Joshua Enciso on finding an escape and achieving perfection in ballet
By Jv Ramos
Ballet being an activity more associated with girls, it’s always interesting to learn how boys find their way to it. For Joshua Enciso, a newly promoted Ballet Manila company artist, the reason has to do with being bullied in grade school.
"Chubby pa kasi ako noong grade five ako, so ayun, maraming nagbu-bully sa akin. 'Yung pagbu-bully na verbal ba. Ang ballet po ang naging escape ko," starts the junior danseur. (Back when I was in grade five, I was rather chubby, so people would bully me. They'd do it in a verbal way, and ballet became my escape from all that.)
"Actually, noong time na ‘yun, hindi ko pa po alam na ballet pala ang ginagawa ko. Basta pumapasok lang ako araw-araw at sumasayaw, at doon na rin ako nahasa." (Actually, when I first started, I wasn't aware that I was doing ballet. I just kept going to dance school every day to dance what they were teaching and that's where my skills began to get honed).
Joshua notes that prior to dancing ballet, he was already exposed to modern dance forms and recalls that even as a young child, he enjoyed all sorts of dance. He didn’t mind performing in front of an audience. He shares that through his first dance school, he was able to experience joining competitions, including the 2013 Asian Grand Prix (AGP) in Hong Kong and dancing in barangay events usually held in city halls.
“Naging magandang experience po iyon sa akin,” comments Joshua. (My first school gave me a lot of good experiences.) The teenager was clearly contented with where he was, but his teacher had other plans. When he turned fifteen, his dance teacher suggested that he audition for Ballet Manila's summer workshop.
“Ayaw ko pa nga po nang una. Ang gusto ko ay manatili lamang sa school, pero pinilit akong mag-audition," recalls Joshua. "Sa auditions ng BM namulat ang mata ko kung gaano kalaki pala ang mundo ng ballet. Unang-una, nandiyan ang theater [the auditions were held in Aliw Theater], at nang natanggap ako sa BM, kakaiba talaga ang mga klase!” (I actually didn't want to audition in BM at first. What I wanted was to stay in the same ballet school, but they forced me to try out here. And, it was in the BM auditions that I saw how big the world of ballet really is. First of all, there was the theater, and when I got accepted in BM, there were the intense classes!)
With a tone of embarrassment, he speaks of his first experiences in the company. “Naaalala ko ‘yung first class ko dito sa BM. Sobrang baluktot ko talaga, at mali-mali ang posisyon ng kamay ko." (I remember my first class here in BM. My whole body was disoriented, and the positioning of my hands was all wrong.)
It is perhaps because of Joshua's lack of training that Osias Barroso, the company's co-artistic director, decided to position the new recruit directly in front of him, which of course made the latter very uncomfortable. "Sobrang kabado po ako noon! Sobrang kitang-kita kasi ako ni Sir Shaz." (I was very nervous back then. Sir Shaz could easily see all the wrong movements I'd do.)
Upon realizing that Sir Shaz was only helping him to reach his full potential, Joshua eventually relaxed and absorbed all the teacher's corrections and new lessons like a sponge. “Sobrang nagulat ako na ibang-iba sa BM. Na-realize ko na marami pa pala akong matututunan! Sobrang thankful po talaga ako ngayon na napunta ako sa BM!” (I was very shocked with how things were very different in BM. I realized that I have so much more to learn. I'm very thankful that I ended up in BM!)
Things did not always run smoothly for Joshua. Like most teenagers, he faced the problem of balancing the demands of school and ballet. The danseur paints a picture of what his daily life used to be like, before graduating recently from senior high school. "Papasok po ako from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. sa school ko sa Muntinlupa. Tapos, ang pasok ko naman dito ay 6 to 9 p.m. po. Tapos pagkauwi kailangan ko pang gumawa ng homework. Mahirap po talaga mag-balance ng school at ballet." (I would attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Muntinlupa. And then, I'd have my Ballet Manila classes from 6 to 9 p.m. After coming home from ballet, I would have to do my homework. It's really hard to balance school and ballet).
What made him persevere then? Joshua states that he simply looked back at what made him fall in love with ballet: The dance form offered him a form of escape, and with that escape came other perks, such as expanding his vocabulary of dance, an activity he's always loved, and the opportunity to share his talent with various audiences.
Since he joined Ballet Manila, Joshua has traveled and performed in Hong Kong, Russia, China and Vietnam. At the moment, he is in Jackson, Mississippi to compete in the junior division of the USA International Ballet Competition with Nicole Barroso, another promising talent of BM. The two have actually scored a first for the Philippines – being selected by organizers to compete in the junior division which, this year, boasts of only 53 contenders from around the world.
