The expanding repertoire of the Academy for Performing Arts reflects a maturing of talent THE HONG KONG Academy for Performing Arts has been a breeding ground for talent and a mirror of the development of the arts scene in the city since it was launched 22 years ago. In 1992, it became the first local institution to award students with undergraduate degrees in the performing arts, signalling a change in the perception of the importance of the arts. Much of Hong Kong's homegrown talent has since come through the academy's doors. The institution is again charting new ground with the introduction of its first master's programmes in the performing arts and the only master's degrees in performance in Hong Kong. Three programmes will be offered from September: a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in dance and two Masters in Music (MMus), one in performance and the other in composition. No other university in Hong Kong offers an MFA in dance or MMus in performance, and only one other university offers an MMus in composition. 'This is a big development for the academy,' said Tom Brown, associate dean of dance and academic director of graduate education. The plan to institute master's programmes had been in the works for years, but recently grew urgent in light of a finding that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the academy's graduates were going abroad to pursue master's degrees, Mr Brown said. Nearly twice as many students said they wanted to study overseas but could not afford it. 'Our programmes give local students the opportunity to study in internationally recognised programmes [in Hong Kong].' Mr Brown said the institution of the master's programmes reflected the increasing development and popularity of art forms in Hong Kong. 'Artistic institutions in Hong Kong are peopled by graduates of the academy, and our graduates are also teaching in the community. They have achieved a level in professional practice, but need to go a step further. We need to provide them with that next step.' Mr Brown said the three programmes would seek out accomplished candidates intent on honing their crafts. The MFA in Dance targets individuals interested in the 'performance, creation and dissemination of dance at the professional level - people with professional backgrounds who want to move on to the next phase'. Enrolment will be kept to a maximum of 10 students and standards for entry will be high. Applicants to all three programmes must submit portfolios of their previous work, whether in the form of a DVD of a performance or choreography, or recordings and scores of musical compositions. Auditions may be required. Mr Brown said all the programmes had a strong focus on practice-based education. For example, students of the MFA in Dance would spend much of their time in the studio and would have the opportunity to take part in exciting internships. Head of academic studies in music Mak Su-yin said students in the two MMus programmes would also benefit from relationships between the academy, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. One of the requirements for graduating from the MMus in Composition programme will be to write an orchestral piece which will then be performed and recorded by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. Mr Mak said this practice-based orientation was a major distinction between the academy's MMus in Composition programme and those offered at other universities. Although the price of the programme may sound steep, at $75,000 a year, Mr Brown said this was comparable with programmes in Britain and the United States.