Where little girls are turned into world-class ballerinas
It’s a rainy Saturday morning but on the fifth floor of Waltermart at Chino Roces corner Arnaiz avenues in Makati, little girls with their hair in tight buns and clad in tights and ballet shoes are warming up.
This signals the official start of their weekend. While other girls are sleeping, playing with toys or going to lunch with their families, they are at Dance Theatre Arts with their mothers (or in some cases, fathers), to study ballet under studio director Pamela Ortiz-Bondoc, artistic director Brezhnev Larlar, classical ballet faculty Mark Christopher Simbiling and contemporary ballet faculty Fredrick Fernandez.
And, these kids are world-class, having recently won awards in the Hong Kong Challenge Cup Dance Competition 2017, besting over 1,200 contestants from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Australia.
The school’s students won 24 gold medals, 12 silvers and five bronzes in various dance categories.
The Challenge Cup Trophy, which is given to the dancer with the highest combined score for Solo Classical and Solo Contemporary Ballet, was awarded to Kien Jimenez who received a score of 97 for Contemporary Ballet and 95 for her Classical Solo.
The students at Dance Theatre Arts work hard for every competition. For the Hong Kong Challenge Cup Dance Competition 2017, it meant training on Thursdays and Fridays, aside from Saturdays and Sundays.
Nova Academia, whose eight-year-old daughter Star was part of Team Paquita, which won the Best Performer Trophy for Ensemble Junior Division (4-12 years old), said she survived July by God’s grace.
“I am an events production manager. God probably realized that I needed my July free so I could support Star. So I had no events for July,” said Nova, a solo parent who had to learn how to do makeup on YouTube just for her little ballerina.
She is particularly proud of how Star has blossomed from a shy girl to a star onstage.
“Star was around three or four when she said she wanted to do ballet after watching Angelina Ballerina. She was too young for ballet then so we tried to find a school that taught tap dancing. We didn’t find one so we went around ballet schools. Dance Theatre Arts is near our house so I enrolled her here.”
Nova has seen how Star has changed from a shy little girl to a confident performer. She admires her daughter for being disciplined, too.
“When she makes a mistake, which can happen when you’re dancing, she notices it. When she isn’t dancing well, she is the first one who notices. She is very determined.”
Another determined little girl is Annika Browne, who is also from Team Paquita. Annika is an honor student and also competes (and wins) in math contests.
“Annika is also shy but when she performs, she becomes a different person. I love how ballet brought her out of her shell. She loves doing it even if she is sometimes tired because she has to juggle school and ballet,” said Annika’s mom Angie Limbaco, who is in public relations and marketing.
Ortiz-Bondoc said it’s not really difficult to make the girls less shy about performing.
“We ask them to dance in that area outside the school and they call that a Waltermart show except it’s not really a show and not even a stage. So through that, they get used to people looking at them when they dance and that boosts their confidence.”
The involvement of parents is very crucial in a child’s success at Dance Theatre Arts. Yes, in a way, stage parents are encouraged.
Ortiz-Bondoc said that aside from financial support, the school asks at least one parent to stay with the child during lessons so that he or she will see what it’s really like.
“We make them take videos of the rehearsal so that they see where improvements are needed. We tell them, ‘You have to improve this so at home.’ The kids are also being prepared by their parents so when they get here and they’re not prepared, we reprimand the father or mother, not the child. Ballet is very rigorous for a child. It should be a family thing,” she said.
Dance Theatre Arts is located on the 5th floor of Waltermart Makati, Chino Roces Avenue corner Antonio Arnaiz Street, Makati City.
For information, go to www.dancetheatrearts.org or like them on Facebook at DTA.Philippines.