Ballet Manila scholar wins bronze medal in Asian Grand Prix

Ballet Manila scholar wins bronze medal in Asian Grand Prix

Dancing the Blue Bird Variation from The Sleeping Beauty, 11-year-old Juan Angelo De Leon – representing The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila – soared to a bronze finish in the Pre-Competitive B Division of the Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in Hong Kong.

“Angelo may be the youngest Filipino dancer or one of the youngest to medal in an international ballet competition,” enthused school director and Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde upon hearing the news of De Leon’s victory while in Manila.

De Leon received his medal and certificate from AGP jurors Ou Lu and Sylvia Wu in the award ceremony held at Youth Square on August 17.

Teacher Eileen Lopez (right) with Loraine Gaile Jarlega and Juan Angelo De Leon shortly before the two dancers competed in their respective finals. Photo courtesy of Eileen Lopez

It was only the second time that De Leon participated in a ballet competition, the first one being the AGP regionals in Manila last April.

The young danseur is also a Project Ballet Futures scholar of Ballet Manila and receives free ballet training, uniform, meals and vitamins as part of his scholarship.

“There is a lot in store for Angelo if he keeps at it,” an elated Osias Barroso, Ballet Manila co-artistic director, messaged from Taipei where he is heading a Ballet Manila delegation that will perform in the capital city of Taiwan.

“His win is also a win for his batch of PBF scholars. It also shows how ballet can really change lives,” added Barroso.

Meanwhile, Loraine Gaile Jarlega, 13, advanced to the final round in the AGP competition’s Junior A division, dancing Pizzicato from Raymonda.

Two other students of The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila competed in the annual event in Hong Kong after making it through the AGP regionals in Manila: Monique Valera, 16, who danced Queen of the Dryads from Don Quixote Act 2 in the Junior B semi-finals; and Eduardson Evangelio, 18, who performed James Variation from La Sylphide Act 2 and the Harlequin Variation from Harlequinade in the Senior semi-finals.

Jarlega and Valera are members of Ballet Manila 2, while Evangelio is a trainee of the company.

The four were accompanied to Hong Kong by Eileen Lopez, faculty member of The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila, and also the assistant ballet and rehearsal mistress of Ballet Manila.

Juan Angelo De Leon performs the Blue Bird Variation for the Pre-Competitive B division of the Asian Grand Prix Competition in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Asian Grand Prix

Barroso recalled that when he first started teaching De Leon the Blue Bird Variation, the boy was still weak and raw, but steadily improved through daily classes and continuous training.

“Blue Bird was a good start for him. He has good lines. Magaling ‘yung bata, at ang importante, nakikinig (The boy is really talented, and what’s important is that he listens),” said Barroso, who gave De Leon a more advanced class after the latter won in the AGP regionals.

Robert Peralta, one of De Leon’s teachers at the Ballet Manila School, concurred that the boy is attentive. “Masunurin siya at nagawa niya ang mga corrections sa kanya ng teachers and coaches niya (He is obedient and he was able to work on the corrections given him by his teachers and coaches.”

While De Leon was nervous competing in the Manila regionals and preparing for the Hong Kong round, Peralta said a little pep talk helped boost the young dancer’s confidence. “Kinakausap ko na lang din po siya para maging focused siya at ma-realign ‘yung thinking niya – to just enjoy at lumipad (I would just talk to him so that he would be focused and to realign his thinking – to just enjoy and fly).”

Semi-finalists Eduardson Evangelio and Monique Valera help Juan Angelo De Leon with his make up for his finals in Pre-Competitive B. Photo courtesy of Eileen Lopez

In any competition, Macuja-Elizalde agreed that it’s important for the dancers to enjoy what they’re doing and to learn from the experience.

Now on its 9th year, the Asian Grand Prix is an educational platform that seeks to inspire and recognize excellence among young ballet dancers.

Specifically, it aims to provide opportunities for the dancers to demonstrate their talents, explore their potentials and learn from the experts as well as their peers. Outstanding dancers receive awards and scholarships from renowned ballet schools to further their education and professional career.

This past week, the four Ballet Manila students were among 219 competitors from various countries who converged in Hong Kong for the event. Jurors observed the candidates in both class work and stage performance.

A newcomer to competing, Juan Angelo De Leon wears his Asian Grand Prix bronze medal after the awarding program in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Eileen Lopez

AGP officials led by chairman So Hon Wah and president Virginia De Blank joined the jury and mentors on stage during the award ceremony where scholarships and special prizes were also handed out to selected competitors.

In his opening remarks at the awarding program, jury head Garry Trinder shared notes based on what the jury observed during the week-long event.

He particularly urged participants to put on less make up and to avoid using facial glitter while competing as it was more about how the dancers performed rather than how they looked that mattered.

“Simplicity and purity are the cornerstone of classical ballet,” he underscored.

Videos of the award ceremony, as well as the final and semi-final rounds of this year’s competition, may be viewed on the Facebook page of the Asian Grand Prix.

Ballet Manila performs in Taiwan

Ballet Manila performs in Taiwan

Three ballerinas on the joys of dancing Snow White

Three ballerinas on the joys of dancing Snow White