Jessa Balote wins Aliw Award as best classical dancer
Ballet Manila company artist Jessa Balote – who has become quite well-known for her real-life Cinderella story – won as Best Classical Dancer in the 29th Aliw Awards held November 30.
Balote's story as a scavenger-turned-ballerina has been featured extensively in news organizations here and abroad, including CNN and BBC.
In her acceptance speech, Balote dedicated her award to her mentor, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde.
“Siya ang nagbigay ng pagkakataon sa akin para maipakita ko sa iba ang aking talento sa pagsasayaw (She was the one who gave me a chance to show others my talent in dance),” said Balote, who described her award as an early Christmas gift.
Macuja-Elizalde, in turn, hailed Balote as “an inspiration to us all” in congratulating the young ballerina.
“She was one of 40 children given ballet scholarships in 2008 under our Project Ballet Futures program. She has worked hard on her ballet training and kept her grades in school. She has been a company artist in Ballet Manila for four seasons now. And yes, she used to be a scavenger – harvesting anything that was sellable from the garbage dumps! I salute you, Jessa!” declared Macuja-Elizalde on Facebook.
Meanwhile, in a post on Facebook after the awards night, Balote again thanked Macuja-Elizalde, mentor Osias Barroso and the Ballet Manila family.
“Kung hindi dahil sa inyo, hindi ko makukuha ito. Inaalay ko po ito sa lahat ng aking teachers sa ballet (If not for you, I would not be able to get this award. I dedicate this to all my teachers in ballet),” said Balote, who also posted pictures from the awarding ceremony held at Dusit Thani Manila in Makati City.
Balote was also previously a recipient of another Aliw Award as Most Promising Dancer.
She has competed in the Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in Hong Kong, landing in fourth place in her age category in 2015.
She has also been performing in Ballet Manila's shows and tours, joining the delegation that went to Vietnam earlier this year. She was seen most recently in the holiday offering Cinderella at Aliw Theater.
Project Ballet Futures is a dance scholarship program that provides free ballet education to public elementary and high school students. Scholars undergo training in The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila, the educational arm of Ballet Manila and a respected learning center for classical ballet that aims to develop, nurture and produce highly skilled dance artists.