They’re kids—and masters of time management.
Hitting the sack past midnight just so they can finish their schoolwork has become the norm. They juggle rigorous ballet practice with homework, family bonding, playtime with friends. They even manage to squeeze in other extracurricular activities.
They not only win golds, silvers and bronzes for ballet, but also finish at the top of their class at the Dance Theater Arts (DTA). The ballet school’s 37 students recently bagged 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.
Headed by school director Pamela Ortiz-Bondoc, artistic director Brezhnev Larlar, classical ballet faculty Mark Christopher Simbiling, and contemporary ballet faculty Fredrick Fernandez, DTA won 24 gold medals, 12 silvers, and five bronzes in various dance categories.
Public relations practitioner Angie Limbaco, whose daughter Annika studies at DTA, told Lifestyle: “She said she would get gold, and she did. She’s very positive that way. She likes competing, because every time she does and wins, she gets a reward. But I just tell her to enjoy the dance. All I want is for her to be exposed to an international competition.”
Limbaco said ballet was not part of the equation at the start, but when she realized she had a gifted child—Annika is a math wizard and finished at the top of her class—she looked for other activities to balance things out.
“I want her to be well-rounded because she’s intelligent. With ballet she learned grace and confidence,” Limbaco added.
School director Bondoc agreed. “Ballet builds confidence and discipline,” she said, “that’s why many of them are honor students. They’re friends but they’re very competitive, too. They know that if they’re absent for practice today, the girl beside them, one day, is going to be better than they are.”
The success of a ballet dancer is often built on the foundation of heart and passion for both parents and the student.
“It’s like feeding them food they don’t know, but once they taste, it they start to focus. They just need to realize and learn and experience the actual training and performance,” artistic director Larlar said.
Take for instance, Jasmine Icasiano-Villano, whose daughter, Una Bighani, 12, started taking ballet lessons when she was 4. Today, discipline and focus have become innate traits of the child. Apart from ballet, she’s in the top five of her class and has also joined three international painting competitions abroad.
“We pay a lot for training, coaching, entrance fees, costumes,” Villano said, “But because my daughter loves ballet so much, we decided to support her. Now I don’t have to remind her about not neglecting her studies. The discipline is there already.”
Faith Genuino, 12, has always been a consistent honor student. During competition season, when ballet practice is at its most demanding, Faith stays up until 1 a.m. to study, gets up at 5 a.m. for school, then heads to ballet practice from 6 to 9 p.m. On weekends, she’s at the ballet studio from 1 to 9 p.m.
“She does all that because she really loves ballet,” said Faith’s mom, Rinna R. Genuino. “I’m just here to support her as best I can.”
Parents make a lot of sacrifices, too. Let Cruz quit her job as civil engineer so she could watch over her daughter, Sachi, 11, who fell head over heels in love with ballet.
“I want to make sure she gets a life outside of ballet. Right now her world revolves around it. I want her to learn other things, as well, let her know that there’s more to life than ballet,” Cruz said. “I tell her that if she wants to dance, she should leave time for herself for fun and for school.”
Nova G. Academia said she is giving her full support to daughter Star, 9, who wants to become a ballet teacher and veterinarian when she grows up. (School director Bondoc is a dentist, Star argued.)
Star is determined, though. She tells her mom she needs to be better today than she was yesterday.
“Of course the most important part is winning, but I keep telling her it’s the journey towards winning that’s the best part of it all,” Academia said. “She is already disciplined on her own. I’m just here to support her financially and morally.”