Pinay ballerina twirls to top of international tilt

Edu Jarque - The Philippine Star
Pinay ballerina twirls to top of international tilt
Veronica Atienza as Gazmatti in La Bayadere…

MANILA, Philippines — She was Gazmatti in La Bayadere, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow and the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Her name is Veronica Atienza.

A principal dancer of the Philippine Ballet Theater, Veronica was recently lauded with the Special Jury Encouragement Award for the Senior Category at the USA International Ballet Competition (USAIBC), a two-week festival of dance in Jackson, Mississippi, and has also landed a fourth place finish at the 2016 World Ballet Competition — no small feat for homegrown talent.

…at the USA International Ballet Competition’s Tribal Princess

She had her first whirl with ballet at the age of four as a hobby and started her formal training by the age of 14.

A marketing management sophomore at the De La Salle University, we caught up with her for a short chat at the height of her busy rehearsals for the latest run of The Merry Widow.

Here are some of her musings, and what tickles her fancy.

On internalizing a role:

“I fully immerse myself into the pointes of the character through empathizing and living the role as the story unfolds. I, likewise, watch live performances and view videos of esteemed dancers who have embodied the same personas. In fact, they inspire me to attempt and to try their moves, and eventually, I infuse my own style in the steps.”

On her preparations:

“Due to the rigid and disciplined nature of dance rehearsals, I have learned to apply time management and integrate it into my everyday life. For instance, when I have an upcoming show, I practice for seven hours a day, for some two months. This is the lead time for company productions before the big day. On opening nights, I plug in my earphones, close my eyes as I listen to the particular soundtrack and solemnly internalize. Before the curtains unruffle, I mentally retrace my steps and walk around the stage to establish my presence. Most importantly, I whisper a prayer.”

…and Diana and Acteon variation.

On her favorites:

“My most unforgettable part so far has been as Gazmatti and as Hannah. However, my dream act would be Kitri from Don Quixote. My choice venue is the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where fortunately is the home of the Philippine Ballet Theater. If given the opportunity, I would love to gaze and marvel at the Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London, live in Giselle. I am forever at awe by her YouTube videos. Can you imagine if I see her up-close and personal?”

On competitions:

“Competing has taught me valuable life skills such as maturity, discipline and adaptability. One must not forget the trials and challenges before qualifying for these tournaments as well, for that’s where one will grow not just as a dancer, but also as a person. I love each ballet tourney for it always serves an amazing learning experience — to see, meet and perform with different dancers, and to attend master classes from world-renowned directors and sterling choreographers.”

On certain points of improvement:

“Personally, I know that I have to enhance on my leg extensions, and on my fast footwork — petit allegro. And over anything else, I also wish I had more stamina.”

With coach Ronilo Jaynario

On unwinding:

“After a grueling day at the studio, I take pleasure in massages. As a form of therapy, I enjoy grocery shopping and eventually cooking and baking. It’s so relaxing. Weekends are for my family. We eat out or just stay at home, but what matters most is we spend quality time together.”

On future plans:

“Today, I am extremely happy and pleased with my time at the Philippine Ballet Theater, and I look forward to my portrayals of lead roles in the company’s reprise of Cinderella come September, and The Nutcracker in November of this year. In the future — through my self-established dream ballet school — I would be keen to mentor the younger generations with the same knowledge, and wisdom my teachers have passed on to me — plus my own experiences.”



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