also help us gain media exposure. That’s very helpful in terms of brand building.” The centre has been invited to a number of major competitions and won awards in both domestic and overseas competitions in its two years of development.
Street dance builds up confidence and nurtures charm
According to Hong, the underage students at the centre are between 3 and 14. The centre now coaches around 500 students, 70% of which are underage with the youngest being only three years old. “The parents took their kids to sign up for our programmes. They show a very positive attitude to what we are doing. Sometimes we have to arrange more classes for the kids at the Crew to prepare for competitions. And the parents are fine with it. They are more willing to give more time to their kids to practise after they see their children getting achievements in competitions,” Hong said.
Most parents believe that street dance is a very appealing sport that shows strength and personal charm. From their point of view, street dance allows children to express themselves with confidence. Hong, on the other hand, sees street dance as a helpful art that enhances children’s control over their own body, agility and their ability to understand rhythms. “The most important thing about coaching street dance is to teach kids in a way that cultivates well-rounded psychological development and teach them to have a basic understanding of street dance and then teach them how to create their own dance moves. This is my goal as a dance coach,” Hong said.
Teaching children to be creative
Hong tries to avoid teaching children a single standard of judging dance moves. “When I am teaching my students, I would try to guide them to have their own thinking so that I don’t break their confidence,” Hong explained. He believes that if the teacher defines what the right dance moves or wrong dance moves are for the students, students would then not give many thoughts into those so-called “wrong” dance moves. In this case, it is better to guide them to make the dance moves more natural. “Many kids will gradually lose creativity as they grow older. That is because they are constantly being rejected and denied when growing up, which puts constraints on their creative thinking. That’s the reason why I regard cultivating creativity as the core educational philosophy at our centre,” Hong explained.
TDSM will soon kickstart its new brand Battle Kid to better train students to be more creative. “Battle Kid can effectively teach kids to put what they have learned from our courses into use. Through dance battles, our students can integrate the basic dance moves they have learned with their thoughts and express it to the front. They will gradually learn how to innovate on their dance moves. This will allow them to have output, to put what they have learned into use,” Hong said.
The commercial development of art education for children
In comparison with the underage students, the teenagers at TDSM could transfer to other types of classes whenever they want. As for children, it is another story. “For example, a five-year-old kid might continue to dance after he has grown to the age of ten,” Hong said. “From the commercial perspective, the underage students are our long-term clients that keep our centre running. That’s why I think dance coaching for children would pave ways for us to build up our market scale. For people whose works are related to street dance, the common career path is to participate in competitions and try to get awards to increase their business value. But it is actually not an easy task to commercialise themselves. If they shift the focus to dance coaching for children and open up their training centres, they would be able to build their own brand quickly and achieve chain operation.”
Hong has observed that quite a number of art education centres have been opened up to cater for children in Macao. “I think one of the advantages that the market in Macao has is that Macao enjoys a robust economy and a sufficient employment pool. This offers parents more incentives to invest in art education for their children,” Hong said. “But I think the most important thing to consider here is how to build up one’s own brand value in the market!”
TDSM Kid Dance
14/I & J, Praca Kin Heng Long, Alameda Dr. Carlos D’Assumpção, No. 258, Macao