Let's dance

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Three years ago, Linh Rateau opened DanCenter in Ho Chi Minh City's Binh Thanh District.

The thriving center offers classes in nearly every genre of the art and student interest has reached a fever pitch.

As she juggles a family, a dance troupe and an expanding school, Rateau can hardly recall the day it all began.

She grew up in Paris with a Vietnamese father and a French mother, who taught ballet.

She arrived in Vietnam for the first time in 2001 at the age of 33 and didn't expect to stay long.  

Curiosity pushed her to visit Vietnam. "I came back to know Vietnam, the country of my father," she said.

When an opportunity to teach dance at the French school in HCMC arose, she took it. Rateau was certainly qualified. She had studied since childhood under her mother and earned a degree from the Centre International de Danse Jazz.

"At first I planned to stay one year in Saigon and then one and two more years," said Rateau. "Now there's no question"¦ I know I'll stay."

A school of one's own

Three years ago, Rateau and a partner decided to open DanCenter.

"My mum is very proud of me," she said.

At the beginning they only taught 30 classes per week. Now there are up to 46 classes per week and 400 students from many countries.

"We are building a new, bigger center in District 2 and will move there this coming August," she said.

DanCenter offers a wide range of courses in classical European styles. It is the only dance school that offers jazz dance lessons in the southern metro.

In addition, the instructors offer classes in ballet, hip hop, tap dance (for both adult and children) and salsa classes.

Besides DanCenter, Rateau also founded the UDG (urban dance group).

The group is comprised of 17 Vietnamese dancers from a broad range of backgrounds.

The group has performed at a variety of high-profile events, such as the Miss Earth pageant.

Time to dance

On a recent Monday, a dozen or so students of different ages stood at rapt attention on the wooden floor surrounded by mirrors.

They appear energetic and engaged in their beginners jazz dance lesson. It's is hard to tell that they've all just finished an entire working day.

Instructor Rosie Pollard, an effervescent Englishwoman, exudes bubbly good vibes as she explains each new step.

Pollard, who teaches ballet, jazz and tap, says her students are highly committed.

"When they can, they come at least once a week," she said. 

She added that the center's frequent recitals remain a major draw - especially for younger students who can't wait to dress up and have their hair done.

For older students, the classes offer something more.

"When I discovered DanCenter a new world opened to me," said Judith Bollet who says she's been taking lessons, almost every day, for two years. "Teachers here are very professional and I really learn something new, every day."

Nguyen Phuoc Bao Chau, a recent arrival, said she was intimidated by her first lesson.

"When I came back the second time I became much more confident," Chau said.

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