Late bloomer Elmoe Dictado thriving in ballet

Late bloomer Elmoe Dictado thriving in ballet

Ballet Manila soloist Elmoe Dictado steps into Pinocchio's shoes.

By Susan A. De Guzman

Anselmo “Elmoe” Dictado is a late bloomer in ballet. He was already 18 when he was convinced by neighborhood friends to try it out because they themselves were into it. He had never seen a ballet performance in his life. But as a high school student, he had learned hiphop and he was curious enough to give ballet a try.

As he puts it, “Gusto ko din ma-experience 'yung ibang mga sayaw (I wanted to experience other forms of dance)."

Never mind that he had to endure a bit of ribbing from his hiphop-dancing friends because of it. “Inaasar po nila ako dahil di daw bagay sa mga lalake. Pero hindi po ako nagpaapekto dahil nagustuhan ko 'yung training (They teased me because they said ballet is not appropriate for boys. But I didn't let it affect me because I enjoyed the training).”

Elmoe first took classes at Steps Dance Studio, before moving on to Ballet Manila in 2011 at age 21. Immersed since then in the company's Vaganova technique, he has continuously built upon his interest and experience in dance. The training was initially difficult, but eventually he got used to it and found it enjoyable.

Having self-discipline and motivation are the two things he considers essential to dance ballet. One of the key challenges, he says, is meeting the expectations of his mentors, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and Osias Barroso – to perform exceptionally well on stage.

Performing the Grand Pas Classique with Jessa Balote. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

Kailangan magawa ko o mas mahigitan ko po at makapagbigay ng maganda at maayos na pagsayaw, para maging proud po sila at worth it naman 'yung pagbibigay nila ng mga roles sa akin (I have to achieve or even surpass their expectations, to deliver a beautiful and good performance, so they will be proud of me and so that entrusting the roles to me becomes worth it).”

As a soloist, Elmoe has danced the lead in Pinocchio, and taken on roles in BM's crowd favorites Reve and Maynila ni Juan as well as in classical pieces such as Blue Bird in Sleeping Beauty and Jester in Swan Lake.

He has competed several times at the Asian Grand Prix in Hong Kong and last year made it as a finalist in the Pas de Deux Division, eventually ranking fourth, and a semi-finalist in the Senior Division.

Elmoe (standing, rightmost) was part of the Ballet Manila delegation that performed in Vietnam last June.

Elmoe has also performed abroad with Ballet Manila, most recently in Vietnam upon the invitation of the Philippine Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. The shows at the Saigon Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City and in Can Tho City marked the 40 years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Vietnam, and 118 years of Philippine Independence.

From July 30 to August 2, Elmoe and BM principal artist Gerardo Francisco also represented the company at the 2016 Shanghai Contemporary Dance Festival in Shanghai, China. The pair performed Gerardo's nine-minute piece, OFW, on August 1 in Shanghai's Lyceum Theatre.

In dancing OFW, more than just mere memorization of the steps, Elmoe says he got into the mindset of the overseas Filipino workers as they leave their family behind to work in another country. “Iniisip at isinasapuso ko po ang kabayanihan na ginagawa at mga sakripisyo ng mga OFW natin, at nilalagay ko po ang aking sarili sa posisyon nila. Nakakatulong po ito para maramdaman at maiparating ko ng maganda ang mensahe ng sayaw bilang OFW (I think of and take to heart the heroism and sacrifices of our OFW and I put myself in their place. This helps me feel and convey the message of the dance as an OFW).”

Perhaps, it was because the pair danced with so much heart that they got the response that they did. Elmoe relates, “Hindi po namin sukat akalain na ganu’n yung magiging feedback ng audience sa sayaw namin ni Sir Gerardo. Kasi po ‘yung sa iba pong performer, kahit tapos na ‘yung mahabang sayaw nila, hindi po gaano pumalakpak, pero nu’ng natapos na po ‘yung sa amin, du’n lang po sila talaga pumalakpak at naghiyawan (We didn’t expect that we would get that kind of audience feedback for our dance. Because with the other performers, even if their long dance was already finished, there wasn’t much applause, but when ours ended, they were clapping and cheering).”

Elmoe in front of the Magnolia Theater, one of the venues of the 2016 Shanghai Contemporary Dance Festival where he and principal artist Gerardo Francisco represented the company.

It was an exciting moment, Elmoe admits, as people congratulated them, asked for their contact details and even extended invitations for them to attend other festivals.

Seeing the wide range of dance pieces at the festival also opened Elmoe’s eyes to the possibilities in choreography. He has tried to choreograph before but was not satisfied with his output. The Shanghai exposure, however, has encouraged him to give it another try. “Ang laking tulong po ng festival para sa akin kasi iba’t ibang klase ng pagsasayaw ng modern ang aming nakita. Na-inspire po ulit ako mag-choreograph at may mga idea na po ako na gusto kong gawin (The festival is a big help to me because we saw different kinds of modern dance. I’m inspired to choreograph again and I have some ideas already that I want to explore).”

Elmoe has indeed gone far – literally and figuratively – that even his once skeptical friends have nothing but admiration for him now. He is also glad that even if his parents were reluctant about his decision to make ballet his career, he persisted. Aside from dancing ballet, he has been teaching hiphop and street dance classes in BM's summer workshops.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Elmoe has even managed to influence his younger brother Alvin to also go into ballet. Alvin was originally tapped as a last-minute addition for a BM production. He is now a trainee with the company, and even represented the School of Ballet Manila at the Dance Open International Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia last June and in the Asian Grand Prix competition in Hong Kong.

As he continues his own journey in ballet, Elmoe is looking forward to what the future holds. What he knows for sure is that he is content to be where he is today. “Masaya po ako na natupad ang pangarap ko na magkaroon ng isang grupo na maituturing kong pangalawang pamilya at ang pagsasayaw na mula pagkabata ko po talaga ay isang talento na binigay sa akin ng Maykapal. (I am happy because I was able to achieve my dream of having a group that I can consider as my second family and of dancing which, from childhood, is a talent I believe has been given to me by God).”

Showing he's got the moves in Gyeongju, South Korea where Ballet Manila participated in the 2015 Silk Road Cultural Festival. Photo by Gerardo Francisco

Rebel: Filipinos versus Filipinos

Rebel: Filipinos versus Filipinos

Rebel: Tiffany Chiang-Janolo as Imelda Marcos

Rebel: Tiffany Chiang-Janolo as Imelda Marcos