To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, we asked you for nominations of female entrepreneurs or businesswomen whose work, projects, attitude or perseverance you admired. In part five of our story, we meet RHIAN WIDDOWSON and CATHERINE MCKAY who are dance teachers at Academy Of Dance in HK. (academyofdance.com.hk)
Where are you from and how long have you been in HK?
Rhian: I’m from England and I’m nearly at my seven-year mark!
Cat: I’m from New Zealand and have been in Hong Kong for five years.
Tell us about your roles at Academy Of Dance.
Rhian: Alongside the teaching, choreographing for our shows and competition entries, I manage things behind the scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly. (All those admin things that would send everyone to sleep if I talked about them, haha!)
Cat: I teach, choreograph, edit music, come up with costume ideas, do hair and makeup … we wear many hats as dance teachers!
What’s your biggest achievement so far?
Rhian: Doing as much as I could to keep our studio going through COVID! It was a long slog but it’s so good to be on the other side and looking forward to a full year of face-to-face teaching and performances – wahoo!
Cat: I have loved how our competition teams have developed and really become like a family to each other. Our competition students spend so much time together every week and it’s been so important for me to create a healthy environment where our dancers can grow and build their confidence.
Dance is very popular with girls in HK; what are the physical and mental benefits for children and teenagers?
Firstly, dance is a great way to stay active. Miss Tori, another teacher at AOD, started a really important programme unique to our studio last year called “Dance Core”, which focuses on the fitness and strength of our dancers to help to prevent injuries. We want our students to feel like our studio is their home away from home – somewhere they feel supported by teachers and peers. Of course, we want our students to develop their dance skills but we also want them to come away from our classes feeling good about themselves.
What makes a good dance teacher?
There’s much more to our jobs than some people realise. Dance is such a huge part of our dancers’ lives and it’s so important for it to be a positive experience for them. For us, a good dance teacher is one that instils confidence and creates a safe space for their students to dance and develop as an individual. We want to set a high standard for our students and be positive role models in their lives.
What advice would you give other women who are keen to teach in HK?
To make sure that the place you are teaching allows you to teach in the ways and methods that you believe in. What we love about working at Academy Of Dance is that we aren’t just drilling dances and technique; we’re also teaching students about how to set themselves goals, how to work as a team and how to self-reflect.
What are you excited about for 2023 and beyond?
Alongside our annual exams, shows and local competitions we have planned, our competition teams have recently qualified for the Dance World Cup Finals 2023 in Portugal this summer! It will be our first overseas trip since 2019 and we are so excited for our students to have this opportunity to compete overseas after all their hard work!
We hope you enjoyed our International Women’s Day story. Read more in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.