Dancing with the heart, not the bones.

Today I woke up and as usual checking the hundreds of notifications I now get daily, I got a special message from someone who is now a good friend of mine, and a very loyal customer to me. Anna, 51 years and still dancing despite suffering from osteoporosis. The woman who broke her bones but still continues to inspire us, I am often amazed at what she can do and what she continues to do even at her age.

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When I first met her Anna was very kind, although we have had plenty of misunderstandings with her costumes. I continue to provide them for her because she has been a good challenge for me, I never really take costume orders anymore because I don’t like dealing with the stress but with Anna I really wanted to help. Often times when we would meet, she would not be okay and she would be in so much pain. Yet when she would dance, you could see that she wouldn’t show you that. I saw a very strong and kind god fearing woman.

Her spirit continues to inspire me to teach and to share to my students her story. I hope that someday when I am as old as her I could would still also be dancing just as much as her. A costume I worked on last month for her was featured today on the Philippine daily inquirer newspaper along with her story, i hope that you could all grab a copy of our local newspaper to inspire you somehow. Weather it be about dancing or about life, I am sure you will love reading more about her, just as much as I have loved to have gotten to know her more too.

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Knowing your worth as a dancer

Knowing your worth as a dancer is always important. I always believe that you should see yourself in your own way and not in how others see you. I think being a dancer this is one of the hardest things. We are taught in class to be obedient, listen and to absorb, and we are told not to hold back during during rehearsals and shows.

There will always be someone better that is true, and for the past 22 or so years I’ve had to learn this the hard way. That there is enough sunshine for everyone, but you should believe that if you work hard enough (like really work, eat breathe live dance) you deserve your piece of sunshine too and don’t be afraid to show that you do. ❤️

Picture taken during my performance last summer as Paquita by Miguel Antonio Gonzales

Remembering why I started dancing.

I was once told by a teacher of mine that I had the worst body type of ballet. It was really hard for me to overcome, and I still get insecure thinking about how my body looks. I really loved to dance and I still really do. I still remember my first corps work with the company, I still remember being scolded by the Russian teacher, I remember the whole corps de ballet having to repeat the whole segment just because of me. These are the things I love to look back to every time I think about dancing and how far I have come and the lifelong friends that I have made. I still have a lot more growing, reading and learning to do and as much as a lot of my friends are telling me to move on, I just can’t seem to let go of my love for dance. 

 My only wish for everyone who loves ballet and dancing as much as I do is to never stop. I know sometimes you’ll see a bad video of yourself or a picture with ugly lines or a girl with better lines and turns but as long as you still can even if its not ballet, work hard at it and read about it! Its not enough to just dance, know its history and its art and you’ll learn to love it even more.

Dance Competitions. Are they healthy? Short review from my experience of the ABAP competition.

I feel like competitions are something parents love, most especially here in the Philippines, Theres the Philippine Dance cup, The ABAP competition and the CCP dance competition and many others. I wonder sometimes if it is healthy to be putting children into competitions into something as subjective as ballet. How then would you score your dancers? By the number of turns or the amount of battements they do? Are we educating our youth better? Or are we creating monsters out of an art we love.

Did we ever stop to think. What was the purpose of this? Did our dancers grow properly? Did they change for the better? Was it good for them. I think educating our future dancers well, is as important as educating their teachers and their parents properly.

I feel like I have to bring this up, even if I hate ballet competitions. Last weekend I was at a ballet competition and My student ranked first in the rankings in, Junior 5 Ballet Category. I am positive about this because I wrote down all of the girls scores and she scored the highest out of all the girls who danced. I was so excited to congratulate her backstage and see my student of all the girls had placed first.

Now when she received her award they announced that she was 7th place, Imagine my surprise. From first place to seventh? What was wrong? Was she deducted something? Did I teach her something wrong? Backstage they told her they had made a mistake and so they awarded her 6th? I was still not convinced that my student ranked 6th. And my other little student was also supposed to be 3rd but ranked 4th when announced her name.

Now of course confused and furious in my head but calmly we talked to the ones in charge, they said all the girls are deducted for every wrong step they make according to the video. Now this is a variation i know by heart. I am positive every other girl did the variation the same way in accordance to the video that they sent. (I know my friends can attest to this, I am known to know many dances, variations and choreographies by heart) I am positive, except that second girl who danced did it a little differently on the pas de cheval but only one step was changed from what she did as compared to the others. They deducted plenty of points from my student just for a missed step that I know wasn’t true because I observed each girl and each step during the dance.

