Therese Riego “Reese” from Taguig, Philippines, was born on November 3, 2003. Therese was six years old when her mother took her to see “The Nutcracker” and she fell in love with it. The classic two-act ballet, featuring Filipina dancer Candice Adea, inspired Riego to become a ballerina.
“I realized how much I wanted to dance like her (Adea),” recalled Therese. “I turned to my mom and said, ‘I want to take ballet,’ and I’ve never stopped since.”
Riego was fortunate to receive world-class training from some of the best dance instructors in the Philippines such as Victor Ursabia, Regine Magbitang, Deborah Afuang, and Cyril Fallar.
Therese mainly does ballet, along with some modern interpretive dance. “I like doing both ballet and contemporary so I can have more versatility in my dancing,” she said.
Riego’s first time dancing with a company was at age 11, when Ballet Philippines cast her as a support dancer for “Sarong Banggi.” She enjoyed that because it “focused on the Filipino family dynamics and the artistic director took classical folk songs from all over the country.”
Therese also loved being able to perform in a “Nutcracker” show as an apprentice with the Philippine Ballet Theatre “because my co-dancers and superiors were like family.”
At age 14, Riego auditioned for American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Summer Intensive program in New York. In the world of ballet, a slot in ABT’s Summer Intensive program is one of the most coveted by any dancer. Young ballet dancers from all over the world audition for it, but only a select few pass. Therese was thrilled to be accepted!
Therese Riego is determined to keep pushing herself to be the best dancer she can be, because “I did not wake up today to be mediocre.”
Therese Riego was homeschooled from grade 7 to 10, simply because it was more convenient. Her mom, Ilene Riego, said “it was a struggle to bring her from her school in Pasig to her classes at the Ballet Philippines in CCP [Cultural Center of the Philippines] so I decided to homeschool her.”
As a homeschooler, Therese had to learn how to self-motivate to be productive. But homeschooling was good because “I was able to learn at my own pace and study things I was actually interested in,” she noted. “For instance, I wanted to try my hand at poetry so I entered a small poetry contest,” she said.
Riego kept herself busy by taking honors and AP courses, joining a Model United Nations, and doing volunteer work (teaching ballet to young girls at Right Start, an organization that helps underprivileged children), as well as dancing in shows and competitions.
“Contrary to popular belief, homeschooling opens up a world of opportunities,” explained Therese. “If anything, I broadened my horizons while I was homeschooled.” In fact, the family found this method of education to be so beneficial that they also started homeschooling Therese’s two younger brothers.
Riego was planning to attend medical school to be a psychiatrist, so homeschooling allowed her to spend more time on advanced work in math and science while doing away with redundant subjects like MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health), since she was already active in dance.
“I didn’t have to worry about socialising because I had ballet classes on most days,” admitted Therese. “I was part of a homeschoolers group and a Bible group, so I made more friends there too,” she added.
Therese transferred to a regular school – St. Paul’s Pasig, a Catholic school for girls – in senior high but aside from that, Riego said “I got everything I needed by being homeschooled.” She graduated in May 2021.
Therese Riego applied to several different universities in the Philippines and abroad, and was offered not just one but three merit scholarships from schools in the United States.
At the University of San Francisco (USF) she got a Provost Scholarship (given to undergraduate applicants to acknowledge excellent academic performance) worth $60,000; Texas Christian University quoted her a scholarship value of $72,000; and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences gave her a Special Recognition Scholarship worth $40,000. She was also accepted into The Dallas Conservatory, a private performing arts school in Dallas, Texas.
The scholarships were tempting; however, due to the continuing uncertainty and unrest brought about by the pandemic, the homeschooled ballerina ended up turning them all down to stay close to home. Riego’s first choice had originally been University of the Philippines, which is where she decided to go.
Therese is taking Social Science as her pre-med major. That’s because, while psychiatry is a subspecialty of medicine, it also has a social psychology component. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges recently revised their medical school admissions test to incorporate a hefty dose of social science.
Therese Riego credits much of her success to her family, homeschooling, and putting God first. The following Instagram post pretty much says it all: