Ballet Manila dancers win in ATOD competition
Four teenage dancers are bringing home honors to The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila after competing in the Australian Teachers of Dance (ATOD) International Dance Competition in Bangkok, Thailand from February 9 to 11.
Elyssabeth Apilado, Shaira Comeros, Alvin Dictado and Brian Sevilla earned the judges’ nod in the competition’s Pas de Deux Division, presenting classical pieces honed through the Vaganova method that Ballet Manila is known for.
Comeros and Sevilla won third place for Satanilla pas de deux, while Apilado and Dictado were cited as honorable mention for Harlequinade pas de deux.
Competition organizer Preeyapun Sridhavat commended the Ballet Manila team which, she said, “exudes excellence.”
“They are young but they excel in what they do,” said Sridhavat, president of ATOD’s children and youth development association.
The team’s coach and Ballet Manila co-artistic director Osias Barroso noted it is really the classical training that makes a difference.
“The daily classes that they take develop their strength and style, and the results show when they perform,” said Barroso, who relayed the good news from Bangkok to BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde just as the latter had led a successful opening night for the company’s Ballad & Ballads gala.
Interviewed via Facebook, the four dancers all expressed gratitude and joy over their victory in the ATOD competition which BM had joined for the first time.
“Masaya po ako kasi napili ako para ipadala dito sa Bangkok. Proud po ako na nasa BM ako at nakatanggap ng honorable mention (I’m happy because I was among those chosen to go to Bangkok. I’m proud that I’m part of BM and to receive honorable mention),” said Dictado, a member of BM2, Ballet Manila’s junior company.
Apilado admitted she felt nervous because it was her first time to do a pas de deux for a competition, and was happy as to how things turned out. “Nasiyahan din po ako dahil naipakita namin ng partner ko nang maganda,” said Apilado, a BM trainee.
“Sobrang saya ko po kasi first pas de deux ko po, nanalo pa (I’m so happy because it was my first pas de deux and I won for it),” said Sevilla, also a BM trainee. “Nasuklian po ‘yung pagod namin; ‘yun pong mga rehearsal namin na paulit-ulit pero maganda po para sa amin kasi nakaka-build ng stamina (Our efforts paid off; the rehearsals which we had to do over and over again but it was good for us because these helped build our stamina).”
“Being selected as a competitor to represent BM is already an honor and a privilege,” Comeros asserted. “The opportunities that are given to dancers like me are endless so I don't want to waste any of them just like this ATOD competition. We're very grateful for our third-place finish and we thank Ma'am Lise, Sir Shaz, and the whole Ballet Manila who made all this possible.”
In addition to the BM co-artistic directors, Sevilla thanked the other mentors who have trained them over the years. “Nagpapasalamat po ako sa mga teachers namin from the beginning – Sir Jay (Jonathan Janolo), Ma’am Sofie (Sofia Sangco-Peralta), Teacher Lops (Eileen Lopez), Sir Geri (Gerardo Francisco). Kasi po pagpunta po namin dito sa competition kitang-kita po ang standard ng BM kaya sobrang laki po ng utang na loob ko sa Ballet Manila (Because when we went here for the competition, the BM standard really stood out, that’s why I’m so indebted to Ballet Manila).”
Dictado also made special mention of his older brother, Ballet Manila soloist Anselmo, who encouraged him to give ballet a try and to keep working hard as part of BM.
In 2017, the four made it to the finals at the Asian Grand Prix (AGP) International Ballet Competition in Hong Kong. Sevilla eventually scored the silver in the Junior B Category. In 2016, in the same competition, Comeros received the Most Promising Female Award while Dictado placed sixth in the Junior B Category.
They are all products of Ballet Manila’s Project Ballet Futures scholarship program which prepares young talents for a career in dance.
The dancers had to contend with a few challenges in Bangkok. Because of limited studio space, for instance, they had to improvise and take class in the corridor outside their hotel rooms. Due to the same reason, they were unable to rehearse until just before the competition started at the venue.
But Barroso advised them to just focus on what they had to do. “Don’t let a situation conquer you; you should conquer the situation!” was the mantra he repeated to them.
Just like in other competitions, Barroso keeps the dancers grounded even after a victory. His constant reminder to them is: “Move on, back to class.”
Sevilla has learned this well. He echoed, “This is just the beginning. Marami pa po kaming kailangang gawin (We still have a lot of work to do).”
Photos courtesy of Osias Barroso