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What It's Like to Be a Ballerina: Abigail Oliveiro

"The more time you spend waiting for it, the less time you spend enjoying it."
IMAGE Ballet Manila

The Candymag.com Team recently had the opportunity to watch Ballet Manila's latest offering, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's Cinderella, at the Aliw Theater. Watching one of our favorite fairy tales come to life onstage and in ballet, too, brought us memories of our childhood when everything was simpler and when we still believed that anything could be fixed with a little fairy dust. But we didn't only fall in love with the show, we also fell in love with ballerina Abigail Oliveiro's performance as Cinderella. To say that she was magical is an understatement. She was perfect.

We had the opportunity to talk to her via e-mail about her ballet journey, and she was glad to share her story and a few things she's learned with us, Candy Girls. Read on for your dose of inspo from her!

  1. You started taking ballet lessons at a young age. What made you love or learn to love this art form and dedicate your time and energy to it?

"My aunt was and is a really influencial ballet teacher in Singapore. So when dad took me to her work one day, I wanted to join in, too! I don't remember why but I remember absolutely enjoying moving to beautiful music. I'd get carried away with the music mostly. I've always been a performer at home. I'd wear my dad's shirts as oversized dresses and prance around the house whilst he played guitar. This was all before I was introduced to ballet at three. I was always singing and/or performing with my hairbrush along with the singers on TV as well!

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"There wasn't a time that I decided I must focus or continue on with this art form. I just loved it! I didn't think 'I wanted to be a ballerina' at the time but it never occurred to me to ever stop. I was taking Royal Academy of Dance exams, as well, so there was always a goal you were working towards aside from personal goals."

  1. For a time, you juggled ballet classes with your university commitments. How hard was it? What did this stage in your life teach you, especially since you were juggling two things you loved: ballet and pharmaceutical science?

"I have to admit that it was extremely difficult and ballet took a back seat at some point. The passion for ballet was always there. But my University (Monash University in Australia) was in the City which was an hour and a half from my home which was in the East. And ballet, which was in the South, was another hour from my University. At first it was all possible! I was so motivated I thought, 'I could handle this in high school, I could surely do this!'

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"The laboratory work started to pile up; you never really knew what time you were going to finish. You were allocated three hours to handle your practicals but you could be done within the hour and you could go over time. It was unpredictable. By the time I'd reach the train station, I was exhausted and most of the time I smelt of chemicals. I knew I had to sacrifice something. I had to let ballet slide as the research and studies consumed my time. From six times a week, I'd go to ballet three times a week at the most. I never sacrificed my weekend at ballet though. And I always longed for days I could be at the studio instead.

"Every holiday or semester break I had, I was at the studio for as long as I could be. I thought, if I can't be a ballerina, I would always want to dance whenever I could until I can't physically anymore. That time taught me that I couldn't 'have it all' for the rest of my life. At some point, something had to give. My ballet teacher however, told me at the end of my first year at University, that I was choosing the wrong thing to sacrifice. That I could always pick up my education again, but to give up ballet would eventually leave me with the regret of never trying and that I had a gift that needed to be shared."

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"That time taught me that I couldn't 'have it all' for the rest of my life. At some point, something had to give."

  1. How do you prepare for a production and how long does it take?

"Whether there is a production or not, we dancers take our daily technique class and prepare our bodies for work. When there is a production, a casting list would go up and from there you will learn the role that you are given. So your daily technique classes would keep you in shape and keep you prepared for the dancing part. But with the character that you are about to portray, it's not just the technical aspect that is important. There is character development as well. So depending on the production, I would research about my character as much as I can. I would also check out YouTube if it is an existing character and see how other dancers portray it. That creates my base of the character. Every day we rehearse, adding another layer of my own interpretation of the character that goes on."

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  1. Do you need to follow a particular diet or workout plan to prepare for your performances? 

