Mommy Mellissa on how ballet is changing her daughter Gian for the better

Mommy Mellissa on how ballet is changing her daughter Gian for the better

Gian (left, foreground) and other Project Ballet Futures scholars danced in Ballet & Ballads, in a number sung by pop singer Christian Bautista. Photo by Giselle P. Kasilag

By Jv Ramos

Gian Nathalie C. Francisco may not remember the very first ballet she'd seen, but she sure recalls what she felt when the performance ended: that she wanted to be a ballerina herself.

And so, when Ballet Manila went classroom-hopping at the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School – the school she attends – to invite young girls and boys to try out for its Project Ballet Futures (PBF) scholarship program, she jumped at the opportunity and auditioned.

"Nagulat na lang kami nang pagkauwi niya ng isang araw, may dala-dala na siyang papel na nagsasabi na nakapasa na siya sa audition dito sa Ballet Manila (We got so surprised when she came home one day and presented us with a paper that said she had passed the Ballet Manila audition)," shares Mellissa Francisco, the girl's mother.

The document especially came as surprise for the entire family because Gian is very shy. Dancing in front of an audience was the last thing Melissa expected her daughter to do. "Tinanong ko tuloy siya, 'Anak gusto mo ba ‘yan talaga?' At sabi naman niya ay 'Opo, Ma!’” (I asked her, 'Gian, do you really like to learn ballet? And she replied, 'Yes, Mom'!)

Upon hearing those two words, the loving parent readied herself for whatever her girl's interest in ballet may lead to. The first audition, of course, brought them to the Ballet Manila studio – something which Mellissa considers to be too good to be true until today.

"Hindi ako makapaniwala na dito nag-aaral ang anak ko sa school ni Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. Dati kasi, sa TV ko lang siya nakikita.” (I still can't believe that my daughter is studying in Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s ballet school. Before, this all seemed unreachable because I would only see her on TV.)

Indeed for the past year, Gian and her other PBF batchmates have been undergoing training at The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila, the educational arm of the professional dance company that is Ballet Manila. Aside from receiving free instruction and ballet gear, the scholars are also being provided with meals, nutrition supplements and transportation allowance.

As a PBF scholar, Gian receives free ballet instruction and ballet gear, meals, nutrition supplements and transportation allowance. The budding ballerina dreams of dancing as the Ibong Adarna someday. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

With ballet came a noticeable change in the Francisco family’s daily schedule. "Dati, noong wala pa ang ballet, homework, kain at tulog lang ang ginagawa namin (Before, when ballet wasn't part of our lives yet, all that we would attend to is homework, eating together and sleeping)," shares the mom, whose two daughters are actually drawn to the performing arts. If Gian likes ballet, her older sister, Gwyneth Nichole, a Tourism Management graduate, likes theater.

"Ngayon, kaunting pahinga pagkagaling sa school, tapos bihis na at pupunta na dito sa Ballet Manila. Tapos siyempre susunduin mo pagkatapos.” (Now, we rest a bit after coming home from school, then I prepare her clothes and soon head here to Ballet Manila.)

"Pero okey lang kasi gusto naman niya (But it's okay because I can tell that she really likes it)," quickly says Mellissa after painting a picture of how hard a parent's life can be if their child is learning ballet. Despite the added parental duties that ballet brings, however, she can see that the activity has been very beneficial for her child.

"Nang nalaman namin ang schedule dito sa BM, sinabihan ko siya na dapat kayanin niyang ipagsabay ang ballet sa pag-aaral. Kasi kung gusto mo talaga, magagawa mo.” (When I learned the schedule here for BM scholars, I told her that she should be able to balance ballet and her studies. Because if you really want something, you can do it.)

Gian understood her mom's only condition, and made sure to work on her studies before coming to Ballet Manila for classes. "Ayun! Mas mataas pa nga ang grades niya nang nagkaroon ng ballet.” (So there! She's posting even higher grades when ballet became part of her life.)

The mom expounds on how serious Gian is about ballet. "Dati mahilig pa siyang maglaro sa labas. Ngayon, nag-iingat siya kasi nga seryoso siya sa ballet. Puro ballet, pag-aaral at cell phone na lang siya ngayon!” (Before, she would always be playing outdoors. Now, she's being cautious about her body since she's very serious about ballet. Now, her life revolves around ballet, school and using her cell phone!)

"Gusto ko po maging katulad ni Ate Katherine [Ballet Manila principal dancer Katherine Barkman] (I want to be like Ate Katherine)," says Gian who knows she still has so much to learn if she wants to follow in her idol’s footsteps.

"Ang nakakapagpasaya po sa akin dito ay ‘yung pagsayaw. Matagal ko na po kasi gustong mag-ballet. Masaya rin po ako sa stage, pero minsan kinakabahan po ako.” (What makes me really happy here is the dancing itself. I’ve long wanted to learn ballet. Being onstage is also fun, but there are times when I get nervous.)

Of the four major productions that Ballet Manila staged in its recently concluded 22nd performance season, Gian picks Gerardo Francisco's Ibong Adarna as her favorite. "Maganda kasi po talaga ito at magagaling ang mga sumasayaw (I found it really beautiful and the dancers performed it so well)," she observes and adds that one day, she would like to dance the role of the enchanted bird in the title role.

"Gusto niya talagang ipagpatuloy pero pinapaalam ko rin tuwing evaluation na kung hindi para sa kanya, hindi mapupunta sa kanya (She really wants to continue ballet, but I also advise her during evaluation that if it's not for her, then the scholarship won't be offered to her)," explains the ever-realistic Mellissa. "Pero suportado naman namin siya at sana pumasa siya sa susunod na evaluation.” (But we really are supportive of her and hope that she passes the next evaluation.)

So far, she's very happy with what Ballet Manila has done for her Gian and shares why other parents may also consider getting their children into dance. "Dito sa ballet, matututo ang mga anak n’yo ng disiplina, time management at ang katawan nila ay mase-stretch. Lahat talaga nagagawa ng ballet!” (Here, in ballet, your children will learn discipline, master time management and your children's bodies will undergo stretching. There really are many benefits that your child can gain from ballet!)

Now that Gian will enter high school soon, Melissa anticipates that their schedule will be even busier. But all their efforts will still be worth it due to her daughter’s genuine interest and seriousness in ballet.  

Melissa Francisco says her daughter Gian surprised the entire family one day, saying she had passed a Ballet Manila audition. With them is BM co-artistic director Osias Barroso who is also one of Gian’s teachers. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

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This Month in BM History: March 2008

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