A father speaks about his son’s danseur dreams
By Jv Ramos
Though John Sixto Dones is quietly seated next to his father on the sofa, one can tell that he's thinking of many things. And no, by the looks of his naughty eyes and mischievous grin, what he probably has aren't thoughts of anxiety, but rather of playtime, which involves activities that his father Ernesto isn't always in favor of.
"Oo, makulit iyan (Yes, he is very naughty)," confirms Ernesto, upon hearing the comment that Sixto always looks like he's up to something. "Mabait naman ang anak ko, pero minsan talaga, pasaway at matigas ang ulo.” (I mean, my child is nice, but sometimes, he's just too playful and hard-headed.). Giving his son a pat on the head, Ernesto assures that he didn't comment that just to be mean. He simply wants his boy to understand what his actions could lead to.
The concerned parent then reminds his son, “Kunwari na-injure ka sa paglalaro mo sa labas, paano na ang ballet mo? At dahil na-le-late ka ng tulog dahil sa mga games na ‘yan, baka hindi ka na tumangkad. Sayang naman, anak. Nandirito ka na sa ballet eh.” (What if you get injured while playing in the streets, what will happen to your ballet then? And since you always sleep late because of your video games, you might not grow taller. It’ll be a shame if that happens, child. You’ve made it here in Ballet Manila already.)
Being a barangay tanod (village watchman), Ernesto knows well what idle time can do to the youth. "Kaya pabor ako sa ballet eh, hindi siya patambay-tambay at hindi mapapabarkada. At ayun, may disiplina rin siyang makukuha ditto.” (That’s why I’m all for him taking up ballet. He won’t loiter in the streets and won’t have to give in to peer pressure.)
Coming from a neighborhood that has produced a lot of talented danseurs, Sixto didn’t hesitate about auditioning when Ballet Manila visited his school, the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School, last year to look for prospects for the company's Project Ballet Futures (PBF) scholarship program. PBF provides free ballet education and performance opportunities to gifted elementary and high school students from public schools located mostly in the Pasay area where Ballet Manila also has its studios.
Ernesto says, "Di ako na-surprise na gusto niyang mag-ballet. Marami kasing mga lalaki sa amin na nandito na sa BM. At marami sa kanila ay nakapunta sa abroad na dahil nga sa sayaw.” (I wasn’t surprised when I found out that Sixto auditioned for BM. There are many boys from our neighborhood who are thriving here. And many of them go abroad to perform.) Ernesto hopes that his son would follow the footsteps of the older dancers in the future.
For the past year, Sixto and other PBF scholars have been undergoing training at The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila – the dance group’s educational arm. Aside from receiving free instruction and ballet gear, they are also being provided with meals, nutrition supplements and transportation allowance.
Based on the PBF scholar's short comments, things seem to be going well for him so far. Twelve-year-old Sixto, for instance, doesn't mind having to go to class from 7 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. More importantly, he seems to be enjoying being on the stage and has become used to wearing tights. At the time of the interview, he had just participated in Must Dance 4, a.k.a his first Ballet Manila recital, and found it to be quite fun.
In addition, as his father discloses, the boy is very much concerned with evaluation results. "Lagi siyang hindi makatulog kapag evaluation na (He can’t sleep whenever it’s time for the evaluation)," blurts out Ernesto. Embarrassed, Sixto elbows his father, his way of requesting his father not to reveal more.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanya na hindi siya makakapasa. Ang kulit kasi minsan eh! Pero biro ko lang iyon! Ang totoo ay gusto ko na gumaling siya sa ballet. Very proud ako na nandito siya!” (I would scare him that he won’t make it. That’s because he can be very naughty at times. But I’m really just teasing. What I really want for him is to become better at ballet). ”
Aside from the opportunities that ballet could give, Ernesto wants Sixto to continue because he senses that the boy truly likes it. In fact, the happiness he experiences when dancing has become so infectious that Isabella Sofia Joy, Sixto’s younger sister, wants to also enroll in ballet already.
And just as the Doneses do for Sixto, the parents plan to support their little girl when she’s ready. “Ang laki ng pasasalamat namin sa oportunidad na ito. Bihira ang nabibigyan nito kaya hindi dapat sayangin at suportahan ng magulang ang anak (We are very thankful for this scholarship opportunity. Very few are given the chance to learn ballet for free, so it must not be wasted and parents should do what they can to support their child),” sums up the father.
The elder Dones then faces his son, and encourages him: “Kaya pagbutihan mo, anak ah! Disiplina (sa sarili) at respeto sa nakakatanda!” (Work hard whenever you’re here, my son. Always discipline yourself and follow your teachers.)