Brian Sevilla on ballet and becoming better at it
By Jv Ramos
Blessed with a dancer’s build, long artistic lines and a vivacious presence, Brian Sevilla – whose ballet resumé shows that he’s been collecting awards and scholarships locally and internationally since 2015 – seems to have it easy unlike other teenage danseurs.
But as this accomplished Ballet Manila trainee admits, “Sa isang week, nakakailang downs din ako. Di lang ito halata kasi sa bahay ko lang inilalabas ang lungkot at pagod ko.” (In one week alone, I experience several down moments. It’s just not obvious because I release my sadness and exhaustion only when I get home.)
And, where exactly do these “downs” come from? “Sir Shaz,” he jokingly answers, giving the impression that the company’s co-artistic director Osias Barroso often gives him a difficult time. His case, however, is not as simple as having a demanding teacher and a student that’s unable to cope. Brian explains that he himself is such a perfectionist; and so, if he’s not able to satisfy Sir Shaz, who sees the littlest of details that prevent a dancer from being perfect, he gets really frustrated.
“At para mawala ang stress ko, kain lang po ako nang kain (And in order to combat stress, I just eat and eat),” continues Brian. This time, he is not kidding, as he wants others to know that he’s just like any regular teenager. “McDo pa nga po ang kinakain ko!” (In fact, I even go for McDo!)
Though stress-eating seems to erase his frustrations in the studio, this junior dancer admits that fastfood only offers him temporary relief. To heal himself emotionally, he just dives into more ballet when he comes home. “Para talagang mawala ang pagka-down ko, nanonood na lang po ako ng videos ng aking mga favorite international ballet dancers. Tapos ‘yon, tinitignan ko kung paano ko ma-a-adapt ‘yung ginagawa nila, para sa susunod na araw, maitatama ko na.” (In order to really overcome my frustration, I watch videos of my favorite international ballet dancers and study how I can adapt what they do, so I can make things right the following day.)
“’Yun naman kasi talaga ang laging ina-advice sa amin ni Sir Shaz (That’s what Sir Shaz would advise us to do, after all),” explains the teenager, whose ambitious side seems to surface more and more each time he speaks of his ballet life. “Kailangan kapag na-down, huwag kang mag-stay doon. Kailangan nang mag-focus sa susunod na task! Ganyan din kapag high ka sa pagkapanalo. Focus na sa susunod.” (When you’re down, you shouldn’t stay down. You have to get up and focus on the next task. Same goes even when you win. You have to move on and focus on the next task.)
Being a company trainee, Brian has countless “next” tasks to take on, and the thought of ballet demanding years and years of training and mastery doesn’t bother him. “Di ko na nararamdaman ‘yung may nami-miss out ako. Mas nakikita ko na po kasi ang future ko dito sa ballet (I no longer feel that I’m missing out on things. As more days pass, the more I see my future here in the company),” puts forward the hip-hop-dancer-turned-danseur. “Gusto kong gumaling sa ballet, so wala sa akin na nandito ako at hindi nasa labas.” (I want to be better at ballet, so having to be in the studio doesn’t bother me.)
He adds, “Actually, sobrang laki po ng utang na loob ko sa Ballet Manila. Nagkaroon kasi ako ng disiplina. Binigyan po ako kasi ng routine na pang araw-araw. Dahil dito, hindi lang ako nag-pa-party or naglalakwatsa.” (Actually, I owe a lot to Ballet Manila. The company gave me discipline. It gave me a daily routine. Because of ballet, I don’t find myself just partying or doing aimless things.)
More importantly, Brian credits the company for turning his dance hobby into a passion. “Dati, dahil nga background ko ay hip-hop, na-weirduhan talaga ako sa ballet. Unang-una, nandiyan ang pagsuot ng tights. Muntikan na akong mag-quit pero na-encourage po ako ng Ballet Manila, lalo na ni Sir Shaz, na ituloy. Buti na lang, kasi dito ko talaga na-discover ang passion ko.” (Before, because I began in hip-hop, ballet seemed really strange to me. First of all, there were the tights that you were required to wear. I really wanted to quit but Ballet Manila, especially Sir Shaz, encouraged me to pursue it. I’m thankful that they did, because this is where I realized what my passion is.)
“Di ako magiging masaya kung wala ang ballet. Mas masaya ako na ginagawa ko ang passion ko.” (I wouldn’t be happy if I weren’t in ballet. I’m happier now that I’m pursuing my passion.)
“Passion.” Brian may say this word endlessly, but he definitely doesn’t take it lightly. With his passion for ballet come several personal goals and milestones, as well as attitudes he’d like to emulate in order to have a long and successful career.
Brian’s aspirations include roles he’d like to portray. What’s impressive though is this multi-awarded dancer spends a lot of time thinking and analyzing who would be a good partner for himself. For instance, he names Nicole Barroso, a young and accomplished company member, as his dream partner for sad ballets, such as Swan Lake and Giselle. “Ma-artistry po rin siya, so feeling ko na pag pinag-combine mo ang artistry niya at ang sa akin, feeling ko lang, talagang magiging maganda.” (Nicole’s best trait is her artistry, just like me, so I feel that if you combine her artistry and mine in a performance, it would truly be beautiful.)
He, too, looks forward to sharing the stage over and over again with BM 2 artist Shaira Comeros, whom he won third place with in the recently concluded 2018 Australian Teachers of Dance (ATOD) International Dance Competition in Bangkok. “Na-i-imagine ko na po ang MAZN [a contemporary dance piece] namin in the future (I could already imagine Shaira and I being partners in MAZN),” comments Brian with a dreamy smile.
“Pero marami pang kailangan daanan… Hindi po dahil may mga awards na kaming nakuha ay lalaki na ang mga ulo. Kailangan mag-stay humble kasi marami pa kaming kailangan na matutunan.” (But first, we have to go through many more classes and training. Even if we have won awards, we shouldn’t allow success to get into our heads. We have to stay humble in order to learn. We still have plenty of things to learn.)
The ever-bubbly dancer notes that part of becoming a great danseur is having the right attitude. “Tignan niyo si Sir Geri (BM’s principal dancer Gerardo Francisco, who also teaches modern dance) – siya po talaga ang idol ko. Si Sir Geri po kasi kahit ang dami na niyang narating, maganda pa rin po ang pakikitungo niya sa lahat ng tao. Kahit principal na siya, ang turing niya sa akin ay magka-sing-level po kami.” (Just look at Sir Geri, who’s really my idol! Despite all his achievements, he remains grounded and has a good relationship with everyone. Even if he’s already a principal dancer, he treats me as an equal.”
Brian also cites Geri’s relentless work ethic, arresting stage presence and willingness to help others as traits he would like to emulate. “Dahil kami [referring to other ATOD delegates] ang sinasabing future ng company, mas marami po kaming binubuhos na hard work sa klase at sa mga rehearsals. Gusto namin ma-meet ang mga expectations nina Ma’am Lise [BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde] at Sir Shaz.” (Because it’s us whom people refer to as the future of Ballet Manila, we pour more hard work into our classes and rehearsals. We want to meet the expectations of Ma’am Lise and Sir Shaz.)
To continuously make his ballet parents proud, Brian puts into mind, prior to every performance, that it’s the first time that the audience will ever see him dance. After all, they don’t really see the work he has endured before stepping on stage. “Doon ko talaga nilalabas ang lahat. Gusto kong makita nila sa performance ko na pinaghirapan ko talaga ito.” (The stage is where I show all that I could give. I want them to see in my performance all the hard work I’ve done in the studio.)
In order to make his highly technical dancing look effortless, he exaggerates his already energetic mode – a habit which his partner Shaira finds both endearing and exasperating. “Kailangan kong mag-up before the show (I need to extra-energize myself before each show),” reasons Brian. “So tumatalon ako, sobrang sigla ko around her [Shaira]. Para paglabas ko sa stage, makikita nila kaagad ang sigla at hindi ‘yung kaba ko.” (So what I would do is jump around, be extra perky around my partner. So once I enter the stage, the audience would instantly see my enthusiasm and not my nervousness.)
So far, this strategy has been working not just for Brian, but also for his colleagues. Whenever someone is too transparent about their disappointments and struggles in the studio, he reminds them to not show their weakness and to appear lively instead as they rehearse, for that is what’s expected from every ballet dancer. “Kailangan presentable ka lagi kahit nahihirapan ka (You have to be presentable even if you’re having a difficult time here in ballet),” he preaches.
And what would be his advice for those who are thinking twice about enrolling in ballet? Brian simply recommends to parents that they allow their children to go and try out the dance form. For like him, who initially began with the desire to quit and remove his tights, the kids might just discover that their place is in ballet. “Dito ko po talaga na-realize na passion ko ang ballet (Ballet Manila is where I realized my passion for ballet),” he repeats.
“At kung ang hobby ay nagawa mong passion, at ang passion mo ay ang career mo na rin (And if one’s able to turn his hobby into his passion, and this passion turns into his career as well)…” Despite losing his train of thought and never being able to finish his sentence, we already know what Brian is trying to express: Ballet is where one’s interest in dance gets uplifted. More significantly, it’s one of those rare fields wherein one’s passion for dancing and career growth can go hand-in-hand. Brian confirms, “Maraming opportunities po talaga dito para sa mga passionate na nagba-ballet.” (There definitely are many opportunities here for those who are passionate about ballet.)