I am of course disappointed as a teacher, I know my student deserved to win that category. And I am not convinced that she deserved 6th or 7th place. She did it the cleanest and with the most heart. I know when my student does bad and when she doesn’t, I know this because she deserved her 4th place in the other Junior 4 category in fact i think she did pretty awful there but I am not afraid to admit that. She also knew that herself, and she told me that too. But this time i choose to speak up and share this experience because i believe I do deserve a clear explanation as to why my students and my own hard work and months and months of dancing didn’t deserve 1st place.

I would just want an explanation as to How can my student who ranked first get more deductions than the girls who fell on the floor? I want to know for my future reference, Is it something personal? Does this happen in all competitions? If you cheated everyone in the competition was it worth it? I saw plenty of other students whose scores jumped from 2nd to 4th and etc. It was very painful to watch as a teacher.

 

 

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So did this competition turn me into a monster teacher? Maybe not. In fact It inspired me to do better as a teacher. Maybe it is not the case in all competitions and ballet is just something that is too difficult to judge in the first place. Of course at the end of the day it is not who wins and loses and life is not a competition. I just want my students to enjoy dancing the way all my teachers taught me but I wish I knew why we didn’t deserve to win that category.

Don’t get me wrong, I am of course grateful that all my students placed. Even my small baby ballet students placed and did very well during their dances but we all know that the older girls will also show the strength of the school. As a teacher building her own reputation, I want to know for myself what I can do to improve and what I can do to help my students more.

Now as a parent or a stage mom, if you are to decide wether to put your child into a ballet competition. Is it worth it? I encourage you all to think about it and read about it before you act. Here is the “sakit” if you may call it of the Filipino people. They absolutely love competitions they like listing their achievements. My parents are not the typical and as everyone knows I grew up in a Japanese setting. My mom taught me mostly that a smart dancer reads, she knows and she has to do everything from the basic. My mother is very particular with small details and she always told me, it matters.

Do you think it is healthy for your child? Is it turning into an earning scheme for schools? I hope we think about these things before entering into competitions. After all, we all aim to become better versions of ourselves right? Or to create better more artistic and beautiful dancers? Where has that art gone? Is ballet simply a sport now, or is it still an art?

This makes me sad. What are your thoughts?

Summer Recital excerpts from rehearsals

What did i love about this recital? The fact that I was given the chance to dance the role of Paquita, a Spanish girl who was raised by gypsies. We only danced the wedding scene for this recital. This summer was filled with so much challenges and injuries, up until a week before the recital I really could not dance anything so well because I misplaced my knee cap 3 weeks before the actual recital day. Then on top of that my original partner left, and when he got back that same day I just recovered from my 1 week of stomach flu, he danced he had a partial tear to his knee while dancing.

So much drama this summer, but I am glad that I was still able to push through. Even if I had to dance with my new partner, who I only rehearsed with around 6 times. Then my achilles tendon was so painful, so I was really glad that even with a clicking knee cap and an inflamed tendon I was able to dance everything, not as good as I imagined I could do it. But just enough I guess, most days I wish I could have done better but I guess its difficult when you only get one shot to dance it.

Here is a short clip from our recital and from some of our class videos before the show. Videos taken by: Miguel Antonio Gonzales * Stage ballet boyfriend. (Thank you!)

Watch on Youtube: Class and Paquita excerpts from DressTech 

Perry Sevidal Ballet, Technical dress rehearsals June 04, 2016

Where to take ballet classes in Taiwan, Taipei

As per the recommendation of my customer and now friend from Taiwan. I listed down all of her tips and suggestions on where to take ballet classes in Taiwan. Taiwanese people are really big on ballet. I took a ballet class with her and i was surprised by the number of dancers taking ballet class. Each class was filled with not less than 20 students packed in the studios. I wish that I could have a photo for you but they did not allow us to take any photos of their studios. These studios are in no particular order.
All of them are very kind and reply on Facebook immediately, so if you are looking to take class and you would like to know their time schedules you could send them a message in english on their Facebook pages and I assure you they will reply.

1. Wuyi studio 

Website:  http://rayhsiao2002.myweb.hinet.net/ 

This studio is very old but the teachers are very good here and a lot of students go here because it is the cheapest option from all of the dance classes in Taiwan. A walk in class will only cost you 400TWD as compared to other studios who would charge 500-800TWD. Just come 20 mins before class and they will allow you to join any of their classes.

