Remembering Our Days; SDT Dance Pioneers

Founder of Prima Bella Ballet Studio – MEGUMI SUGITA

Through sheer grit and determination, Megumi’s dream came to pass in Singapore.

 “It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” —Mae Jemison

Having always wanted to become a ballerina, Megumi’s transition from a young girl to one of the pioneers of Singapore Dance Theatre is a journey filled with diligence and perseverance. Despite the unlikely prospects of becoming a professional ballet dancer in Japan during her youth, Megumi tells an aspiring tale of how she cherished her passion and became one of the fortunate Japanese to have crafted a career as a professional dancer.

Her journey towards becoming the respected ballet teacher she is today, started when she was just 5 years old. She chanced upon a Japanese ballet programme on television one day, and unlike most young girls whose eyes were fixated on the colourful costumes or fantasy of being a princess, Megumi was captivated by the dancers’ pointe shoes. She had to try it! Megumi soon found herself nudging her parents to send her for ballet classes. Her initial enthusiasm was met with disappointment as there were no dance studios nearby. Perhaps then, it was fated that Megumi’s family had to relocate to the city of Karmakura, where the young child was more than ecstatic to have learnt of a ballet school near her new home. Since then, ballet has led her to greater opportunities and experiences.

At the age of 11, Megumi ventured to the bright city of Tokyo in search of a better teacher to improve her craft. She found herself at Sasamato Ballet Studio where she continued her training under Kimie Sasamoto. Till today, she clearly remembers the precious words of her mentor, that dance has to come from the soul; it does not solely depict actions, but acts as a presentation of our inner self. For the years on, she never failed to spend her weekends in ballet classes with Kimie Sasamoto. The 2.5 hour train ride to Tokyo did not deter her unwavering passion and deep interest for the art form, and she began to grow as a person and a dancer.

In 1987, Megumi joined the Japanese Ballet Association (JBA) as a dancer, while teaching dance simultaneously. Her next seven years were intensive and tiresome as she tasted the harsh reality and challenges of becoming a dancer. As there was no funding for pointe shoes and performances, members of JBA had to dip into their own savings to supplement the organising costs for their shows.

This difficult period would change soon after, as another opportunity opened up to Megumi. During the 1993 Summer Asian Pacific Competition held in Japan, SDT’s founder, Ms Goh Soo Khim was present as one of the judges. Being a newly established company, SDT was in search of new dancers to join. It was through the recommendation of Megumi’s mentor, Kimie Sasamoto that she gained an audience with Mr Anthony Then. One month after she sent in the video tapes of her performances, Megumi’s lifelong dream finally came true when she was awarded a contract as a professional dancer with SDT.

Megumi joined SDT in 1994. Some of her favourite works include Choo-San Goh’s work, especially Double Contrasts, as well as Sakiko Oshima’s Whose Voices Cries Out. Her most memorable recollection of her time in SDT was Ballet Under the Stars (BUTS) in 1995. Being the first ever edition of BUTS, the stage was slanted backwards upon the green field, and was far from ideal for dancing. Nonetheless, the sheer determination and perseverance of SDT’s earlier members established BUTS as a household brand and has garnered a greater appreciation for ballet amongst new audiences today.

After a decade long of service to SDT, Megumi decided to retire from professional ballet. She quickly turned towards educating and nurturing other young aspiring dancers as she once did in her earlier years.  She spent 3 years teaching ballet at The Japanese Association, preceded by another 3 years at Mangosteen Club. Feeling restricted by various regulations and constraints, she then founded her own school, Prima Bella Ballet Studio, in 2013, providing her the freedom and environment to better nurture her students.

Through all these years, ballet continues to be a large part of Megumi’s life and she credits her growth, both in physical technicalities and mental capacity, to the art form. To her, dance teaches patience and often sets new challenges ahead of her. Despite having an extensive and respectable journey as a ballerina, she still believes that there is much to be learnt, especially from her own students.

If there is one thing Megumi is glad to have contributed to the Singapore’s dance scene, it would be the development of young talents, just as her colleagues from SDT have done.


1972 – Begun learning Ballet, aged five at Nadejida Pavlova Ballet School

1978 – Started learning at Sasamoto Ballet Studio under Kimie Sasamoto

1987 – Joined the Japan Ballet Association as a performer and educator

1988 – Finalist (Senior Section) in the 1st Kobe National Dance Competition

1994 – Joined SDT

2005 – Left SDT

2006 – Taught children Ballet at Japanese Association

2009 – Taught at Mangosteen Club

2011 – Started teaching SDT’s scholar’s programme

2013 – Founded Prima Bella Ballet Studio