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Vee Lea, founder of Aerial Arts Academy, has blazed a trail in dance education in Hong Kong

Having a safe, comfortable place to practise aerial, exotic, or pole dancing is what Hong Kong’s Aerial Arts Academy provides for anyone wanting to escape, explore or fully express themselves.

“It’s a pressure put upon you. As a person, you have to fit in this mould. But underneath that pressure, people want to explore and express,” says Vee Lea, founder of Aerials Arts Academy. “The innate need of human beings is to play and to explore. And they need a safe place to do it.”

Born in Malaysia, Lea moved to the UK when she was five years old. There, she earned her bachelor’s degree in contemporary media practice while acquiring a lot of experience in the performing arts. In the mid-2000s, she decided to return to Asia because she wanted to discover her Asian heritage.

Lea first came to Hong Kong in 2008 as a fitness consultant to help launch an aerial acrobatics school, having already helped out with similar ventures in Malaysia and Singapore.

She says Hong Kong is a great shop window for her trade and that people want to know more of the skills she teaches.

Aerial Arts Academy was established in 2009. It now has three locations – Causeway Bay, Central, and Wong Chuk Hang – where it provides breakthrough classes such as pole, hoop, silk, hammock, trapeze, and contortion.

The classes are fitness alternatives for people who don’t enjoy going to the gym.

Those unfamiliar with what the Academy stands for and what it offers, might find the idea of the classes uncomfortable because of misconceptions.

Lea wants to dispel these ideas and to educate people regarding dance forms such as pole dancing.

“I don’t blame people. The closest to pole dancing that people in Asia have encountered is what happens in Bangkok. But that was not what we were going for. I really put forward the concept of pole acrobatics coming from a circus aspect,” she says.

From the get-go, Lea has learned to be versatile in running the academy, and to be careful with what she puts out to the public.

“You can’t basically drop the ball and contradict yourself because people are looking to tear you down especially when you have a negative tag on it,” she says. “So we had to be very specific with the direction and the goals that we were going to.”

Aside from being an entrepreneur, Lea is an accomplished aerialist and pole dancer. Yet, it is a challenge to finding the balance when it comes to juggling multiple roles.

“You have to be very good at balancing and to be strict on yourself. And forgiving. You cannot do both things at the same time so there are different cycles to my life,” Lea says.

During these cycles, Lea has to allot a certain amount of time entirely to single projects, while keeping in mind not to sacrifice her other passions completely.

“If the business needs me to drive it, I have to put some of my performing arts and creative fire aside. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do it completely. But I do it at a very low level,” she says.

When asked about other organisations in the city that provide similar services, Lea says that she initially feared competition, to the point of wanting to copyright all the studio’s offerings.

But she now accepts that competition is inevitable and even natural if an activity becomes popular.

Lea says that her industry is fashionably known as “movement culture”. But she sees that differently.

“It’s something that shouldn’t be labelled. You should always pursue life with a lot of curiosity. And an openness to explore and learn,” Lea says.

Above all, she wants the academy to continue to reach new heights. The need to improve is the connecting factor that has been the driving force of her school.

“You can learn from every mistake. I used to beat myself up over mistakes, thinking myself a failure. But actually, with every mistake, you need to take on board something. And you need to level up. And grow.”

The journey of running the academy has had its highs and lows since its launch a decade ago. But business remains good and one question has kept Lea fixed on her goals.

“There’s going to be moments in your journey where you’re like: ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ But you have to remember why you started it. There’s a reason why my businesses have been running for over a decade and that is my reason why,” Lea says.


(Photo: Laurence Leung)