How to get there: Exit M7 at the Taipei main station. You will see a 7-11 to your left and you turn left to that street then you will see a small door to your Right and go up to the 3rd floor using the elevator.

Cost of classes: 400 TWD regular, 500TWD pointe shoes

wuyi studio schedule

Here is a schedule just in case. The green encircled portions are the advanced classes.

2. 62 studio ( Art Wave, organizer of Gala in Taipei )

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/62

This studio different from the Wuyi studio is relatively new. They are one of the more famous studios because they are the organisers of Galas in Taipei. Their teachers are also very good here and plenty of kids and adults take class here during the evening. If you would like to come here go here during the day where there are lesser people. They also sell ballet rosa leotards here, which is a local leotard brand from Taipei. 

Cost of classes: 500 TWD regular class and 200TWD pointe shoes.

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The classes encircled in green are the advanced classes.

3. Kenny Wang Ballet school 
This particular school seems to be famous because this was where Miko Fogarty visited the last time she was here for the Taiwan competitions. I hear that they have one of the prettiest studios here in Taiwan and their teachers according to my friend are good too. You could try it out if you are interested to see their studio.
Other places she recommended if you were too far from the first 3 that was recommended are:
4. Paramita Dance Studio 
5. O-dance 1983
Not everyone would want to take class while on vacation. But I really did enjoy the classes that I took while I was in Taiwan even if I took them all half out because I was pretty tired from all of the walking we did. If you are looking for a friendly ambiance the first studio mentioned was the most comfortable to take class in because they are like a family. Whats good about ballet is that its the same use of words everywhere, and since I knew how to count 1-8 in Chinese it really helped me.  Hope this helps for dancers who want to visit Taiwan !
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We couldn’t take pictures inside, so this is what we got from the outside.

Masterclass with Keenan Kampa

To most people, it might sound stupid that I flew all the way to Singapore just to take a masterclass with Keenan. But it wasn’t just that, I also wanted to fly there to see the fabric town in Bugis street and Chinatown. It’s been almost a month ago that I was able to take her masterclass, and it has inspired me even more to continue to pursue what I love to do.

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I remember her first class and I just couldn’t help but think, this feels just like the classes i used to take back at Ballet Manila whenever Tatiana Udalenkova would fly to Manila just to teach us. After the class, Miguel and I decided to talk to her. We talked about how ballet and the company life is and all these things. Later on she told me that Udalenkova was her teacher back in Russia, and we both laughed. In my head I thought, “oh goodness no wonder the classes are so similar”.  I wasn’t able to really talk to Keenan for so long, but from what I got. I got a lot of useful tips especially the tips on conditioning and and on our turns. I really enjoyed our conversation Keenan so if you are reading this Thank you.

During the class Keenan was really meticulous about steps and the movement of our feet, the turn out and how you move your head in certain directions. It brought me back memories of when I first got to the company. It almost made me laugh one time thinking about how Tatiana made the whole group stop just to focus on me. I was TERRIBLE. I remember my first corps work with her in Swan Lake, I was only 13 and I was the last girl in the line. She stopped everyone just as everyone had already finished their sequence in the entrance of the corps. I just made my first step and you could hear her scream “STOP STOP STOP, LINA WHY YOU NO STRETCH KNEES”. I remember freezing up after that thinking, How do i respond?

Leaving the company, my heart had been torn ever since. Taking ballet classes brought back emotions but it also brought in new ideas and new thoughts. I always knew that if I would completely stop I would also be completely lost of all my direction in everything. I tried to stop for a while but the only thing it gave me was, cellulite and bad grades. (HAHA) Since starting the Dance by Lina business 6 months ago, I never thought it would actually give me anything. But after only a few months I was brought even closer to ballet. I never saw this as a new opportunity for me, Sewing was really just a hobby but dancing was my life. Now I am even closer to my dreams than I was in the past, and for that I am so grateful.

After my talk with Keenan and the masterclass, I realised that maybe it really isn’t for everyone and that it really is difficult. Everyday I learn something new about ballet and everyday I am so grateful for the people I meet along the way such as Keenan and Min. I hope that our paths cross once again.

Thank you again cloud and victory for the opportunity. Thank you Min and Keenan. It was an experience that I will always remember.