Yes, Mommy Can: Her Love Affair with Ballet

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By Jing Lejano As a child, mom of one and corporate communications executive Nikki Constantino had always been fascinated by movement. She says, “I wanted to be like Bea Lucero and Lydia De Vega. I would imitate them in their Milo commercials! I was always running and dancing.”

On her fourth grade, a friend asked her to try out ballet and Nikki fell in love with it. She begged her father to enroll her in ballet, which he did. Unfortunately, Nikki was a sickly child. She ended up missing more lessons than she attended, and eventually gave it up altogether.

Fast forward to many years later, and Nikki is a mom of a ten-year-old and working in Makati. Every so often, she'd play tennis to take the edge off. Last summer, however, it was just too hot to play tennis, even under a covered court. But she knew she needed 'something' to channel her restless energy.

Around this time, one of her friends posted a Facebook ad for BalletWorks Manila, a startup dance studio which specializes in adult beginner ballet. As the studio was near Nikki's house, it looked like the perfect opportunity to pursue her passion.  Plus, she wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb because her classmates would be beginners as well.

She says, "I didn't want this to be one of the regrets of my life. I loved to dance ballet but because of frail health I had to give it up. Now I have another chance to enjoy ballet and I'm doing it! Also, I don't have to beg anyone for tuition money.”

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A second chance

Like most everybody else, Nikki was very self-conscious during the first few lessons.

She recalls, "In the locker room, we all were trying to justify our would-be performance: 'I haven't danced in 10 years.' 'My last lesson was 20 years ago.'"

But when the music started playing, each one put her best foot forward.

"We were willing to give this another go; it didn't matter if we would embarrass ourselves there. It's true what they say, just showing up is already a big part of your success. It's the first step. It also helps that the teachers at BalletWorks are very understanding and nurturing and supportive."

Nikki took lessons every Saturday. At first, she felt guilty for eating into what's supposedly a family day.  But when her husband and son saw how much fun she was having fun, they encouraged her to continue.

She adds, "Besides, what could possibly go wrong if I were not at home for two hours? My husband and my son can have their own bonding time together, which they also need."

But dancing ballet once a week was not quite enough. Nikki wanted to learn to dance ballet correctly, so she enrolled in a studio near her office.

"I go when I can but if I can't, I don't beat myself up for it. I just keep in my mind that I'm doing this for fun and if I miss a lesson, it's okay," she says.

Loving ballet

"Ballet is just beautiful. The movements are beautiful. There is so much effort that goes into each movement but the dancers are not allowed to show it. They have to make it look like it's easy. Watching ballet dancers relaxes me. Doing ballet brings me back to my childhood when I was carefree. At least, once a week, for one and a half hours, I can feel carefree again."

Though Nikki knows that she will never become a prima ballerina, it doesn't stop her from indulging in her passion. She says, "I have come to accept that a career in ballet is out of reach for me so I no longer aim for perfection. I now aim for enjoyment while trying to follow the discipline. So there's nothing about it that I don't like. It did give me aches and pains when I first started out."

Moms who have a secret passion for something should have the courage to give it a try, Nikki says.

"That's the only way to know if it's for you. Ask a friend to go with you if that makes it easier for you. Remember that no one is forcing you to attend the second session, whether it's a dance lesson, soap-making workshop, or public speaking course. These things usually offer a trial session so you don't have to commit to a long-term engagement right away. For me, it was knowing that there is a possibility that I might not find ballet fun anymore or that I don't dance as well as before that encouraged me to go for the 'at least I tried' approach. I kept an open mind about what I might find, but luckily I still found it enjoyable. If I didn't enjoy it, at least I was there with a friend and we could have a good laugh at it later!"

Photos by Abel Nombrado

Shot at BalletWorks Manila