Emmerson and Eduardson Evangelio: Brothers bonded by ballet
By Jv Ramos
In their early teens when they first started learning ballet, brothers Emmerson and Eduardson Evangelio would encounter many hurdles that could have discouraged them from dancing. From being teased that they’re engaging in a very feminine activity to their male classmates dropping out of class left and right, to having to endure the long commute from their home in Sta. Ana to the Meralco Theater in Pasig where the dance studio was, these two were really determined to grow in ballet.
“Dahil kay Ms. Sylvia [Lichauco, Project Ballet Futures managing director and Lola Grande Foundation executive director] po ang lahat na iyan,” puts forward Eduardson, the younger of the two. “Through the years, kung saan-saan at kung anu-anong ballet ang pinapanood niya sa amin. So, ginusto namin na mapasama rin sa shows o mag-perform sa malaking entablado.” (We all owe this to Ms. Sylvia. Through the years, she has brought us everywhere to watch every ballet performance possible. So, naturally we ended up wanting to also experience dancing on a big stage.)
Since the ballet classes offered at the Sta. Ana Elementary School, under the auspices of the Lola Grande Foundation, were confined to summer workshops, the brothers later auditioned for the Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT) so they could learn more. Because of their limited training, they had difficulties in keeping up with the steps during the open auditions. But thankfully, the ballet master saw potential in them and they were accepted.
In PBT, the two pushed themselves to progress quickly, with both saying they had a good experience there. But they had to contend with the time-consuming commute which became impractical for them. Since they also had to dedicate more time and energy during their senior year, they decided it was best to move to a company nearer to their home and high school.
The brothers eventually found their way to Ballet Manila, with the brothers entering its school as trainees in 2017. “Very thankful kami na napadpad kami rito. Sa BM, isa lang talaga ang technique for all levels. Tapos, ito rin ang technique na ginagamit ng company,” says Emmerson. (We’re very thankful we ended up in BM. What I really appreciate here is, all levels follow the same technique. Even the ballet company itself uses it.)
“Naalala ko pa ang mga unang klase ko rito,” giggles Emmerson. “Puro na lang, ‘Emmerson, Emmerson!’ Lagi akong pinagsasabihan. Hirap na hirap kasi ako sa technique na Vaganova. RAD [Royal Academy of Dancing] ang nakasayanan namin sa PBT. So, pagdating dito, puro mali kami.” (I can remember my first class here. The teacher would often shout, ‘Emmerson, Emmerson!’ That’s because I would do everything wrong. I found the Vaganova technique really challenging, especially since we trained in RAD at PBT. When we got here, everything we did was wrong.)
Despite the constant calling out by the faculty in BM, however, they were never disappointed. As Emmerson notes, he and his brother were mature enough to understand that they had to conform to their new school’s chosen training technique. “At saka, wala namang mangyayari kung didibdibin mo o magiging malungkot ka dahil sa feedback nila. Dapat mas mag-work ka pa nga eh!” (After all, nothing will happen if we become emotional or if we sulk when we’re given feedback. The more we should work hard!)
Good things have been happening to the Evangelio brothers two years hence. Other than receiving a dance scholarship through the De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde and Resorts World Manila’s Original Pilipino Performing Arts [OPPA ] initiative, both recently competed in the Manila Regionals of the Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition, wherein their performances had satisfactory results. Eduardson placed third in the Senior Division which moves him forward to the next round of AGP in Hong Kong come August while Emmerson – who had struggled with his variation in every rehearsal – performed a relatively clean routine.
“I was very surprised when they called my name,” expresses Eduardson. “Ang dami kasi sa competition na nagawa ang variation nila nang maayos.” (There were so many participants in the competition who danced their variation well.) The winner adds that there’s a portion in the La Sylphide variation which he found tricky and where he would often miss the beat.
“Ako naman po, proud na po ako sa ginawa ko,” comments Emmerson, who is always in good spirits. “Sa dami-dami naming rehearsals, wala talaga akong maayos na nagawa. Takot na takot nga sila para sa akin kasi puwede akong magkamali o di matapos ang variation.” (As for me, I’m very proud of what I did. Of the many rehearsals that we had, there was always something lacking. Everyone was actually scared that I would make a mistake or not even finish my variation.)
The older Evangelio brother continues, “It’s not about winning but about what you learn in the process. Ang dami kong natutunan, so proud ako. Oo, gusto ko sanang makapasok, pero alam ko rin po na kulang pa talaga. Ang sabi nga ng judges, nakulangan sila sa tricks at sa buga. Pero na-encourage nila ako nang sinabi nila na marami pa po akong mailalabas, na may maipipiga pa po ako.” (I’ve learned so many things, so I’m really proud. Indeed, I would have wanted to place, but I also know that I still have a lot of areas to improve on. As the judges said, they found my performance to be lacking in tricks and stage presence. But they were very encouraging when they said that I have so much more to offer, so much more to bring to the stage.)
Outside the sphere of competition, these two are cherishing the experience of learning one Ballet Manila choreography after another. They, in fact, agree that they don’t favor any particular dance. Eduardson notes, “Wala namang nangingibabaw na sayaw. Lahat kasi ng sayaw dito sa BM ay na-syo-showcase ang kakayahan ng dancer at ang technique.” (No dance is better than the other. All the choreographies here in BM showcase the dancer’s capabilities and technique.)
“Tapos, dito sa Ballet Manila, talagang na-pi-feel mo na importante ka,” stresses Emmerson. “Kunwari, kapag Swan Lake, kahit hindi ako ang prince, ang feeling ko po ay prince pa rin dahil nga sinasabi nila lagi na importante ka sa performance kahit corps lang ang role mo.” (Moreover, here in Ballet Manila, you really feel that you’re important. For instance, in Swan Lake, even if you’re not the prince, you still feel like a prince because they remind you that you’re important to the production even if you’re just part of the corps.)
But definitely, these trainees prefer classical pieces, with both citing Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake as their long-time dream role.
Asked if there has ever been rivalry between them, Emmerson laughs, “Wala naman po. Ako kasi ang type na tao na kung masaya ka, masaya na rin ako para sa iyo. At kung down ka, hahanap ako ng way para pasayahin ka.” (There’s none. I’m the type of person who’s happy when you’re happy. And if you’re feeling down, I will find a way to make you happy.)
“We support each other,” confirms Eduardson, noting that when he had an injury while performing a contemporary number, it was his brother who worried the most.
Coming from a family twelve, these brothers reiterate how grateful they are about the opportunities that ballet has given them. “Dahil sa ballet, nakakuha kami ng scholarships,” says Eduardson. (Because of ballet, we have received scholarships.)
“Kung hindi kami pumasok sa dance, wala na ang buhay namin,” echoes Emmerson. (If we had not entered dance, I don’t know where our lives would be now.)
Seeing what ballet can do, their younger sisters Eva and Elaine have also been enrolled in Ballet Manila’s school for the summer workshop. What do our subjects advise their younger siblings? “Ang laging sinasabi ni Sir Shaz [BM co-artistic director Osias Barroso], na dapat may disiplina sa sarili,” replies the AGP Manila Regionals placer. (We just echo what Sir Shaz always says, that dancers should develop self-discipline.)
“Dumadali ang lahat kapag nakuha mo na ang disiplina,” concludes Emmerson. (Everything else falls into place if you have mastered self-discipline.)
From inspiring one to dream big to developing one’s discipline and being able to vie for educational opportunities, the Evangelio brothers sure have gained a lot from an art form that they’ve fought hard to be a part of.