Tell us a little about yourself :)
I am a principal dancer and choreographer with Western Arkansas Ballet and a college student and Honors International Scholar at University of Arkansas Fort Smith, where I study history and biology. I am 18 years old, and I live in Arkansas.
While I am first and foremost a dancer, choreography is my love. I was one of the youngest choreographers to be invited to the Glenda Brown Choreography Project at age 15, and last spring I had the honor of opening Emerging Choreographer's Night at Regional Dance America. It was so satisfying to see my vision brought to life on stage!
How did you get introduced to dancing?
I can't remember a time I wasn't dancing. I was a very high energy child, so my mother put me in lessons at age 3. I had a love hate relationship with it from the get go. I loved being onstage and I loved the sparkly costumes, but I was also really interested in a few other sports so I didnt get serious with it for a while.
When did dancing get “serious”?
When I was 11, I was given a solo as the Hands of Time in the ballet Cinderella. Looking back, I sucked, but I was so excited about my part and I worked really hard at it. I loved every second of dancing it, and decided that I wanted to be at the studio every second I could. I auditioned for the company a month later, and made it in as a pre-apprentice. It was hard.
I went from being there two days a week to being there six and sometimes seven days a week. They had a very small company at the time, and more than half were 13 or younger, so they worked us like dogs. I gained a lot of maturity, dedication, and commitment in that first year.
Can you share your biggest challenge?
When I was younger, I had to deal with a teacher that very blatantly chose favorites and least favorites. I ended up on the least favorite end with another girl in my studio because of things that had nothing to do with us directly. I was constantly bullied and singled out in class by this hateful teacher. I was so stressed that I was eating very little and eventually became ill to the point that I could not do much more than sleep. I still drug myself to the studio when I could to either take class or observe.
There were a lot of things done and said to me over that period of time that I still think about. I had to do a lot of "hanging in there" to do what I love, but I stuck it out and I'm glad I did. I began to feel well again, that teacher left my studio, and I learned how to have a healthy relationship with food again. If I could tell anyone going through a hard time with a mean teacher, a mean schoolmate, or a mean inner voice anything, it would be to just remember why you're here, remember your passions, and things will eventually get better. Sometimes things will be too hard to deal with alone, and it doesn't make you weak to lean on your family and friends.
How do you handle pressure?
I do deal with quite a bit of pressure. I have my fellow dancers and directors counting on me to step up and do my best work, and I also have to balance my academic life on top of that. Dealing with it is still a learning process, but I have found that taking time to do other activities I enjoy helps me recenter and stay motivated.
Can you share your thoughts on self consciousness ?
I'm self concious in the way that I am very concious about my self. I know where I need to improve, but I dont take myself too seriously. I think you really begin to grow as a dancer when you reach the point where you are no longer afraid of making mistakes. When you reach this place, you are free to experiment, learn, and enjoy yourself in class, as well as push to new places in rehearsal. You will never grow much if you're always worried about what the girl next to you is doing!
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to dancing of course ;)
Oh goodness.. I was headbutted accidentally by my partner in a pas de deux rehearsal a few years back at a summer program. I thought I was fine, but as we continued dancing my nose started to bleed. I didn't notice it until I pulled away from him and saw he was covered in blood. It was "white tight wednesday" and the poor boy looked like a crime scene. The worst part was that the artistic director of the program had picked that exact moment to come in and watch us. He thought it was hillarious and sent us both home early that day. Embarassing, but a bit of a win.
How did your passion influence your life in other ways?
Dance has taught me incredible time management skills. If I want to do something, I can litterally almost squeeze the time out of thin air. I'm always insanely busy, but I wouldn't know how to opperate any other way.
What does your daily routine look like?
On a weekday morning, I usually get up before school, drink my coffee, and spend a little time doing some light yoga or stretching and take the time to deal with aches and pains. I then get dressed and head to school for a few hours. When I get home, I get ready for that night's classes and rehearsals, do a little homework, and head to the studio for a few hours.
I usually have weekends off, but on a saturday during a show season I am at the studio from 8 am to 4pm. When I have time, I go to the gym or yoga class for an extra workout.
And what about your flexibility training? Where does that fit in?
I am not naturally very flexible so I spend a lot of my time working on improving that. I have had to work for every inch of extension I have, which makes me very proud to see how far I have come. One of the things that has worked best for me is a routine I got from my pilates lady in Portland, Oregon when I spent my summers there. It is a very basic routine, but as I do it every day I can see the progress. It targets mainly the hips, calves, and hamstrings, which are my least flexible muscles.
I add to it depending on what else needs stretching that day. I have found it also helps to push yourself past your boundaries, but it does not help to over stretch. This can lead to unnecessary soreness and sometimes even injury.
What keep you motivated?
It's very hard to stay motivated some days, but my motivation comes from within. Even on days I don't want to go to class or spend time in rehearsal, I think of the joy that I feel after I finish a difficult class. I am also really driven by my friends that I have made through dance.
I love being in class with them or seeing updates about what they're doing online. I love to be a part of what they are doing, share in the joys of their success, and be there to love them when they fail.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
I am rather undecided at the moment but I do know in my heart that I want to choreograph for as long as I am able to. I want to always be creating movement and energy and inspiring others to do the same.
Any tips for passionate dancers starting out?
Embrace the grind, trust the journey! Its going to be hard, but youre going to love every second of it. If I could go back in time I would tell myself to stretch more and focus on building strength in my feet and ankles. That is something incredibly important that I neglected for a long time.
Learn to listen to your body and know when to push and when to ease off. This is something that is learned with time, but the sooner you learn it the better. Also love yourself, be humble, work hard, and be kind.
Anything you’d like to promote?
Instagram - @victorienka
I am a principal dancer and choreographer with Western Arkansas Ballet.