"Technically with the dancing, your preparation is already done every single day, six days a week. Learning the piece or ballet can take up to an hour to perhaps a week tops depending on what role you are given. Dancers often have to learn more than one production in a short amount of time. Often whilst we are putting up a production, we are already rehearsing the next one. Once we've learnt it, it's rehearsals every day until it goes on stage.

"Every dancer has different requirements. The Vaganova classes and repertoire that we do already keep us in shape. Personally, because my body is quite limber and my muscles are long and slow, I like to add in a bit of cross training to my everyday routine to keep my core more compact so it helps me hold myself together better especially for my partners. As for food, I don't follow any diet; I'd eat whatever's available that day, nothing specific. As long as there's food. But I do have a thing that I do before performances! I have to eat what I want or what I'm craving for! Usually the week leading up to a performance and especially the night before a performance, I would go out of my way to get what I'm craving for!"

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  1. What's the most difficult thing you've faced so far as a ballerina? How did you overcome this challenge?

"The most difficult thing that I have faced so far and the reason why it's difficult is because I'm constantly facing it, is self doubt. It adds to my nerves especially before I go on stage. I have had difficulty in the past overcoming it and it has affected my performances, which only adds on to more self-doubt and frustration in the future. So I've learnt from that! I'm dealing with it much better now. Every day that I work, I work with the intention to better myself for myself and not for anyone else. It makes working almost a meditative thing. So when the self-doubt creeps in, I go back to that meditative place mentally and start again from there. Because I could do it there and I was confident, there's nothing to be doubtful of. It's about the mindset, focus, and preparation."

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"I work with the intention to better myself for myself and not for anyone else. It makes working almost a meditative thing."

  1. What's your favorite thing about being a professional dancer?

"That I get to do what I love to do and what I dreamed to do every single day! I get to dance all day and it makes me so so happy! I get to share it with so many people on stage and I can let the actress in me go. It really is the best thing!"

  1. Is it important for aspiring dancers to start training early for the field you're in?

"I think it is important to start as early as you can, yes. Ballet creates magic but there's no magic to learning ballet. I don't think it's possible to say that you can put in too much time into ballet. Every moment you spend honing your craft only makes it greater and the art is limitless! If you want to dance, go for it! Don't wait. The more time you spend waiting for it, the less time you spend enjoying it."

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Every moment you spend honing your craft only makes it greater and the art is limitless! If you want to dance, go for it! Don't wait. The more time you spend waiting for it, the less time you spend enjoying it. 

  1. For Cinderella, you're performing with your real-life boyfriend Mark Sumaylo. How was it preparing for the production with him? Is working with him easier or more difficult?

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"Preparing for Cinderella with Mark was incredibly fun! The nuances are very natural and we end up laughing so much! I would say working with him was actually really easy! I have worked with Mark in other productions before and so dancing together is a very familiar feeling and can get quite instinctive. Because of our close relationship, it's very easy to say what you think or ask for what you want from the other person."

  1. Any interesting anecdotes you want to share with the Candy Girls during your rehearsal sessions?

"Gosh, every rehearsal almost had something in it! To begin with, every rehearsal always had a light, fairytale aura to it. Ma'am Lisa's excitement was very contagious. I think when she decided that there would be a kiss in Cinderella, she described it as an 'artistic kiss.' All of us Cinderellas and Prince Charmings had absolutely no idea what that entailed! So when we asked, we learnt it was like a slow motion, last minute angling of the head that looked like a kiss. Mark and I gave each other a mutual look and grinned so we tentatively approached her at the end of that rehearsal and asked if we could really kiss. To our surprise she was all for it! Woohoo!"

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  1. What were the most encouraging words you've received from a mentor or your mentors during your ballet journey?

"They would have to be what my ballet teacher Ms. Jane told me. I don't remember exactly how she said it, but it was the amount of belief she had in me. She said that all I had to do was to try with all my heart and if I wasn't offered anything to be dancer, at least I tried and I gave it everything. Trying would mean sacrificing a couple of years. Not trying would mean sacrificing the rest of your life with regrets and What Ifs. And to her, knowing the kind of gift I have, as a teacher, it would be unbearable to watch me walk away from it. That changed my life. I am the happiest I have ever been."

