The last time I danced ballet was in kindergarten. That’s pretty much the only dance background I can brag about. I love to dance but just never had the chance to pursue it. For as long as I can remember, I’d watch in awe at dancers and how they moved with so much passion and grace. It was all aspirational for me. Up until now.
When I turned the big 4 – 0 last year, I vowed I would pursue my passions while I still can. Dancing was one of them. So I signed up for ballet classes. The only thing was, my classmates were kids and teens, while the adult teachers were my batch mates from way back in high school!
The classmate I am most fond of in ballet school is 11-year old Dalton. He’s such a joy in class, just a generally happy kid. You’d always catch him giggling and skipping about with a carefree gait, but come performance time he’s got his game face on. Dalton is the one assigned to stay in front of Tita Ballerina (me) in class, so I can follow the series of steps during exercises. Whenever I can’t follow the steps, he coaches me like a little teacher. Compared to me, Dalton’s a pro, considering he has already been dancing for five years now, having started at the age of seven.
I think the kids in class are partly amused and partly inspired that they have this Tita (auntie) in class who is trying mighty hard memorizing steps and struggling to coordinate body movement, things they most likely take for granted.
I have only attended a few ballet classes but I was determined to join Dance Basics ballet studio’s summer recital since I knew it would give me the opportunity for accelerated learning through repetitive practice.
The kids were all so excited when the teachers announced the recital theme: Disney!
Tita Ballerina was equally excited, imagining how lovely it would be to dance like a Disney Princess. But the dance given to us was Avatar. I fell in love with the dance just the same. We wore a vibrant blue unitard with a feather necklace. The final steps of Emboite and Ballonne (which I call horsey steps because they are fast and in succession), where extra challenging for me but I am always glad to learn something more advanced (but safe) as I have lots of lost time to make up for.
There were two of us who were beginner adult ballerinas. The other one is Yosh, who just graduated from college. She has been dancing ballet for a year. We joined two more experienced teenage ballerinas in our Avatar recital number, Kyla and Katarina. We tried our best to blend in with these two true-blue dancers. I think Yosh and I did a pretty good job considering we were only beginners. We did our homework and practiced the steps. Being a dancer takes a lot of actual experience dancing. It is largely muscle memory.
Full performance below of my first recital as an adult ballerina (I am at the back, left)
I didn’t get to do the recital number with absolute perfection but I did my mighty best as a beginner adult. Of course, there’s the jitters that come with performing on stage in front of a live audience. Even stage presence only grows from experience that’s why I take every opportunity to perform on stage. As my best friend tells me, “You guys are admirable. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there”.
The Magic of Childhood
For the ballet recital’s Finale’s dance number, we were told we could be any Disney character. I still wanted to be a princess but no ready-made Disney princess outfit would fit this Tita anymore so I decided to just go generic and wear a pretty tiara and tutu instead. One of the kids came up to me backstage and asked with innocent curiosity, “Who are you supposed to be?” I said, “Guess?”. She gave it some thought and said, “A ballerina?”. I just had to laugh. These kids know their Disney characters all too well and for them, if you’re a Disney princess, you must be precise with your costume! Haha.
Another kid, who spoke with a British accent (maybe from watching too much Peppa Pig cartoons) proudly declared during technical rehearsals, “I love the stage!”. Amusing considering she is only four years old.
One eight-year old kid also asked me excitedly in class, “Will you be wearing pointe shoes (toe shoes) next?” I wanted to tell her, “Kid, I just started. You even have more ballet experience than I have”. But yes, wearing pointe shoes is every ballerinas aspiration, even for me.
Kids are just like little adults, except they are always in the spirit of play and fun. Something we can all learn from. It’s so refreshing to be around them.
The title of our Disney-themed recital was “Step Into the Magic” and I’m sure that for these kids, as it was even for a late-bloomer dancer Tita Ballerina like me, it was a truly magical experience. The colorful costumes, the burst of silver and all-shades-of-blue confetti, the creative dance numbers from Alice in Wonderland to Tangled, it is every bit experiencing Disneyland through dance. And nobody, whether the dancers, teachers or the audience, is ever too old for Disneyland. I invited my family to watch the show and they, too, stepped into the magic.
Magical finale number. I am the third from the left, wearing a white skirt (tutu).
This year’s Dance Basics recital was special because it was also the sendoff for two of their dance scholars who passed the tough auditions for a dance scholarship to the Philippine High School for the Arts, where the creme of the crop of young artists (dance, music, theatre, visual, creative writing) from all over the Philippines are honed to master their craft. Classes start in June so this is their last recital with Dance Basics. These two talented dancers, Camille and Jazailah, have been scholars of Dance Basics since they were around eight years old and now they are off to high school on a full dance scholarship, pursuing their dream of becoming professional ballerinas and conquering the world stage. I’m going to miss these two girls, who are one of the most humble, down to earth and dedicated young dancers I have been blessed to meet. It would be our pride to see them represent the Philippines in national and international ballet someday. Cheering for you two, Camille and Jazailah! Make us proud.
Never Too Late
Joining a ballet recital was one of my goals this year. It’s definitely a huge check on my bucket list. It’s never too late to pursue your passions. Even if you have to start with the basics and be among kids. This has been one of my most enriching experiences and one that earns its place in this Tita’s memoirs. Always live the magic! Be free like a child. And just dance and fly!
[You can also follow my aerial and dance journey as a late bloomer aerialist and dancer on Instagram @justdanceandfly]
“We should never give up on our dreams.” ✨
~ Victor to Félicie in the animated film ‘Ballerina’ 💖