The Philippines struggling dance industry, An opportunity to change?

“When ‘politics’ impinges on ‘art’, ‘Art is always the victim.”  
Norman Walker 

I have been reading articles everyday popping up on the Ballet Philippines issue. Now I probably don’t have much involvement and I’ve heard some people say It’s not my problem or I don’t want to get involved but as a part of this dance community although not a very big or as integral part I feel as though all our opinions matter big or small. Also, most of our teachers have learned from people from this company, we are all a part of this whether you like it or not or choose to ignore the issues. Your education came from them, you owe them nothing but you owe your art its voice.

To summarize what happened, you may read them in a few articles. I’ll leave the links for you below. I felt as though these articles summed it up best.

Inquirer: Lifestyle, What went wrong in Ballet Philippines?
The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

I don’t completely agree with all the statements of course we all have our opinions. Dance is universal and not just yours or ours. Europeans, Asians, Americans and etc etc. Some things leave and some things just move on as in life. Especially at a time like this when so many things are changing, we welcome some changes that work and remove some that don’t. Nothing is really purely original anymore and we borrow some things take out some, we make it our own and we work towards that.

I made something of my own as well because of this same issue of how politics is in dance, I wanted to make my own version or work . Business and Art they just don’t mix well and that’s what urged me to make an environment of my own where I feel like my work will be able to speak for itself through its students. Each of my students are my works of art and each class is the same way.

So what can we learn from this?

Besides the fact that they are removing Alice Reyes and the soul of the Filipino works. I believe people are angry more so that it just all sounds so dubious that there isn’t just any clear and straight to the point explanation of how they came up with this decision. It reminds me so of the government here and the times now of where we are.

It’s the same everywhere, we’ve seen it happen and read about these things, we’ve seen it happen in history. If something is wrong then I know the system is wrong, we need some type of change. Let it open your eyes dancers, respect your art, and take pride in your work. I think things just move in a different way now, even selling, I think being a millenial myself, I’ve seen things go from dancing and having no internet to having the internet. There are good and bad points to both, but there could be good points if we used them for the right reasons.

Well I’m just speaking here from my side of town. We are not just trying to preserve culture but we are trying to preserve years of history, years of work that helped the company and the country to grow in terms of dancing.

Although, as much as these worked in the past, not all things work now unless we install some upgrades. Yes install, you want your art to work or to sell you need to also keep up with what the people or the times demand, we upgrade the music, we upgrade the sets. It doesn’t mean bigger is better, or that new is better, it just means different will give you good challenges too, welcome change and open yourself to the possibility that your work can still evolve and mature like a human it is also alive and it connects to people and speaks to its time, after all this is what art is, it is supposed to evolve.

The ballet is not accessible, to outside factors or influences that might bring Philippine ballet into a more contemporary era.

As someone who also came or worked in this industry here, and someone who can see what is happening and also someone who goes outside to attend talks, to go through training, observe work outside of the country. It’s evident that nothing has changed since I started dancing; it’s the same leaders, it’s the same people who direct the ballet industry. There isn’t any chance to contribute for us or to even try for the matter to help or maybe bring something into the ballet.

It can be me, it can be someone else who understands, but even just putting up a school was a struggle for myself. I was accused of having no respect for territoriality of someone who could not put up a school because I was too young. They judged me for all of this, I did not even know who these people were and as naive as I think I really was during that time, I feel like producing my school into what it is now, I have no regrets really. I think my students know the value of the discipline the art entails and they work hard as I teach them everyday and I am proud of that.

So what now? Are we just going to be stuck in the past? What can we learn going into the present and changing dance industry?

While I also do not agree that a Russian director will change much especially one that has no idea as to what rich history the country and the company has. We are trying to preserve what it stood for and why it has been there, the center was made and housed there for years already for artists to showcase their works. What about these talented artists?

I’m not saying that we can’t hire whoever, I mean if this person is the best then maybe we could but to lose what we have is also a big risk for you to take don’t you think. Unless this was really your main objective, to really hire a foreigner and to change the entire company and start all over again.

