The Filipina ballerina: Anya Alindada on her journey in the international ballet scene

Ysa Abad

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The Filipina ballerina: Anya Alindada on her journey in the international ballet scene

Photos of Anya Alindada taken by @ballerinaprojectuk (left) and @deanbarucija (right).

'I am so grateful and honored to have been the first Filipina to graduate from the English National Ballet School, but I also truly hope I won’t be the last,' says the 19-year-old dancer

When asked what it was about ballet that made her fall in love with it at four years old, Anya Nicole Alindada said it was “a bit of everything.”  

“The costumes, the music, the pirouetting and jetéing across the stage, and the fact that they were able to stand on the tips of their toes. I loved that they were able to tell a story through dance, and I wanted to do that, too,” she told Rappler in an interview. 

Anya recalled in a blog post that she had already wanted to do the more advanced barre exercises even as a four-year-old. It even reached the point that she quit looking for a ballet school in Metro Manila because she felt like the lessons were too basic, or her teachers too grumpy.

It wasn’t until when she was seven and watching a flamenco performance at Julie Borromeo’s Performing Arts Foundation that Anya felt like pursuing dance again. While she enjoyed the flamenco lessons, she was advised by a teacher to take ballet lessons to fix her turnout and feet. Anya said that she was initially against this given her past experiences, but after she gave in, Anya fell harder for ballet the second time around. 

“I think I just really enjoyed being on the stage and performing for an audience. Every time I stepped on a stage, it felt like I belonged there. Not dancing was never an option I saw growing up, and maybe that’s when I knew that dancing was what I wanted my life to be,” she said. 

Becoming a ballerina

Growing up, Anya had been homeschooled. “My parents and I didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of the things that helped me pursue my dream,” she said. She would often bring her school work with her to dance studios. And while there were times that she would wonder what it was like going to regular school, she thought that she wasn’t really missing out on much since she also had friends from dance studios and homeschooling groups. 

From the ages of seven to 14, Anya studied all different forms of dance — jazz, tap, flamenco, hip-hop, musical theater, and even hula — at Julie Borromeo’s. Her ballet lessons were four sessions a week, each around 1.5 hours. 

I can’t remember the exact reason why I chose to pursue ballet professionally. But I remember always asking my parents for more lessons. I wanted to be in the studio as much as I could, and after class would finish, I always felt that I wanted more,” she told Rappler. 

In August 2019, she purposely selected the Japan Grand Prix to be her first competition abroad. There, they got to attend a five-day masterclass by the artistic directors of the best US and European ballet schools. It was there that Anya realized how advanced the international ballet industry was. 

She returned to the Philippines unsure of how she could move forward. “I prayed and asked for God’s help because I could not get the equivalent level of training that I needed in the Philippines,” she said. 

Luckily, her mom saw a post about a three-day European Masters Intensive that was being held at the Melbourne Academy of the Arts (MAARTS) in Australia in October 2019. MAARTS Artistic Directress Jamina Stefkovski would soon offer her a scholarship for their Full-Time Training program. 

Since her parents knew how much she wanted to pursue advanced ballet, Anya was allowed to move to Melbourne on her own at the age of 15. 

“Being exposed to ballet outside the Philippines was very eye-opening. After seeing all the extremely talented Japanese dancers, some as young as 10, I realized that I was far behind in terms of skill,” Anya said. She also recalled that while she was told that she had potential when she was offered a spot in MAARTS, she knew that she still “had a lot of work to do to get where [she] wanted to be.” 

In MAARTS, she spent one and a half years training for international online competitions and auditioning for top schools around the world. She was accepted into summer programs at the Paris Opera, Houston Ballet, and American Ballet Theater, and won awards at select competitions, including the Italian competition Salieri Danza where she was given the opportunity to skip the first round of auditions and go straight to the final round for the English National Ballet School’s (ENBS) three-year full-time course. 

After submitting her final audition there, Anya soon learned that she had been hand-picked to join by ENBS Directress and Principal Dancer of the Royal Ballet Company Viviana Durante. The Filipina teen was one of only 30 students accepted to the program. 

The good news kept pouring as she was also accelerated into the second year of the three-year program, and was granted 80% of each year’s tuition (£19,000 or P1.35 million) for free. She was the first ballerina from the Philippines who qualified for this opportunity in ENBS’ 35-year history. 

In July 2023, Anya graduated from ENBS at the age of 19. 

Anya’s next big stage

It’s been four years since Anya left the Philippines but she admits that there are still instances where everything feels surreal to her. 

“I think my entire experience as a whole has just been unbelievable. I believe God was the one who opened up all these amazing doors for me because I had truly no idea at the time how I would be able to achieve my dreams of studying abroad,” she told Rappler. 

While she acknowledges that the local scene has significantly improved compared to when she was younger, Anya shared that she still thinks ballet is a very underappreciated art form in the Philippines. 

“Growing up, and even up to now, I don’t think any schools in the Philippines offer full-time ballet training like I received abroad,” she said. “I didn’t even know that dancing all day every day was a thing. In London, kids from a young age who already know they want to dance have that option and opportunity to do so. With the training I received abroad, I would get around five to six hours a day, six days a week.” 

She also added that being exposed to international practices could help widen an artist’s craft. “I think in order to grow as a dancer, one has to be exposed to as many different teachers and styles of teaching as one can. It’s being able to learn and adapt to whatever the teacher/choreographer wants that makes a good dancer,” she said. 

While many Filipino ballet dancers dream of furthering their craft by attending international schools, Anya noted that the Philippines is also lacking in a clear pathway to pursuing studies abroad. 

She recognized as well that ballet can be seen as something very expensive. It was fortunate that in her previous school in the Philippines, many scholars had been given the chance to train for free. And when she started exploring the international ballet scene, grants and scholarships were also of big help to her. 

“There have only been a handful of Filipinos in my generation that have made it abroad, and when I had wanted to do the same, I had no one I knew that I could look to for help or advice. But hopefully, through my journey, other Filipinos can see that it is possible. I am so grateful and honored to have been the first Filipina to graduate from ENBS, but I also truly hope I won’t be the last,” she said. 


Anya’s journey, though, has also had its fair share of challenges. In November 2022, she was first diagnosed with bone stress in her shins. Because of this, she had to lessen her participation in auditions as she had to rest. She also missed the opportunity to join the English National Ballet company in their 22/23 and 23/24 Nutcracker seasons as she had a shin fracture in her left shin. Despite being devastated that she missed the opportunity, Anya said she was determined to let her shin recover fully instead. 

“The ballet world is a very unpredictable one,” Anya said about the whole ordeal. She would like to stay in London for the next two to three years, but it would primarily depend on getting a job. “[I hope] to find a company that I love, dance as much as I can, and hopefully rise through the ranks,” she said, noting that just like every other dancer, she also dreams of being awarded the position of Principal Dancer. 

When asked if she would like to return to the Philippines, Anya said that she would like to explore her career options first abroad. “But I am open to the idea of visiting every once in a while to perform if I were to be invited. Ultimately, at the end of my career, I do want to return home and create a school that can offer the training I received abroad to other aspiring Filipino dancers who want to make this their life as I did,” she said. 

As for her advice to aspiring Filipino dancers, Anya said that they should “not be afraid and to have faith.”

“If ballet is something you truly want to do, first of all, don’t be afraid to admit it. Second, don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes to achieve it,” she added. –

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