WORDS Hannah de Vera
PHOTOS courtesy of Ballet Philippines
Through a closer inspection, there is a certain art to dance that mimics the art of advertising that many, on the surface level, do not see. Dance is an invigorating, inspiring, and infectious art form—and when done right, so is advertising. Both dance and advertising aim to tug on our heartstrings, capture our attention long enough to forget our troubles, and leave us feeling as if we’ve experienced something beyond a well-choreographed dance routine or well-written commercial.
Ever since 2001, the year it was founded, Airdance has been an active performing group—whether it be a foreign dance festival or for corporate events. Being one of the pioneers of contemporary dance in the country, they had to set a standard for the upcoming modern dance schools. Luckily, most of their faculty are renowned choreographers who drew from their experiences from studies, performance festivals, and workshops all across Europe and Asia to curate the extensive curriculum they have now.
“The strength of the school and company is from the members coming from different backgrounds and dance genres—ballet, modern, jazz, and hip-hop with elements of theater, gymnastics, and martial arts,” shares Avel Bautista, the managing director of Airdance, “From the beginning, the company was gearing towards Contemporary Dance, which is a fusion of these styles.” Through individual exploration of movement, true to its name, Airdance started exploring aerial performances using harnesses, silks, and hoops, where students are often hoisted from the ground with these said equipment. Through their steadfast passion for dance and its learnings, several of their students have gone on to join or become leaders of their own dance and performing groups. One of their famed workshops, ‘Summer Dance Workshops’ catered to aspiring professional dancers, gave birth to many young artists that we may know today such as Kristel de Catalina and Paula Bautista who are known for their pole-dancing abilitiy; Delphine Buencamino, a theater actress that has appeared in several movies; Mia Cabalfin, a known television show host; Rhosam Prudenciado, Jr.,a scholar who won a dance competition in Japan and was granted a scholarship to study dance in France and alter became one of Airdance’s artistic directors.
The lessons that ballet teaches are nothing short of timeless, pointed discipline grace in movements, and creativity, the beauty of it straight out of an Edgar Degas painting, all of which continue to be relevant even if students cease their lessons. Ballet Philippines started in 1970 as a Summer Workshop, and became a modern dance concert that was met with rousing success.
However, Alice Reyes, one of Ballet Philippines’ founding members, noticed there was a huge room with nothing going on. She relates, “I noticed there was this huge room in the CCP with nothing going on in it. I had heard there was going to be a music workshop for the summer, so I quietly talked to Eddie Elejar and said, ‘Eddie, why don’t we organize a dance workshop? You can teach ballet and I can teach modern dance, and then we’ll see what happens. Thus, Ballet Philippines was born.
The beauty of studying classical ballet is that it’s the same everywhere in the world,” points out Beatriz Carabeo, marketing head of Ballet Philippines, “A dance student who doesn’t speak French can go to class in Paris and still do a great job.” From the royal courts of 16th century France to the fusion of contemporary and classical ballet of the present, each teacher through years of practice has their own ideas to refine their movements. Ballet Manila’s curriculum in particular has developed over the years the moment Alice Reyes joined up with Eddie Elejar to start a school, and
then was further expanded with Noordin Jumalon and Felicitas Radaic to pattern their curriculum after the Royal Academy of Dance and Vaganova Syllabi. “For pre-professional levels, along with technical proficiency and artistry, we advocate the knowledge and respect for different dance styles brought home to us by former dancers who come home and share what they’ve learned from all parts of the world.”
Many of the students who come from the halls of the Cultural Center of the Philippines were students of the Ballet Philippines Dance School went on to be the most of the performance artists we know today. Their pioneer alumni wereheaded by former ballerinas and danseurs such as Sofia Zobel, Effie Nanas, Perry Sevidal, Nina Anonas, Victor Ursabia, Breshney Lalar, and Toni Lopez Gonzales; not to mention ballet school directors outside Manila: Agnes Locsin in Davao, Annie Divinagracia in Iloilo, Dwight Rodrigazo and Georgette Sanchez in Bacolod, Verna Fajilan in Hong Kong, and Malu Rivera Peoples in San Francisco, USA, to mention a few, all of which run their very own schools. Other celebrated icons include the sculpture of two dancers immortalized on the façade of the Cultural Center of the Philippines are ballerina Edna Vida and premiere danseur Nonoy Froilan, products of the school’s first few classes.
This article has been published in the July-August 2017 issue of the magazine.