So I urge you leaders to think of what you are doing to these artists. Think of why also and if you are reading this please think it through. You speak of needing change when you yourself do not know what you are selling to the public. I even heard from a dancer that some from this board had never even stepped into their rehearsal hall until last week. All of these issues, personal issues, need to be put aside to protect this institution.

Think long term and if you are smart enough, speak the truth and if you really love the art as we do, give it to someone who can nourish it and will feed it something new. We need change yes but not in the ways that you think of, I am not purely Filipino in fact I am less Filipino than you are all but I see so much talent in this country and its artists and its people and it is also why I continue to stay and nourish talent.

The Filipino talent suffers once again. Is it worth it to have this Russian director and to lose all of your dancers?

I would think twice about this as the industry has lost so many talented dancers already because of the system and I can name more than a handful. Who are we really trying to protect here? Are we really protecting the company or are we really willing to hire outside dancers and make this company open to these people? Because again the Filipino is not good enough?

I feel again, we are underestimating the talent that we have here, and so many of them doing good abroad or doing well in their other jobs now. I get it, but must the Filipino dancer suffer again for most often than not financial reasons once again?

Look “Even monkeys fall from trees” don’t be afraid to make mistakes and admit them. It’s not too late, I feel we can do better than what has happened. I hope we can work something out, if not have someone be a director with him, someone who knows the company or has worked with them let alone can speak English.

So speak up dancers, speak up about your art, reputation aside, we are all part of this broken up system. I myself once a victim and after many years of therapy and growing up I realized, I forgot to use my voice as an artist. Let us do our part in making this arts reputation respected and supported once again.

The world is more connected now than you think. My point is, there are people who are your own people within and outside this country who want to and are just waiting to work with you. Invite these people, if they do not stand with your vision then don’t work with them, but the reason why we have this community is to gather hardworking and talented people and use them to your advantage too! Just as they will also use you to their advantage to become something and represent you. We can grow by lifting each other up.

Don’t let that opportunity go to waste to make something. Be a part of that change, and let’s show people that dance is ever growing and changing and a beautiful part of life. Now let’s start thinking rationally, by changing ourselves too. If we want change, work towards protecting our art and know your rights and don’t be afraid to let your work speak for you.

Dance by Lina x Dancer of the Month: Monica Gana

A little something from our Ms. December Monica Gana! I met monica with Miguel a few years ago and after watching her perform we were so impressed with the energy she brought on stage and in her rehearsal space. Monica brings fire on stage as soon as she steps on it, we will never forget the first performance we saw her dance in and since then I’ve been such a fan of hers. A dancer with Ballet Philippines, she shares with us today her time and words of wisdom, to those who would like to be inspired by this little ball of energy. Here are a few things about her and we hope you love reading about her as much as I loved to get to know her.

1. How did it feel to pursuing your passion? 

It’s really been a journey. Being a professional dancer has taught me many things and they’re not just about dance. I’ve learned so much about life and of being a person. If I didn’t pursue dance, I don’t think I would be the way I am today.

2. Are there other things and hobbies you like or do? 

Aside from binging on Netflix, I like to read. “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” and the “Divergent” series are a few of my favorites. I also take Pilates. It really helps me feel in tune with my body and I learn something new every time. Since my body can’t take gluten well, I bake my own treats.

3. Are there things that you regret not doing or wish you could do? 

“I can’t. I have rehearsals.” This was my motto all throughout my school years. There are times where I wished I went to that party or hung out more with my high school or non dancer college friends. Sometimes, I wonder what if I took a different degree. Would I have pushed through with having a dance career? Then again, this is the path I was meant to take. 

4. What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not dancing. 

Lately, I’ve been fond of these DIY miniature house models. Creating the little furniture and ornaments and then putting together all the pieces to build the little house brings me to a happy place. I also like to swim. Not only is swimming a good workout but it’s fun. It also helps me think and reflect. 

5. Did you finish college? And what are your plans in the future? 

 I graduated with a Bachelor of Performing Arts Degree in Dance from the College of Saint Benilde. They had a consortium with Ballet Philippines so I was lucky to be able to study and start my career at the same time. Doing both was a struggle. It took me 5 years to graduate but it was all worth it at the end. 

