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.

IMG_4620.jpg

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.

IMG_4619.jpg

Getting around Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market

For the 25 years I have been going back and forth and or living in Japan, i have never been to the Tsukiji fish market until this trip. My boyfriend initially wanted to go here early morning to see the auctioning of the fish. As we all know, the Tsukiji fish market will not be here anymore by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as they are building something there for the Olympics. If you live in Japan orare planning to come here anytime soon, i think it is about time that you come to the fish market just to see the varieties of fish they are selling or just to eat some good sushi.

You will see a large array of things to taste and to eat, it kind of reminds me of Asakusa, The Japanese have that talent of making their culture into some kind of an attraction without losing their own culture. Unlike in certain countries where you visit tourist spots and you wouldn’t really feel like you were in their country, Japanese tourists spots are very much supported by not only the tourists but also by the locals as well.

Where and what did we eat? 

We didn’t wait so long, we ate at the oldest restaurant there in Tsukiji, which is called Tsukiji Sushisei Honten (築地寿司清 本店)You can probably just head on the Information centre to ask them for a map of the restaurant. The restaurant was opened in 1889, long before the actual Tsukiji fish market was opened in 1935. I followed this long list of suggested places to eat on this website PIC CRUMB (link click here) we decided though in the end to follow the suggestion of the information centre to eat at this restaurant. I read a lot of good reviews on this place AFTER eating here, so I assume it is also one of the best.

I also saw a lot of people eating tamagoyaki on the streets and sushi, but personally I would not suggest eating at those small places. As I have heard a lot of comments about disappointments on the small size of the sushi or the quality wasn’t so special. If you are a very particular eater you should just stick to the good restaurants.

14958308_10210988815947279_1427724818_n

This was the chefs special which cost, 3500 Yen, a bit pricey for sushi but it was really good. It was the first time I tasted anything so good, I mean I’ve been eating good sushi for years but this was really good.

What time should you go there? 

If you want to see the auction happen we were told that we should have been there by 5am or even before that, I guess if you are willing to wake up as early as that then by all means I am sure it would be a great experience. (take note that trains don’t open till 5am) If not I would suggest you would go on an off time, we were there at around 9:30am and it was perfect because there weren’t a lot of people. By the time we got out of the restaurant there was a long line outside of the restaurant to eat there.

What will you see? 

You will see a lot of fish of course, and a lot of food, if you love food you will definitely love this place. All kinds of sushi and fish everywhere. My obaachan (grandmother) particularly loved the Ichigo daifuku with an ichigo on top. Ichigo is Strawberry in Japanese, so inside the Strawberry filled mocha ball is a strawberry on top. There are a lot of things to explore around the area. It is a short walk from Tsukiji station, make sure you get out of the Tsukiji fish market gate to avoid any confusion of where to walk.

14958851_10210989060553394_1108207772_n

Here is a picture of the Ichiko ga nokatteru Ichigo daifuku, it was my first time to see and eat this here at Tsukiji

Side trips from Tokyo: Fuji Kawaguchiko

Lake Kawaguchiko is located right at the base of Mt. Fuji, and of all the five lakes around Mt. Fuji it seems to be the most accessible. Mt. Fuji seems to be most visible around the morning so if you are planning to climb the mountain or climb from the 5th base you should go take the earliest bus up the mountain and start your ascent early before noon hits. Just as seen in our picture, we got a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji from inside the forest path, of which I will talk about some more in a while.

How to get to Kawaguchiko:

You have the option of taking the train or the bus. We opted to take the bus because, taking the train would take 1 hour and 30 mins with 1 exchange in between. But riding the bus would only take 1 hour and 45 mins with no stops. Which was not inconvenient at all, also much cheaper than taking the train. One way by bus from Shinjuku station, the new bus station located across the SOUTH EXIT of Shinjuku JR line only costs 1786 Yen, one way price.

Going back you just take the same route back to Shinjuku.

Should you stay overnight: 

There are many small inns, hotels and guest houses around the lake and I would suggest you take one day before to go sightseeing around the lake and go check out early in the morning to go up Mt. Fuji before 9am after breakfast or before going into the Onsen. I would suggest getting a place with an Onsen, going to Japan if you are a foreigner I think would be nice if you would try an Onsen for once in your life, my boyfriend tried it for the first time and loved it.

Kawaguchiko Station is surprisingly right next to FUJI Q Highlands, if you are a fan of amusement parks you could try heading over to Fuji Q, or add in an extra day just to do that too.

