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  • Writer's pictureanyaballerina

Where the Journey Begins...

Everyone has an amazing and unique story to tell, and this is where mine begins.

One incredible thing that appears throughout my entire life which I am about to bare for you all to read is how God kept on opening up doors for me... long before I even realized it. I dedicate my entire life and all my accomplishments to Him because truly without Him, I would not be where I am today.

When people ask, "When did you start dancing?" I just say "When I was 7." because it's when I consider my dance journey started. But technically, I did my very first ballet class at the age of 4.

third position in blue ballet costume

I've been told (by my parents) that I've been exposed to the creative arts since birth, and even before. Since I was in my mother's womb, she told me that she'd always have classical music playing. Remember, this was long before Spotify and Apple Music, so she would either have the classical music radio channel on or would play music from CDs (goodness, do kids these days still know what a CD is???... I feel old hahaha). But she would play Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Handel, Mendelson, Vivaldi, a little of Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban, but most importantly, a lot of Tchaikovsky. Is there any question as to how and why I became a ballet dancer?

My parents wanted to raise me (and my brothers later on) to be cultured, so we would always watch ballets, musicals, live orchestras, and the like. So I guess it's no surprise that mum brought me to my first ballet class when I started to show interest when I was still a teeny-tiny human.

But I didn't like it. In fact, I didn't like any of the places my mum brought me for classes because from what I can remember, I thought they were too basic, or the teachers were too grumpy (lol). I wanted to be at the barre doing exercises, or actually dancing like how the ballerinas I had seen on stage in the past had been. Instead, they had me "leaping" from one lily pad to another on the floor or playing games. Looking back now, I think I was being a bit silly because I was just 4 at the time. Obviously a 4 year old wouldn't be doing that kind of stuff yet.

But after going to what felt like every single ballet school in Manila and not finding one I liked, I just decided to quit and I thought, maybe ballet wasn't what I imagined it to be and it wasn't for me.

Fast forward to the age of 7, my family was invited to watch a Flamenco performance at this school called Julie Borromeo's Performing Arts Foundation (JBPAF). As soon as I saw the high heels and the floor-length skirt, I was like "Sign me up!!!" Isn't it every little girl's dream to wear those kinds of things? Well anyway, it was mine. Maybe it fed my fantasy of being a princess because I just "knew" those were what princesses wore.

posing in pink flamenco costume

Back to the story... so my parents signed me up for Flamenco lessons. I absolutely loved it and had loads of fun. Up until my teacher told me that I had to take ballet lessons in order to fix my "turnout" and feet. I remember thinking, "What's wrong with my feet???" I was strongly against the idea due to my previous experiences, but gave in in the end and I'm sure you can guess... yep, I fell in love with it.

The school (JBPAF) became my second home and I spent 7 years (from age 7-14) there. I not only studied ballet and flamenco, but also tap, jazz, hip-hop, musical theatre, and even hula! The school encouraged us to study all genres of dance in order to become well-rounded dancers, and I am so thankful they did. Many years into the future I can see and appreciate how much that training has benefited me up to now.

Those 7 seven years hold a lot of good memories, from the excitement of summer and Christmas performances, to the general rehearsals (especially the first one of the season because that's when the whole school would get to see the pieces you'd been working on for the very first time), to bubble tea deliveries to school (multiple times a week), to learning how to do my own hair and makeup, to the friends I made along the way, and many more. If I were to list every single thing down, we would be here forever, so I won't do that. But I just want to say that some (if not most) of my best childhood memories happened here.

Moving along. When I was 13/14, I felt like the training I was getting back home wasn't enough, so I talked to my parents about possibly studying ballet abroad. Thankfully, they fully supported my dreams and agreed to consider that possibility.

But the question now was, what was the first step? How do I get into a school abroad? There wasn't anyone I could ask for help in this as I had only heard of a handful of people who had left the Philippines to study dance abroad and none that I knew personally.

After thinking about it for a while, we decided that I should try doing an international competition to sort of see where I was in comparison to the dancers from outside of the Philippines. My goal wasn't to win a competition, but more to see where my level was at. We ended up choosing Japan Grand Prix. I had originally wanted to do the competition in August 2018, but my teacher said to give her another year to prepare me, so we ended up postponing it to the following year.

In June 2019, I did my final summer performance at JBPAF. I was lucky enough to play the principal role of Swanilda in the school's production of Coppélia and I felt that it was a nice way to finish my time at the school.

I moved to another studio soon after called Steps Dance Studio to finish my preparation for Japan Grand Prix that coming August. I also found out that another girl from my new studio was doing the same competition as me so we ended up rehearsing together for it which was really lovely!

So fast forward to August, and we're finally in Japan!

It was my first time being in a competitive environment so I definitely felt quite nervous. The actual competition part didn't go too well and I might've fallen off my leg once or twice (ok fine, maybe more than a couple of times) during my variation. But the one part of the competition that I absolutely loved was the 5 days of masterclasses I did with various teachers and directors of schools from all around the world. It was my first time experiencing that and I just thought, "Is this what I'm missing out on?"

Did I embarrass myself during my variation? Yes. Did I hope those school directors never remembered my name and my face? Yes. But did I gain insight and a new perspective which ultimately changed the course of my future? Also yes.

Right there and then after that competition, I knew that something had to change and that I had to find my way out of the Philippines and into the world.

Unfortunately, this is where I will end this first chapter of my story. I know I know, I hate cliffhangers too, but if I kept going, you'd be here forever. So, you'll just have to wait a bit to get the next part of my story! And I promise it won't take me another three months to publish that.😆

Hope this kept you entertained and see you soon! 😘

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