There are so many things I want to do in the future. I want to be a dance teacher, a Pilates instructor, a writer for a publication and a physiologist. When I start to get frazzled by my future plans, my mom reminds me to focus on the present. I believe that though. You have to focus on your now because these moments don’t last forever. 

Continue reading

Dongdaemun Fabric Market: Korea

The fabric market: located at Dongdaemun is the building right behind the Marriott hotel, its not very difficult to find, just take exit 2 and walk straight ahead, no need to cross the street unless you’re on the other side of Marriott and enjoy shopping.

Fabric selections include, cotton, wool, twill, laces and the top floor has a whole lot of accessories.

Price range: It was expensive as compared to the Philippines but I do not regret coming here to get an idea of how the fabrics were priced. Some ranged from around 10,000 won per yard which is about 500 pesos, it depends what you were looking for but in my opinion it was just not worth it unless for single items, but its worth the look because the laces and the other lace items were so beautiful, you don’t find very pretty lace and embellishments in the Philippines.

Ballet Stores in Korea 

Finally finished this blog and vlog for korea, i think for address references its much easier to do a BLOG compared to a VLOG but the vlog will give you more of an idea of how the area looks like and how difficult it was to find these locations. Here were the stores we visited and the stores that you can all consider visiting if ever you end up in Korea, although I wasn’t a fan of the items, i sure was a fan of the really good quality tights that they had at each store. They all had their own brands but I suspect it comes from a single supplier just with different rebranding. Most of the stores were located near one another and there was just one store I didn’t go to that was suggested because it was so out of the way from where most of the stores were.

V denie and E ballet shop were the first we found on the way to GANGNAM. Korea is really hard to get around on because they don’t like google maps. But we used instagram to get most of the locations of the places we wanted to visit before coming to the stores. I suggest you do the same if you want to find their addresses. As if you don’t search it in Korean most shops do not come out.
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1. V DENIE 
This was the first store we visited on our list, what was great about V denie were the super cheap and super soft tights. I recommend bringing home plenty. We bought about 20 pairs for about 15 usd each. They are open on Monday-Saturday from 11-7pm but they have a lunch break at around 12 and the staff did not speak any english so be prepared to use google translate and some hand gestures.
2. BALLESSIMO
Ballessimos physical store closed last year but they still have their online store in Korea, so if you plan to stay there before your trip and maybe you can have your items shipped to the hotel to avoid any hassles. At least you can contact them while you are there for any problems.
3. TOP TOE KOREA
E ballet shop was right at the corner near V denie 8 mins walk from each other according to google maps. It had the most brands of leotards such as Yumikos, Gaynors, Grishkos and Wear Mois. I loved this shop for its many items but the price range was just crazy especially for the Gaynors which cost about 150usd.
 
4. REPETTO
We were not able to visit Repetto because of time constraints, we had a full day of visiting these other shops that we failed to visit Repetto.
 
5. CAPEZIO 
Capezio was right on the road and very easy to spot, it was my favourite shop of all the shops that we had visited before this. It was also the last ballet store that we visited on my list. If you are looking for pointe shoes they sell Grishko Maya, Fouette, 2007 and Smart Pointes. They also have a good collection of Ballet Rosa, Ainsliewear and Capezio Leotards. Ballet CD’s were also available in the store and they were very nice ones too.
6. BLOCH 
I did not enjoy the bloch store because they mostly sold Grishko items. Which is weird because they had the BLOCH logo on the stores front, it was a 3 min walk away from Capezio. Most of these stores are right next to each other in the rich district of Gangnams boulevard strip. They also sold Grishko Maya, Fouette, 2007 and Smart Pointes.
7. E BALLET SHOP: SEOUL ARTS CENTER 
This shop was one of the 2 shops we could not visit as it was the most out of the way shop of all the shops. But we were told it was also a good shop
8. CHACOTT
We really intended to visit Chacott here but it was closed due to something unknown to us. A lot of sings were in Korean and so we got to see the shop but not get in it, unfortunately.
PRICING: 
If you will ask me, of all the stores the pricing for V denie was the most affordable compared to the other stores pricings, so if you ever want to visit one or many since they aren’t far from each other I would recommend taking an afternoon to go to Gangnam to just visit all of them.
I hope that this helps you in your ballet item shopping, just in case you end up going to Korea. I will also be posting about dance schools in Korea on my next blogs and blogs to help you find the places you can take class in Korea!
All the best and much love always,
Lena

