From the Editor: Twirl and shake during International Dance Day

For ballerinas, we can’t shake our hips, but we can twirl, jump, and sometimes experience silent pain

(Kristen Frier)

I did one of the hardest styles of dance in the world: ballet. If you think I’m lying, try Googling “the hardest style of dance” and ballet will come on top.

The International Theatre Institute founded International Dance Day in 1982 to be celebrated every year on April 29, which is Jean-Georges Noverre’s birthday, who is known to be the creator of modern ballet.

“The intention of the International Dance Day Message is to celebrate dance, revel in the universality of this art form, cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers, and bring people together with a common language – dance,” reads their website.

My dance journey began in Panama when I was three years old. Mama used to dance ballet when she was a teenager, and when she had me she saw it as an opportunity to continue following her passion. However, my abuela, my mother’s mother, put me in Tipico classes, which is Panama’s cultural dance.

The pollera is one of our traditional dresses, and it’s usually used during special events and during national festivals. In comparison to the tutu, the pollera is long and much more elegant and heavier. The attire is accompanied by 12 gold necklaces and tembleques, which are hair clips made with white or multicoloured beads. The pollera can usually take eight to nine months to make, and the cost can range from $1,000 to $3,000 USD.

“My mom loved folklore. She loved the costume and bought the pollera for you. But, I loved ballet… in ballet, you can act as well as dance. Panamanian folklore is the same music and clothes. For ballet [there are] costumes, you can interpret different things,” says my mama, Ruth Filos.

At the age of five, mama took me out of Tipico to focus on ballet.

“When I saw you the first time on the stage, dancing ballet, I thought, ‘Oh my God, my beautiful daughter is a little ballerina.’ But in my mind, I was like, ‘I know in the future, I want to see Nicole dance ballet with pointe shoes,’” she says.

I don’t remember the first time I stepped on a stage because it has felt like I always belonged there. I was not scared of the audience, and at times it felt like they weren’t even there. The stage lights camouflage the audience sitting in darkness, and all you can see are silhouettes.

The first time I wore pointe shoes, I was 12 years old. The peach-coloured shoes were shiny, and the night before going into the academy, mama and I sat down on her bed and taught me how to sew the ribbons to the shoes.

The following day, I entered the studio with gelled hair, a smile, and my shiny shoes in my hands, but my excitement was soon lost after my instructor told me to break my shoes.

“What?” I remember asking.

She told me that my shoes had to be broken into for me to stand on them properly. My shiny pearls quickly lost their brightness as I banged them towards the floor. I could hear the spine crack each time I folded them.

I soon realized that breaking your pointe shoes as soon as you get them is a common practice. It needs to be done to get on the tip of the shoe.

The first time I did a relevé, or stood up in pointe shoes, it instantly felt like an anvil had landed on my toes. The feeling soon went away the more I practiced, but sometimes I would get blisters or bruises.

Ballet hurts. On stage, my feet could be burning and bruising, but the audience could never guess through the graceful and elegant dance. Ballet is the most difficult dance because it tells you that you need to be perfect on stage, yet a ballerina never truly reaches perfection.

Ballet tells dancers to practice techniques that are not natural to the human body, like standing on point, turning out your toes, reaching your leg to the side of your face, and to smile even if you’re in pain.

International Dance Day reminds me that I love ballet as my form of dance. When I go back to Panama, I am determined to learn what I couldn’t back then. I love the music, and I enjoy the hard work my body has to endure. Even though I stopped dancing Tipico at a young age, I still get goosebumps when I see my national dance.

I did one of the hardest styles of dance in the world: ballet. If you think I’m lying, try Googling “the hardest style of dance” and ballet will come on top.

The International Theatre Institute founded International Dance Day in 1982 to be celebrated every year on April 29, which is Jean-Georges Noverre’s birthday, who is known to be the creator of modern ballet.

“The intention of the International Dance Day Message is to celebrate dance, revel in the universality of this art form, cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers, and bring people together with a common language – dance,” reads their website.

My dance journey began in Panama when I was three years old. Mama used to dance ballet when she was a teenager, and when she had me she saw it as an opportunity to continue following her passion. However, my abuela, my mother’s mother, put me in Tipico classes, which is Panama’s cultural dance.

The pollera is one of our traditional dresses, and it’s usually used during special events and during national festivals. In comparison to the tutu, the pollera is long and much more elegant and heavier. The attire is accompanied by 12 gold necklaces and tembleques, which are hair clips made with white or multicoloured beads. The pollera can usually take eight to nine months to make, and the cost can range from $1,000 to $3,000 USD.

“My mom loved folklore. She loved the costume and bought the pollera for you. But, I loved ballet… in ballet, you can act as well as dance. Panamanian folklore is the same music and clothes. For ballet [there are] costumes, you can interpret different things,” says my mama, Ruth Filos.

At the age of five, mama took me out of Tipico to focus on ballet.

“When I saw you the first time on the stage, dancing ballet, I thought, ‘Oh my God, my beautiful daughter is a little ballerina.’ But in my mind, I was like, ‘I know in the future, I want to see Nicole dance ballet with pointe shoes,’” she says.

I don’t remember the first time I stepped on a stage because it has felt like I always belonged there. I was not scared of the audience, and at times it felt like they weren’t even there. The stage lights camouflage the audience sitting in darkness, and all you can see are silhouettes.

The first time I wore pointe shoes, I was 12 years old. The peach-coloured shoes were shiny, and the night before going into the academy, mama and I sat down on her bed and taught me how to sew the ribbons to the shoes.

The following day, I entered the studio with gelled hair, a smile, and my shiny shoes in my hands, but my excitement was soon lost after my instructor told me to break my shoes.

“What?” I remember asking.

She told me that my shoes had to be broken into for me to stand on them properly. My shiny pearls quickly lost their brightness as I banged them towards the floor. I could hear the spine crack each time I folded them.

I soon realized that breaking your pointe shoes as soon as you get them is a common practice. It needs to be done to get on the tip of the shoe.

The first time I did a relevé, or stood up in pointe shoes, it instantly felt like an anvil had landed on my toes. The feeling soon went away the more I practiced, but sometimes I would get blisters or bruises.

Ballet hurts. On stage, my feet could be burning and bruising, but the audience could never guess through the graceful and elegant dance. Ballet is the most difficult dance because it tells you that you need to be perfect on stage, yet a ballerina never truly reaches perfection.

Ballet tells dancers to practice techniques that are not natural to the human body, like standing on point, turning out your toes, reaching your leg to the side of your face, and to smile even if you’re in pain.

International Dance Day reminds me that I love ballet as my form of dance. When I go back to Panama, I am determined to learn what I couldn’t back then. I love the music, and I enjoy the hard work my body has to endure. Even though I stopped dancing Tipico at a young age, I still get goosebumps when I see my national dance.

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