What do you see around Kawaguchiko: 

Kawaguchiko offers a lot of sightseeing, and they have a free tour bus that goes around the lake every 15 mins from every bus station. The bus stations are very close to each other so you can enjoy the different places and views from around the lake. I would personally recommend going to the music forest museum which was also recommended for us to go to by the hotel staff. They also recommended the ropeway and they gave us a discount coupon, if maybe you want to see the view of Kawaguchiko but do not plan to go up Mt. Fuji you should try the ropeway.

How to get up to 5th station of Mt. Fuji, and what you can do there. 

From Kawaguchiko station, take the earliest bus up to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji which is around 8:50am (The bus leaves every hour after that), To get a nice view go up the 3rd floor where there are no tourists and wait for a nice view of Mt. Fuji. You can also send postcards from Mt. Fuji, its one of the only places with a post office on top of a mountain other than everest.

There is also an option to climb or hike up to the 6th station if the weather is good, but there is a secret path that not many know on the 5th station, it is the hike around the middle of the 5th section, you will see a forest path right next to the bus station which is right beside the secluded souvenir shop on the other side of the tourist trap side where all the tourists are taking pictures. On the right side of the bus station, go up the steps and you can walk around the mountain where you will see scenic views of the mountain far more beautiful than from the actual 5th station.

If you continue walking that path you will reach the 4th station, if you are unsure of the route go to the information before going to the path and let them give you a small map to guide you.

14910441_10210940080728929_4026811668337935245_n.jpg

Coming early definitely had its advantages, we were able to see a clear view of Mt. Fuji and we really were so lucky. 

14721539_10210944299274390_8066698435008787015_n.jpg

From the path we were able to climb through this beautiful forest path of which i will never forget, the beautiful autumn leaves were perfect and the volcanic rock path. 

Things you have to eat:

Hoto is a famous delicacy there, flat noodles is what they call it and the Yoshida udon, which is made from the water from Mt. Fuji so they say. There are plenty of different stops around Kawaguchiko where you could give them a try.

If I was able to stay longer around Kawaguchiko, i would have liked to also try going to their vineyards and other farms where you can pick strawberries, persimmons, grapes and other fruits depending on the season. If you have time to look through the places around the area with the Information station at Kawaguchiko I would suggest that you spend a good one hour with the information planning your trip for the next few days, they are very accommodating and speak very good english. Hope that this will help you plan your next trip out of Tokyo! Enjoy Japan. ❤

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.

Bohol Island, Philippines

Bohol was a hidden gem to me, home to one of my favourite Filipino actors Cesar Montano, The last time I came to Bohol i never did any of the snorkelling and dolphin watching that I was just so surprised to see the beauty of this island. We stayed at Panglao island which is what our driver said is the place where all the tourists are at. They are currently builing an international airport here to provide more jobs to the locals of the area.

Bohol was very very clean and their people are one of the nicest I have met. Their seas are very clean as well and the sights very beautiful. Here are some of the things I will suggest you do, skip the party places and learn to see the beauty of Bohol.

14203105_10210397476444161_3597969698417161107_n.jpg

1. Man made forest

This forest is called the man made forest because each graduate of Bohol is required to plant 5 trees after they graduate. Now that the forest is big they are required to plant those 5 trees anywhere around Bohol or even in their backyard.

2. Balicasag Island

I never went on the island itself but we passed by this island to snorkel on the way back to our resort after dolphin watching. The reef was great and the waters were crystal clear! Its something you’d want to do while you are in Bohol. I never expected Bohol to have some place as beautiful as this. It was almost as if we were in Palawan or Apo island and we even got to swim with 3 sea turtles. It was wonderful.

3. Chocolate Hills

Im not sure if it was as Beautiful as the last time I was here, and the tourists are AWFUL just horrible. Most especially the Korean tourists who would smoke and spit on the viewing deck. Still worth the 214 steps to climb up and see the view but nothing more than just a few moments to appreciate the hills. They turn brown during the summer when its hot and green when its the rainy season.

4. Dolphin watching

Something you should not miss! It was worth waking up at 5am to see the dolphins, even if we waited 2 hours before actually finding these dolphins it was magical and I almost wanted to jump in the sea myself to swim with the dolphins.

5. Tarsier Conservation

I didn’t like this place which was filled with Tourists, but I guess it should be your list if you would like to see a tarsier and of course each contribution helps the tarsiers and the efforts to keep them from endangerment. There is a Php 60 entrance fee for this attraction. 14281538_10210423606097386_279344192_n.jpg

I never expected Bohol to be this beautiful and it is now one of my favourite places in the Philippines next to Palawan. With a reef that beautiful in Balicasag, I was really impressed.  I was able to swim with 3 sea turtles and thats more than what I was in Dumaguete while we were at Apo Island. Also it is not as congested as Dumaguete, Bohol is really still like a province. Very quiet and a very easy going place.

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.

 

 

14164152_10210349405912859_1709323861_o

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?