Dancer of the Month: Natascha Mair

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Photo: Miguel Antonio Gonzales

Natascha Mair (Currently the Principal Dancer of Vienna State Opera)  started ballet in a small school in Vienna when she was just 5 years old. At the age of 7 she started at the Vienna State Opera Ballet School, where she got her Diploma by the age of 17. She Immediately then joined the company and got promoted to half soloist two years after that, and another 2 years later she became soloist and another 2 years after that a principal dancer. 

Natascha and I first met last December 2018, I was lucky enough to catch her on the day she was promoted to Principal Dancer of Vienna State Opera Ballet, it was such a coincidence having bought the tickets 3 months before the show not knowing that she would be the one performing. 2 days after we were having coffee at the Opera house and going backstage into the Vienna State Opera and Ballet. I didn’t tell her this but I had a fever that evening, but I didn’t care, this was my first time meeting her and I would have done anything to be there. I just didn’t want to seem like a crazed fan that day so I kept my cool (** If you’re reading this Natascha, thank you haha) I took it as a sign to be closer to her, that day because she was so kind. 

It was such a surreal experience, she took me backstage to watch the Nutcracker frombackstage. In between us talking, and me taking videos, my I phone ran out of memory and I had to start deleting some old videos from my phone. But every moment of that day I cherished, I went home feeling like I was floating, and smiling ear to ear almost in tears. I almost forgot that it had been -3 degrees outside and I still had a bad fever, It was all worth the trip to beautiful Vienna. 

I was first of so happy to have met another person who was really open to spreading more into the ballet community, as well as, such a human and kind person. Natascha and I talked about her coming into the country, eventually she did and now I feel I have found a person I can call a friend and someone I can in the future collaborate a lot with. This is one of the reasons why I chose her to be one of our dancers of the month this October. While she is not just an good dancer, she is also a person with a good heart, and I value character over many things.

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So to begin my interview, here is a little treat for all of you, from a short intervew with our dancer of the month Natascha:
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  1. How do you feel being a principal dancer at such a young age?
    I really don’t think
    much about it. Our career is so short, I sometimes almost feel old already. I really want to get as far asI can and try my best everyday. Hard work is the most essential about this job!

  2. Did you struggle in any way growing up and dancing? Are there moments you wanted to stop? and how did you deal with those moments.
    Of course. It is a very though profession. There was many moments I wanted to quit. But I am happy I stayed strong. There are always up and downs. But the ups are make all downs worth it! I love being on stage, it makes me forget all the struggles and I just enjoy. When the show is over I always remember that this is the feeling why I love this job!
     
  3. Are there other things and hobbies you like or do? and what do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not dancing.

    Mainly hanging out with my best friends or family. I like to do additional work outs such as pilates. But other than that, I enjoy going shopping and most of all traveling.

  4. Do you still plan on studying or going to college? or other things not dance related?
    For now I fully focus on my career. But I was thinking about studying something physio related. But I will see how my plans change in the next years.

  5. Do you have a favourite ballet teacher and do you still keep in touch with them?
    I had great teachers in school. Now I have the privilege working with great artists such as Manuel Legris or other teachers across the world. When I need extra help I recently started working with a past principal and partner of Rudolf Nurejew. Her name is Brigitte Stadler and she is truly amazing. But I have many great teachers around me, which really is a blessing!

  6. Are there dancers you look up to, and why?
    Marianela. Not just because she is an incredible dancer and artist. Mainly because even though she reached the top, she is the one of the most humble, kind and nicest person I’ve met. Just like my best friend Nikisha, who inspires me every day.
     
  7. What advice can you give girls and boys in around the world, who want to pursue dancing as a serious passion?
    Don’t give up. Stay strong. Work hard and reach for the stars! But whatever happens, treat everyone around you, the way you want to be treated!

