The balancing act of Brian Ramos Sevilla

The balancing act of Brian Ramos Sevilla

An unexpected audition led Brian Ramos Sevilla away from hip hop and on the road to ballet. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

By Giselle P. Kasilag

2015 marked a turning point in the very young life of Ballet Manila (BM) trainee Brian Ramos Sevilla. It was the year he took his very first plane ride on his first international trip to perform in Hong Kong for his very first international competition. The event was the Asian Grand Prix – an annual gathering of the regions rising stars in ballet. Brian placed fifth in the Junior B category and also won for himself the Sansha Award.

Sobrang saya ko po! Sobrang grateful ako at sobrang lucky ko po na nasa BM ako kasi may mga ganitong opportunities na binibigay sa amin (I was so happy! I’m so grateful and so lucky that I’m with BM because we are given these kinds of opportunities),” he said.

His natural flexibility combined with the strict discipline and training from Ballet Manila helped Brian achieve the 5th place and Sansha Award in the Junior B category of the Asian Grand Prix 2015. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

It took him half a year to prepare for the competition – dedicating his evenings to rehearsing and fleshing out the finer points of his piece, Franz variation. But finding himself in a foreign country on an unfamiliar stage against the very best of the region was an unnerving experience.

Nawalan na po ako ng pag-asa kasi ang dami pong sobrang gagaling na nakikita ko. Naging tahimik na lang po ako at hindi ako makagalaw (I lost hope because I saw so many really good dancers. I became quiet and could not move),” said Brian.

He poured his heart and all his energy into his performance, instead. He drew strength from the memories of his father, brother and grandmother – finding motivation from the happy, though brief, moments shared with his departed loved ones.

Fortunately, all his efforts paid off.

"Ito na yata yung pinakamasayang nangyari sa akin! Sobrang saya ko po! Thankful na thankful ako kay Sir Shaz (Osias Barroso, co-artistic director of BM) and Ma’am Lise (Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, artistic director and CEO of BM) kasi nagsikap po sila na i-improve kami at hanggang international competition eh nanalo pa ako (This is the best thing that has ever happened to me! I was so happy! I’m so thankful to Sir Shaz and Ma’am Lise because they worked so hard to help us improve so much that I won in an international competition),” he gushed.

Balancing ballet and school was a challenge that Brian has learned to overcome. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

His winning streak, however, was just starting. In 2016, Brian bagged the third prize in the CCP Ballet Competition’s Junior Category. The prize included cash, a ballet scholarship in Korea as well as a sponsorship to the Seoul International Ballet Competition.

Kinakabahan po ako tapos yung music nagkamali. Matagal bago nagsimula. Nagdadalawang isip na ako kung mage-exit na po ako ng stage o kung itutuloy ko. Pero naisip ko, at ituloy ko ito kahit walang music. Nag-add lang po ako ng mga steps para sumakto dun sa music. Half na po ng variation ko yun bago tumunog yung music (I was so nervous and there was a problem with the music. It started late. I had second thoughts if I should just exit the stage or if I should continue. But I thought about it and I decided to keep going even without the music. I just added a few steps to adjust. I was halfway the variation before the music was turned on).”

Despite problems with the music, Brian clinched the 3rd prize in the CCP Ballet Competition’s Junior category. Photo by Kiko Cabuena/CCP

He admitted feeling the panic during those moments on stage. And when his performance was done, he found himself crying backstage. All the hard work in rehearsing for that two-minute piece seemed to have gone down the drain.

But his talent could not be denied. Having been able to think quick on his feet along with the flawless execution of the steps helped him stand out and eventually bring home the medal.

While Brian seemed to have found his footing in ballet, this was never his dream. Not even close. He was not even vaguely familiar with the classical art form. His roots in dance was well-entrenched in, of all things, hip hop!

He stumbled upon ballet when representatives of BM came to the Juan Sumulong Elementary School to hold an audition. Being a part of a hip hop dance group, he was encouraged to try out and was chosen to move on to the second round.  He passed it with flying colors and eventually became a member of the company as a trainee.

Nung una po, ang weird nang feeling ko kasi from hip hop to ballet – parang hindi ko kakayanin yun! Baka hindi ko kayanin yung mga ginagawa nila. Baka ma-injure ako. Yung hip hop to ballet, ang layo po talaga (At first, it felt weird to move from hip hop to ballet – like I can’t really do this! I might not be able to do what they do. I might get injured. Hip hop to ballet is really a huge leap)!” said Brian, laughing out loud.

After encountering difficulties with his classical piece in the CCP Ballet Competition, Brian poured his heart into his modern piece choreographed by Ballet Manila soloist Mark Sumaylo. Photo by Kiko Cabuena/CCP

But Shaz was among the first to note his unusual flexibility. He was capable of executing the movements that his fellow trainees were struggling with. Brian, it turned out, had a knack for ballet. From the training, he developed the ability for strong turns and jumps which has made him a formidable competitor.

His greater challenge, however, was not with the craft itself but with finding that balance between ballet, his school work, and his responsibilities at home. He admitted getting too involved in training that his grades started to suffer. Then the reverse happened. In an attempt to pull his grades up, he started missing crucial rehearsals with the company.

He found a solution in the home-schooling program which permitted him to attend a week’s worth of classes over the weekend. It freed up his schedule for the ballet rehearsals while still allowing him to focus on his studies

A Grade 9 student, his childhood dream was to become an engineer.  But now, he is open to the possibility of a professional career in dance though he is not casting aside his engineering dreams completely.

He has since performed in the company’s productions including The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s Cinderella, and Don Quixote. The last few months have been spent rehearsing Gerardo Francisco’s Ibong Adarna which will open Ballet Manila’s 22nd season in August 26, 2017.

Today, however, he is waiting in the wings of the stage at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts to compete in the Junior B category of the Asian Grand Prix 2017. Just to be able to once again compete abroad on an international stage is a prize unto itself. And for that, Brian’s heart is filled with gratitude.

Preparing once again to compete in the Asian Grand Prix, Brian is now considering a professional career in ballet to be within his reach. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

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Grace and strength: Katherine Barkman as Ibong Adarna

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