Ballet Philippine's new Core Dancer Nicole Barroso has been dancing for as long as she can remember. “I was a very kikay kid,” she says with a big smile. “I loved dressing up and just dancing anytime, anywhere—even when no one was watching.” While many consider her one of the most gifted young ballerinas of her generation (with the awards to back it up), her introduction to dance was a little accidental. When she was four years old, she visited her uncle Osias “Shaz'' Barroso in the hospital, while he was recovering from an injury. Present at her visit was acclaimed prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, who worked with Barroso as co-directors at Ballet Manila. To everybody’s delight, Nicole spent the day showing off her dance moves. “Miss Lisa [then] told my parents that I should attend Baby Ballet Classes every weekend at Ballet Manila…and I haven’t stopped dancing since.”
Ballet began as an extracurricular activity after school. Every year, Nicole would join Ballet Manila’s yearly summer recitals, where she would watch the older company members dance with such vigor and passion. Seeing them rehearse, prepare, and eventually perform onstage, made her realize that this was what she wanted to do with her life. “Since then, whenever people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always tell them that I wanted to be a principal dancer,” she explains. “Of course, no one really understood what it meant, but it was my biggest dream.” With the blessing of her extremely supportive parents, Nicole moved into a dorm near the Ballet Manila Studio, where she was taking Shaz Barroso’s apprentice class. She was living alone at only 12-years-old, focused to become the best of the best.
Soon, the company began to notice her incredible talent and hard work. Tthey invited her to participate in several productions and dance festivals. As a teenager, Nicole represented the country in competitions in Russia, China, and Vietnam. She also had the opportunity to compete at the highly prestigious Asian Grand Prix in 2015 and 2016, winning silver medals in both years. However, there was no bigger achievement than qualifying and competing at the 2018 USAIBC (USA International Ballet Competition) at only 16-years-old. The rigorous competition is often referred to as the Olympics of Ballet, with only the best dancers from around the world invited to participate. That year, Nicole became one of 119 selected to come and compete at Jackson, Mississippi. The young ballerina received a surprise Jury of Encouragement Award for all her work. “The USAIBC gave me a lot of experiences…it also made me a stronger dancer and person, because of the intense training. All [the credit] goes to God, my support system, and also to [Ballet Manila] who has always been very supportive of my dreams.”
Nicole has recently begun a brand new chapter in her life, as one of the Principal Dancers for Ballet Philippines. While she’s excited to see what the future has in store for her as part of a new dance company, she says she will always look back at her days with Ballet Manila with fondness. Especially because they discovered and honed her talent at an early age. “This art form helped me create myself and embrace my uniqueness.” she explains with joyful nostalgia. “Even if I had to sacrifice my life as a normal kid, I had the best childhood because I was able to do what I loved. Those opportunities and experiences made me the person I am today. Sir Shaz’s mentorship made me the dancer that I am. I am forever grateful for all the great things that were gifted to me. From the lessons to the experiences, I will carry it in my heart wherever I go.”
Nicole says that no matter where she is dancing, the main reward for her is being able to touch somebody who experiences her art. “We are all capable of [creating] something unique with our gifts and talents, and share that masterpiece with other people,” she says. “I’m sure that there will always be at least one person that you touch in the audience. And that person will feel a little more alive because of your art—because of you. To every aspiring dancer out there, I just [want to say] that everything is temporary. Bad days will soon become good. And everything will get better. Just keep on going, pursue your art. Be intentional and genuine with your work, and everything will fall into place. Keep on elevating yourself, and keep on surrounding yourself with the right people who wish the best for you, because good energy is important. That will keep you going and thriving. Find the joy in every movement, in every moment, and always put yourself in a state of gratitude.”