  8. What is your favourite Dance by Lina item and why
    My blue warm up trash pants. They keep me warm, look fabulous and most of all are so thin and comfy that I barely feel them. They are also perfect to take on travels, since the don’t weight anything but keep me warm for every morning class.

Thank you for reading everyone!
I do hope that you are enjoying my dancer of the month series every month, featuring some of my favorite dancers and people every  beginning of the month. Christmas is just around the corner and the Anniversary Month has been so busy, I hope you’re enjoying our updates as much as I am. 

Lina 

Bloch Store: Amsterdam

Before coming to Amsterdam, I contacted a few friends to ask about the ballet stores I could visit in Amsterdam and they mentioned only 2 and one being the Bloch store. I skipped the other one and decided to come here instead, as the girls mentioned that this store had more things that I would want, and I most definitely did not regret that decision to come to this store with my new and beautiful friend from Amsterdam Sterre! (If you’re reading this Sterre, thank you for the wonderful time around Amsterdam)

The store is located in one of the more expensive parts of Amsterdam, as my friend had mentioned, its the place most actors and actresses live at because the rent is so high. It is located near the streets where people pay one of the highest rent prices in Amsterdam. Anyway, this is irrelevant to my blog, which should be about the Bloch store.

What can I say about this store except that its perfect! I really think that Bloch stores around Europe make quite a good impression. The one I went to in Paris in the past was also quite beautiful as I expected it to be. But comparing the prices from the Paris store to the Amsterdam store, the Amsterdam store was definitely cheaper? Im not sure why, it could be the season I went to Paris last year? and they were having a good SALE there in Amsterdam where the leotards outside were selling from 12-20 euros. Quite a good deal considering the really nice designs and price point. The plain leotards were also quite cheap, and I was happy with my purchases!

Leaving the store, I left purchasing 2 leotards and 1 set of sheer stretch ribbons for a price of less than 50 euros. I think that was one of my best ballet purchases, I have probably spent more in the past just for one leotard. 50 euros won’t even be one Yumiko leotard, if you know what I mean. And as much as I love my Yumikos, I would rather have more quality leotards than none and having 2 more BLOCH leotards made me happy. I definitely had a good run for my money!

So if you’re ever in Amsterdam and in need of a good leotard or ballet purchase, I would recommend coming to the Amsterdam store there in Amsterdam. I am sure that you will not regretting going or making the travel.

And finally thank you again Sterre! Without you, our last day in Amsterdam would not have been a really great and amazing one. Thank you for taking time off and coming all the way to Amsterdam!

Meet Mika: Feature of the Month for Dance by Lina dance wear

SDBL-Mika-Mint-5MIKAELA LAURYN SANTOS, from the Philippines,  began her ballet training at the age of age 4 with the Effie Nañas School of Classical Ballet, during which she attended intensives in Korea, China, and USA. In 2014, she was awarded second place at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Ballet Competition. In 2016, she was among the top 15 finalists at the World Ballet Competition in Florida. She joined the Philippine Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in March 2016. At age 17, she joined the Fellowship (Atlanta Ballet 2) program at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education and later joined the Company as an apprentice in 2017. Mikaela took the summer intensive ballet program under scholarship at Jacob’s Pillow and was featured in performances such as Kitri’s Friend in Don Quixote, Princesses in Swan Lake, Two Sylphs in La Sylphide, Denoument, and Spanish, Chinese in Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker. She had the opportunity to work with renowned choreographers such as Johan Kobborg, Gemma Bond, Liam Scarlett, Craig Davidson, Stanton Welch, Helgi Tomasson and Maxim Petrov, to name a few. Currently Mikaela is a Company Member with Atlanta Ballet. 

