How old were you when you started ballet? Did you like it?

I started dancing ballet when I was seven years old. I had to really convince my mother to put me in ballet classes as she thought I would not like it since my older sister did not enjoy it. But I love dancing, and I’m glad my mother allowed me to learn ballet since I was young.

What was the first ballet you ever saw in a theatre? Who was it by, and what impression did it leave with you?

The first ballet I watched was Swan Lake in 1996 or 1997. It was in the Cultural Center of the Philippines performed by either Ballet Philippines or the Philippine Ballet Theatre. I remember enjoying the vibrant first act, but I fell asleep during the second act, the white act. I felt really bad when I woke up during the interval because I thought that everyone knew that I had fallen asleep.

When did you decide to pursue a professional career, and why?

There was never really one defining moment when I just knew that I wanted to be a professional dancer. As far as I can remember, I also wanted to be a business magnate; I remember thinking that I can handle two careers – CEO by day and ballet dancer by night. It was only in my last second year of high school that I realised that I can only do one. I think I made the better choice. (laughs)

Did you enjoy your training at your school?

Yes. I’ve always trained in a school that was affiliated with a ballet company. There was always so much to learn just by watching the professionals during their company class, and even more so when they’re in their rehearsals. Houston Ballet Academy was my first full-time ballet school. It was definitely a culture shock for me, and overwhelming to be around so many passionate students, and dedicated teachers who wanted to help all the students achieve their goal.

When and how did you join SDT?

I joined SDT on August 2012. I was interested in the company for quite some time, and I may have submitted my audition materials more than once before I flew in on the summer of 2012 for an audition. I remember being so eager to audition at SDT, but only had the opportunity to come over after I was done with my training in Milwaukee Ballet II.

What was your first role in SDT as a professional dancer? Did you like it?

The first time I danced with SDT was for Esplanade’s Dance Appreciation Series’s (DAS) Sleeping Beauty in 2012. I was an understudy for another dancer who had an injury that required stitches, and the opportunity to dance happened so unexpectedly and quickly. It was fun, and quite challenging at the same time.

How do you learn a new ballet/choreography? Is it different for contemporary and classical choreography?

I don’t have a particular routine or habit in learning a ballet, but I usually leave the studio not remembering much of the choreography. But after a good night’s sleep, I wake up remembering more steps than I had expected. I also often find myself surprised at how steps would come back to my memory during rehearsals even though I had not reviewed over the choreography the night before. Also, for me, contemporary choreography is more difficult to learn as I find that it is easier to memorise classical ballet steps.

What is a typical rehearsal day like for you? What do you do during breaks?

I get up at around 7.30am and have a slow breakfast. At 8am, I would watch the news as I get ready for work, and I usually leave my apartment for the studio at around 8.30am. Warm up class ends at around 11.30am, and we have rehearsals from then till 5.30pm. Recently during the short breaks in between rehearsals, I would study or do my school homework as I have started taking online college classes again. If it the break happens to be longer than 2 hours, I may consider going to the gym to swim, I love swimming! I come from a family of swimmers.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I don’t have a set pre-performance ritual. It varies for every production; however, I generally do the same things in a different order. I like to read or listen to music while waiting backstage. I must have both sweet and salty snacks in the dressing room. Nearing to the performance time, I like to roll on my Yamuna Ball, do a few Pilates exercises and some planks. If there’s time, I will brush my teeth. (laughs)

What do you eat on a big rehearsal/performance day?

I pretty much eat the same thing on a performance day as I would on any other day, but I will eat a heavy meal at least one and a half hour before the show.

What is your dream role?

I have so many. The three roles that are right at the top of my head are the youngest daughter from Christopher Bruce’s Hush, Nikiya from La Bayadère, and any part in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room.

What is your favourite costume so far?

I really like the Nymph’s costume from Act II in Sleeping Beauty. It is almost like a flapper dress yet still nymphlike. Plus, the headpiece is lovely!

Who is your favourite choreographer in the works you’ve danced?

I was really lucky enough to have worked with Val Caniparoli when he came to set Swipe for Masterpiece in Motion. He had so much positive energy that I just wanted to give more back in return.

Do you watch ballets from the wings during performance days?

Not really. I prefer watching performances from the audience’s point of view. I don’t mind watching rehearsals from the wings. But when I’m not dancing and I’m in the wings, I feel like I may be using up valuable space for someone who may want to warm-up before they get on to stage. But that aside, the dancers project so much to the audience, so why not appreciate from the best angle, the front! (laughs)

How do you feel after a performance?

I would probably feel really sore and tired. (laughs) I might also be frustrated if there are any mishaps, and I would nitpick and over-analyse my performance. But overall I am always happy after a performance because I get to do the one thing I’ve always wanted to do – dance.

What is your most prized possession?

I like to send postcards and letters to my friends and family around the world. I keep all my correspondence and birthday greeting cards in a special stack in my bedroom. I even have a torn sheet of paper with a short note I received from a best friend in Houston after a really bad day at school.

What do you like to do outside of SDT?

I like to take long walks, anywhere in the city would do. I don’t mind getting lost and slowly finding my way. I enjoy trying different places to eat. There is a new place in Tiong Bahru called Tiong Bahru Club; I’ve tried their finger foods – samosas and fried okra. Both were good that I want to go back to try their curry. For baked desserts, I really like the bakery, Plain Vanilla, which is hidden at one of the back streets of Tiong Bahru. There is also a small vegetarian restaurant in Little India that I keep meaning to go back to. Unfortunately, I don’t remember its name.

Do you have a “guilty pleasure”?

I like watching TV dramas, and I can watch TV series non-stop. But I don’t really have time for that now, since I started studying again. I like to watch Grey’s Anatomy, Suits, and Sherlock Holmes. I was extremely late to join the Game of Thrones bandwagon, but I watched a very unhealthy amount of its episodes in a very short amount of time. (laughs)

Are most of your friends dancers?

Yes most of my friends in Singapore and America are dancers. My friends in the Philippines are a good mix of dancers and non-dancers.

 How does your family feel about your career?

My family has always been supportive of the choices I make, so I’m very thankful for that. My parents try to come at least twice a year. This year my parents came to watch Romeo and Juliet in March and Masterpiece in Motion in September, and they will be back again for Don Quixote in December.

What do you want to do after dancing?
I like to teach or share whatever knowledge I have so that someone else can benefit from it. I’d either like to teach Mathematics or English or even basic ballet to the children in the countryside of the Philippines. I’d also like to teach gyrotonics, which is a unique and carefully crafted movement exercise which has its roo