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"She said that all I had to do was to try with all my heart and if I wasn't offered anything to be dancer, at least I tried and I gave it everything. Trying would mean sacrificing a couple of years. Not trying would mean sacrificing the rest of your life with regrets and What Ifs."

  1. What's your most important or most memorable role to date?

"My most memorable role would have to be Odette/Odile from the ballet Swan Lake. It was my very first Principal Role! I really never expected to dance as the lead in Swan Lake in just my second year as a professional dancer. Odette/Odile will always have a special place in my heart. The Gemini in me absolutely adores it!"

  1. Any advice for those who are looking to pursue their passion for dancing or for performing arts?

"The following advice is something that's close to my heart and I often remind myself when needed:

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"Work hard and work honestly. Do it for yourself, slow and steady. Take away the bitterness. Finally, stop comparing yourself, because each of us have something unique offer. Don't be afraid to show it."

Catch Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's Cinderella on December 3 and December 4 at the Aliw Theater. Tickets are available via TicketWorld.com.ph.

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About the author
Ayessa De La Peña
Candymag.com Assistant Section Editor
I am Candymag.com's resident fangirl and ~*feelings*~ girl. When I'm not busy researching about what to write next on the website, I sleep, read books, and re-watch episodes of Friends.
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I don't know. by Mariella Ysabel Amatus

I don’t know what to do. I feel lost. I don’t know what to do. I feel alone. I don’t know what to do. I feel abandoned. Dreams are things we ought to have. Without them, we might never know where will our future take us. We seem to be trained to have them. I want to be a nurse. I want to be a doctor. I want to be an engineer. I want to be a lawyer. Those are the lines children tell in front of people. It seems simple to dream. To have an ambition. Well, I thought it is. But, now, as I put a book on my lap, thinking about where my fate will lead me, it isn’t.

I feel drowned in the responsibility of knowing what I wanted. The season of college entrance tests are coming. Yet, I feel nothing but doubtful. I studied, but now, I am not doing such a thing. I felt so engrossed the last time I checked myself months ago. Now, I am unsure of what I want to do. I have to study. Yes, I know. However, I feel so dismissive to do something. I can’t even point out what’s the problem in me.

What am I doing? I must go, open some books, and study hard. But, I am never doing it in this present moment. Instead of challenging myself with tons of knowledge, I am here writing this passage with my mind resonating with unspoken words and truth. I seem insane, right? What will happen to me if I keep on doing nothing? Well, simple. I will never be successful - I know that. Then, what must I do?

Asking myself such a question will never suffice what I really need. Because, I’ve been asking myself questions all the time. Yet, I’ve never come up with answers. I don’t know what to do. I feel like being pained. I don’t know what to do. I feel like being tortured. I don’t know what to do. I feel like being misunderstood. I don’t know what to do. I don't know.

A Stranger "Things"

strangers can be not strangers, they can be someone else

Isn't it intimidating to interact with strangers? Majority will say "yes" certainly. No doubt, parents also come up with their very classic "Don't talk to strangers" smart advice for their children. But come to realize to take the opposite approach of it as we grow older, there's a tangled idea in our head it it is beneficial or not.

Finding comfort to someone we don't know is like finding a needle in the bunch of hay. A blurry-blurry thing, a no-percent no-possibility to happen. But not to compare, for others it's like their way of finding comfort, way to socialize, way to widen their circle of acquaintance, that's why psychologist somewhat agree with it. If the person didn't give you a ghastly vibe, why not give it a try to interact. It's kinda weird thing to open doors for strangers,but at the same time, its interesting. Think of this, why its easy for others to share secretes of them, or to have pretty intimate conversation to random person? Cause they say, "No judgement".