I got the chance to meet Mika a year ago on a photoshoot we did with her for the dance wear. With all of these achievements you’d think one would get arrogant or change in character but after our second interview I was happy to listen to her as herself, still the same in fact even more humble than before. I want to take this opportunity to feature dancers of all kinds each month on our website and on my blog. One thing I really love about my dance wear is how it has taken me to meet the most amazing people around the world. Here are some of the questions we got to ask a dancer of such young age to suddenly leave the country and venture into a new world of dance, outside the Philippines:

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Warming up 

 

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Mika taking class on her own, even on her vacation


  1. How did it feel leaving your home country to pursue your passion? 
 

– Leaving the Philippines was definitely one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I wasn’t planning to move away from home at 17. I was originally going to study college in the Philippines and still dance at the same time, but I was given a contract to join Atlanta Ballet. It made me think about how much I wanted to pursue dancing as a career, I wanted to explore and experience what’s it like to dance abroad. During that timeI just knew that I had to go. Looking back now, I am so great full for all the support and encouragement that I’ve gotten. I’ve grown so much not just as a dancer but also as an artist. The support of my parents, friends and teachers means so much to me. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without their love and guidance.

  1. Are there other things and hobbies you like or do? 
 

– When I have a free time, I take Pilates Classes. It helps with alignment, toning and strengthening muscles. Especially during the summer time, I like to cross train to keep my body moving and stay in shape before starting the season.

  1. Are there things that you regret not doing or wish you could do? 
 

-I don’t really regret anything. But it would be awesome if I had the chance to compete again. I would love to meet and learn from other dancers, teachers, choreographers and directors who have the same passion as I do.

  1. What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not dancing.   
 

– When I’m not dancing I love to cook. Ever since I moved away from home, I had to learn to cook for myself and experiment with recipes. I have such a big sweet tooth, so bake deserts most of the time. One of my specialties are Cookies and Banana Bread.

  1. Do you still plan on studying or going to college? 
 

 – Yes I am doing an Online College Program, in Business Management. It’s very important for me to have outside influences and understand things beyond the world of ballet. I want to experience and learn other things I am interested in. I want to eventually be able to use all the years I’ve had in professional dance in another field.

  1. Do you still keep in touch with your old ballet teacher? 
 

– I still keep in touch with my teacher, Effie Nañas. I look up to her so much. She was my very first ballet teacher and I am so honored to be mentored by her. I’ve spent most of my days in the studios training with her, she never gave up on me when I felt like giving up and continues to support me until now. Without her, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with ballet and dance.

  1. Are there dancers you look up to, and why? 
 

– I look up to so many dancers, but two of them is Alina Cojocaru and Marianela Nunes. Both dancers are very different, but I love how effortless and strong  they make every step look on stage and off. Both artist fuses amazing technique with soul crushing emotional performances that really takes my breath away.

  1. What advice can you give girls and boys in the Philippines or anyone who wants to pursue dance outside of the country? 
 

– Dance as a career requires an extraordinary level of commitment and passion, years of training, and a professional career that is brief. Being in a completely different environment is not easy, not everything you planned will always go the way you want it to be. One advice that I could give any aspiring dancers who wants to pursue dance outside of the country is to be patient and be open to changes. There will be a lot of challenges along the way but take it as a learning experience. Never doubt or look down on yourself because no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, as long as you keep a positive mindset you will eventually reach your goals.

      9.    What are your favourite dance by Lina items? 

– I really like the Cotton Warmers, because it helps me stay warm in between and before rehearsals. The skirts are also my favourite. I love the colours and how light the fabric feels when I’m dancing.

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Mika in our mint green tutu, current bestseller and featured tutu of the month

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mint green tutu is only available in limited stocks online


I was definitely glad that I got the chance to interview Mika even just for a bit and feature her on my personal blog, of which I love to connect to my Vlogs and my dancewear. I know it does seem like I try to do everything all by myself, and it might have really just been the overachiever in me. But I really am excited to showcase more dancers of different races, and backgrounds. People I meet along the way, people who continue to inspire and to just spread a good amount of energy in spreading good things about dance, but who can also handle the terrible criticisms with it.

I will end this by saying Thank you Mika for sharing your time, and to whoever is reading this, thank you for giving your time to complete this entry. Finally Thank you to Miguel who always takes beautiful photographs of my dancewear and of my students.

Let me know who you would all love for us to feature next!

Much love always,

Lina