Ballet has always been an art form that requires years of dedication, hard work, and passion. Recently, we had the privilege of interviewing Tia Wenkman, who recently graduated from the Royal Ballet School. In this interview, Tia shared her journey as a ballet dancer, the challenges she faced, and the advice she would give to young dancers.
When did you start dancing and what motivated you to become a ballet dancer?
"I started dancing when I was five years old and began in all genres of dance you can think of (ballet, hip-hop, tap, jazz, musical theater, lyrical/modern). My mom mainly influenced the start of my dancing because she was a ballet dancer herself. At first, I didn’t enjoy it, but as I became older I grew to absolutely fall in love with it. When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted to pursue dancing and put all my efforts into my training. Around this time, I began to narrow down and focus on classical ballet. I begged my parents to become homeschooled and move away from my hometown to find better training. I mean I literally “protested” and stayed home from school until that happened. I was a bit of a stubborn child but I don’t regret any of it. I can’t thank my parents enough for supporting my career then and currently."
You have participated in many ballet competitions since a very young age. How did these competitions impact your life?
"Yes, I have had my fair share of ballet competitions. I believe personally that there are great benefits to competing but also some downsides. I loved competing in ballet competitions because it taught me valuable lessons that helped me later down the line. Including building self-confidence within difficult environments, perseverance, and a strong work ethic (both mentally and physically). I’ve made many connections, and honestly thoroughly enjoyed working hard for a competition. However, I think that so much pressure is built up on the stigma of “you have to win”. When the reality is, in the professional ballet world none of that matters anymore. Yes, you will be impressed seeing dancers do crazy tricks and take on an extreme form of ballet. However, I believe those are things you can teach and I think we are starting to lose the natural artistic qualities of pure classical ballet in these competitions."
Congratulations on your recent graduation from the Royal Ballet School! Can you tell us how that experience was for you?
"Thank you so much! It has been a whirlwind of three years. The Royal Ballet School has given me so many opportunities to grow within myself as a dancer/artist and has pushed me beyond the limits I knew I was capable of. All my peers became my family, as that is where I would spend birthdays and special holidays with them. I believe that every day when I went to school, the outside world went quiet and I was able to solely focus on myself and my training to prepare for the real professional world of ballet. I was given many opportunities including performing with the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet to expand my professional work experiences. I feel I was ready by my graduation year to explore beyond RBS. Reflecting on this experience I am incredibly grateful and it is quite a special place to be a part of."
What challenges have you had to face as a ballet dancer?
"Well, I think every dancer faces challenges daily. Some of the main bigger challenges I’ve dealt with are balancing taking care of myself and my well-being as a person while keeping up with all the crazy things going on in my ballet life. I find that taking a day or two and just completely relaxing and doing some journaling helps me so much. Another thing I have struggled with is my self-confidence. The ballet world is very cutthroat and harsh at times. Although, we all have so much passion for what we do, and despite how confident we look, we might not feel it. This has been a very personal journey for me and I feel that I have recently I have made progress and have been overcoming it. Which makes dancing feel so much better internally."
You are such an inspiration for many young dancers around the world. What advice would you have for them?
"Being the next generation of the ballet world. I want to see more people just purely enjoying what they do. I love my job. I think being a ballerina is so special, and we dancers need to appreciate the art form. What I would say to some younger dancers is just to find a way to dance for yourself and not for anyone else. When I’m feeling insecure or underconfident, I will just tell myself to go for it and it usually works out positively. I think the most satisfying feeling in ballet is taking a bow on stage and knowing that you did your absolute best and worked your hardest."
What's next for you?
"As I just graduated from the Royal Ballet School, it is now time to take the next step in my professional career. I have joined the Sarasota Ballet Studio Company. I have been working so very hard on new works including world-premiere choreographies and ballets with the Sarasota Ballet. It has been a drastic change from training in London, but I am thoroughly enjoying myself here."
We are grateful for Tia Wenkman's time and insights on her journey as a ballet dancer. Her dedication and passion for ballet are truly inspiring, and we wish her all the best as she takes the next step in her professional career.
Tia Wenkman wearing Mara Dancewear Leotard Aura Maya. Photography by ASH
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