Why its okay to ask help to person we dont know if we are in unfamiliar place? Cause they can help us, and same goes in other way. Bottomline, Strangers are not just strangers or a person we dont know, or a person that our parents taught us not to talk to. They can be someone else who can help us in times of unfamiliarity of places or thing. They can be the person who sit next to you in the bus who ask for a little help for direction and end up having a great conversation.

They can be a lot more we didn't expect to, and you can tell by yourself that your best of friends you have today are once a complete stranger to you yet you end up having a strong bond of friendship. They are the person we completely don't know, we dont know their upbringings or what, but sometimes the can be more helpful to us than the others we know. By simply having a casual conversation with them, we're not noticing that they are giving us a diffirent approach to different aspects in life and unfortunately, this idea overpowers by just word "stranger". Hopefully, maybe now or then, we're very thankfull that we took the opposite approach of "do not talk to strangers"

marj carbonel 7 hours ago
Nyla David 7 hours ago

Hi Candy! I saw a repost of your IG story from one of my good friends who happens to be your candy rookie, Margaux Nonato, about students who started their business this quarantine season. I wanted to submit my own story as well but didn’t have the guts to do so, until I read the stories of some students who happen to share the same experience as mine!

Telling my own story might be a little overdue, now that you’ve already published the article but I wanted to give this a try still if it means inspiring other people as well. I am an incoming third year medical student from De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute and I have also decided to do something productive (aside from studying my backlogs of course) and something unique that may help me to challenge myself into exploring new things aside from human anatomy, pathology, and all those medical greatness.

Kudos to everyone who decided to start their online businesses! I must say it isn’t easy at all so we all deserve a round of applause for doing great and getting this far! I’ve always been a fan of baking since I was a kid. I remember making my own chocolate chip cookies when I was in second year high school and back then, I only baked with a microwave (since our oven was whack) and used choco choco as the chocolate in my cookies ???? they are not as bad as they seem! Trust me!

Since then I’ve always dreamed of finding the perfect recipe. I took Biochemistry in college and went straight to studying Medicine so my plan in finding the perfect recipe was always postponed since studying for my future patients will always be my number one priority. (Naks) Then Coronavirus happened. I just finished my last semester for 2nd year Med last June and I’ve decided to finally come up with the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, then tried selling them for extra allowance to help in our expenses. In addition to my chocolate chip cookie recipe, I’ve also managed to bake chocolate crinkles and different varieties of brownies! Who would’ve thought that a super busy medical student would have the chance to bake and create her own online business as well? (While in Med School!!!)

So then I started my online business, named “Harina Manila”.You can also find it on instagram and facebook @harina.manila!! I like to call my baked goods “paboridough” because the ones that I bake are indeed my favorites and I‘d like to share it with everyone. Kaya sa mga broken hearted jan, dibale nang hindi ka niya pinili, sa Harina Manila, ikaw ang aming paboridough ???? (hahaha corny!) From deciding what to name your business, to buying ingredients almost every week, and finding the right packaging that fits your style, starting your own online business really takes time and dedication! But as they say, kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga!

This goes not only to medical students like me, but to all students who are struggling to keep themselves sane this quarantine season. Amidst the pandemic that we are facing right now, I hope that we may not forget to take good care of ourselves both physically and mentally. May we find the courage to remain optimistic and try new things that could help us grow and become better. Sharing with you my story this quarantine season, I hope I may be able to inspire other people into believing that they too, can do something amazing, heck there’s no limit to what we can all achieve! As long as we work hard for it, malayo ang mararating natin! I thank you, Candy Mag, for spreading good vibes and inspiration to everyone by publishing good stories! To all the lovely readers who took their time to read Candy’s article, if this ever gets published, I hope you remind yourselves today that you are capable of doing amazing things and that there is no limit to what you can achieve. Fighting! Dont forget to visit, like, and follow my page on Facebook and Instagram, Harina Manila (@harina.manila) and try out some of our baked goods! We got you covered, my paboridough! Thank you! ??

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