"'Yung tuloy-tuloy na motivation ko ‘ata ay nag-start noong pinapasok na nila ako sa mga competitions. Like, noong unang AGP ko with BM, ang sinasabi ko sa sarili ko ay kahit anong mangyari, kailangan kong makarating sa studio," expresses Joshua. "Nasa klase kasi talaga nangyayari ang preparation." (My motivation for ballet really continued when the company started to field me in competitions. Like, in my first AGP with BM, I kept telling myself that whatever happens, I'd have to make it to the studio. Preparation for such competitions really begins in the classes.)
Joshua claims that while extra workouts, a controlled diet and other forms of physical conditioning are essential in competing, it's still the BM classes that count as the best form of preparation.
When it comes to Jackson, however, Joshua recognizes that he needs another ingredient to get through it all. "Kailangan ko ng peace of mind," declares the teenager. "Kakaiba po kasi ang pressure nitong Jackson. Siguro, dahil na rin kasi mag-partners kami na magko-compete!" (What I need for Jackson is peace of mind. The pressure here is really different. It perhaps also has to do with the fact that I'm competing with a partner.)
He tries his best to explain what he and Nicole have been going through: "Kung may problema ang isa, mahirap rin para sa isa. Kailangan ng isa na mag-adjust at umintindi. Kung hindi ito gagawin, magiging parang opposite magnet poles kayo! Tapos, sa tingin ko po, mas mahirap mag-compete kapag may partner kasi kailangan mo talaga alalayan ang safety ng babae. Pero ang kagandahan naman nito ay hindi ka mag-isa sa stage. Hindi ka mababalot ng kaba kasi nga may kasama ka." (When one partner has a problem, the other one is also affected. One has to adjust and understand the other. Because if that's not done, you'll just repel each other like opposite magnet poles. I also think it's more challenging to compete with a partner. You really have to guard the safety of the girl on stage. What's great about partnering though is you're not alone onstage. You won't be enveloped by nervousness since someone is with you.)
Joshua also asserts that since he and Nicole are very much alike – they're equally competitive and both perfectionists – they can't help but be emotional throughout the process. "Pareho po kaming ma-drama," he laughingly says. (We both can be very dramatic.) This shared trait, however, isn't exactly a disadvantage, as it allows them to display a variety of emotions despite being junior dancers.
As of writing, what Joshua finds most difficult to master among the numbers he and Nicole will be performing is the Peasant Pas de Deux from the ballet Giselle. "Hubad na hubad ka kasi doon. Kitang-kita ang lahat ng ginagawa mo – ang lines and ang jumps! Dito, hindi mo pwedeng i-cover up ng matataas na jumps ang ibang steps." Here, the danseur takes a deep breath and says, "Mahirap siya pero gusto ko, kasi napo-polish niya ang pagsayaw ko!" (You’re really laid bare in that piece. Everything that you do can be seen by the audience – the lines and the jumps. Here, you can’t cover up the other steps with your high jumps. It's a difficult piece to execute but I like it because through it, my dancing gets polished.)
Joshua reveals that though dancing contemporary pieces comes out naturally for him, he really enjoys classical roles more. For aside from these roles being a good match for his "ma-drama" (emotional) personality, these, if executed well, show his depth as a danseur. "Full-length po na Basilio [from Don Quixote] ang gustong-gusto kong sayawin. Pati na rin po ang Albrecht [from Giselle] kasi nga po ma-drama akong tao." (I would really want to dance the role of Basilio. Albrecht is also a dream role because the character goes through so much drama and I really am a dramatic person.)
Regarding what he hopes to gain from the prestigious ballet competition, he expresses, "Experience po talaga. Alam ko, hindi ako perfect [na danseur]. I mean, wala naman talagang ganu’n. Pero sa akin, feeling ko nakaka-survive ako sa ballet dahil sa aking passion. So, mahalaga ang Jackson experience sa akin. Makakatulong ang Jackson upang gumaling ako." (I'm really looking forward to the experience. I know, I'm not a perfect danseur. I mean, the perfect danseur really doesn't exist. But in my case, I really feel that I'm able to survive this ballet journey because of my passion for it. The Jackson experience will be important for my growth. Jackson will help me become a better danseur.)
"Kailangan pa ng polish," candidly replies Joshua when asked if he's ready to face the tough competition in Jackson. "Pero kakayanin. Ibibigay ko ang lahat. Iiwan ko sa stage ang lahat ng makakaya ko!" (I still need polishing. But I'll be ready when the time comes. I will give my all. I will leave all that I can do on the stage!)