For love of dance

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Sunday, July 13, 2014


CEBU CITY—Through the ages, dance has been man’s way of rejoicing in victories, in celebrating milestones in his life, in expressing grief, gratitude and even fear, in paying homage to his maker, as in the sinulog. It can also be his way of telling a story through dance drama or in a ballet performance, which is the ultimate in dance form.

An advocate of ballet in Cebu is Fe Sala Villarica, who pioneered in giving ballet lessons in Cebu. Now retired, she continues to nurture ballet, this time as foundress of the Queen City Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, which aims to stage classical ballet presentations in Cebu. She emphasizes, “Queen City Metropolitan Ballet is not a ballet school but a performing company.”

To raise the skills of the local ballet dancers, the company recently held a three-day workshop for immediate and advance ballet, and contemporary dance, a workshop open to all who wanted upgrade their dancing skills. Aside from local resource persons, Villarica brought in Osias Barroso, co-artistic director and ballet master of Ballet Manila. For contemporary dance, she brought in Faith Javellana, originally from Iloilo but now based in Cagayan de Oro City.

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Barroso has performed in the United States, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Korea and Singapore; as well as in Russia where he performed Don Quixote and Giselle opposite prima ballerina Lisa Macuja. He has also choreographed several ballets like Ang Prinsipe ng Ibon for Ballet Manila’s Lola Basyang trilogy, Gabriela ng Vigan and Pinocchio.

He also coaches Ballet Manila talents for international ballet competitions like The Beijing International Ballet Competition in China, the Asia Pacific International Ballet Competitions in Tokyo, the Helsinki International Ballet Competition in Finland, and the International Ballet Competition and Contest of Choreographers in Moscow and the New York International Ballet Competitions in the US.

Javellana, on the other hand, was schooled in dance most of her young life and chose to specialize in modern contemporary dance. She was awarded the Most Outstanding Choreographer of the Philippine High School for the Arts. Presently, she is director for Theater Arts and Dance of Cagayan de Oro City. Sun.Star Cebu had the privilege of having a brief interview with the two visiting dancers. Here it is:

Sun.Star Cebu (SSC): What keeps boys from going into ballet?
Osias Barroso (OB): There is still that bias against boys going into ballet, though it is less now than years ago. I started ballet when I was 17, as a way of getting into the UST (i.e. University of Santo Tomas) dance troupe so I could have a scholarship to help pay for my school expenses. (He has a degree in communication arts from UST.)

When I touched the barre, I knew that ballet was going to be my life. But it was only years later that my father saw me perform, in Romeo and Juliet. And all he said afterwards was that it was good I had training in carrying heavy loads while working during summer vacations in his refrigeration company!

SSC: What is the difference between ballet and modern contemporary dance?
Faith Javellana (FJ): It is a “distorted” form of ballet. The basic steps are ballet but it is less rigid in movement.

SSC: What are the chances of earning a good livelihood by being a dancer?
OB: If one is really good, one can dance anywhere in the world. Or one can be a teacher, a choreographer.

FJ: Also, there is a demand for dancers in places like Disneyland and in cruise ships, as well as in Cirque du Soleil. There are many Filipino performers in those places.

SSC: As dance teachers, how do you help your students achieve their utmost potential?
OB: When I see exceptional dancers in Ballet Manila, I coach them for dance competitions abroad, like in China, in Japan. Some of them come back with medals that give them an incentive to do better, and perhaps try again for the gold.

FJ: When I see a dancer with potential who really wants to proceed in dance, I bring them to Manila.and help them get into dance companies there. Right now I have two former students in Sofia Zobel’s Steps Dance Studio..

SSC: It’s a very short workshop you are conducting. Will this be good enough?
OB: This should be six months! It is a very intensive workshop. Already, the participants are groaning about the exercises this morning. Wait till this afternoon!

FJ: The dance teachers in the group should be able to carry on after the workshop and impart their learning to their students.

With the success of the workshop, the dream of Mrs. Villarica to have regular full-length ballet performances in this “city of culture” should materialize.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 14, 2014.

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