BAL­LET IS ALSO FOR THE MASA

Sun.Star Cebu - - NEWS PLUS - BY JENARA REGIS NEW­MAN | FOTOS BY AMPER CAMPAÑA

Gre­gory Aaron and Ni­co­las Pa­caña for­mally took over Bal­let­cen­ter in 2006, when Fe Sala Villarica asked them if they would want to take over the stu­dio. By then, Bal­let­cen­ter had al­ready cel­e­brated its 50 years of ex­is­tence. As artis­tic di­rec­tors, the two looked be­yond the stu­dio to spread their love for the dance.

The two be­gan their part­ner­ship in At­lanta Bal­let Fes­ti­val in 1989. This ven­ture with Bal­let­cen­ter was a homecoming of sorts for Pa­caña who re­counts that he was 13 years old when he be­gan to study in Bal­let­cen­ter. He was so good that in 1972, Mrs. Villarica wan­gled for him a schol­ar­ship at the San Fran­cisco Con­ser­va­tory of Bal­let and Theater Arts. Af­ter a year, he went to Hawaii and danced with the Honolulu City Bal­let, af­ter which he went to New York where he got a full schol­ar­ship with the Jof­frey Bal­let. Then he joined Bos­ton Bal­let in 1975 and stayed there till 1982 when he joined At­lanta Bal­let un­til 1993. Gre­gory Aaron di­rected At­lanta Fes­ti­val Bal­let School where Ni­co­las also taught though he was in and out of At­lanta be­cause of his com­mit­ments else­where. It was in 1985 when Ni­co­las came back to the Philippine­s to dance in La Bayadere for the Philip­pine Bal­let Theater where Mrs. Villarica’s daugh­ter, Maia, saw him and in­vited him to dance in Cebu. The meet­ing made him miss Cebu a lot but it was only in 2001, when Bal­let­cen­ter cel­e­brated its 50th year, that both he and Gre­gory came to Cebu, to teach, to chore­o­graph, to dance in a reper­tory cel­e­bra­tory concert. The fol­low­ing year, they were back, this time for Bal­let­cen­ter’s ”The Lit­tle Mer­maid “which went on tour.

In 2004, Gre­gory’s mother died. Though still com­mit­ted to do three bal­let pre­sen­ta­tions a year with At­lanta Bal­let, Gre­gory found time to come to the Philippine­s. In 2005, the duo pre­sented “The Nutcracker Suite” which toured in Davao, Gen­eral San­tos and Tagum. When the duo took over Bal­let­cen­ter in 2006, they ini­ti­ated their outreach pro­gram in Pasil, cho­sen, Gre­gory ex­plains, as a place where once Ni­co­las’ par­ents had a small busi­ness. There were 130 schol­ars for the sum­mer but dur­ing the reg­u­lar school year, only about 28 of the bet­ter ones would continue with their lessons. The duo later started an­other outreach pro­gram, this time in Tipolo, Man­daue Cen­tral School. This year, they were asked by a pri­est in Tal­i­bon, Bo­hol, to do an­other outreach pro­gram in the islet of Jao. They hope to get two of their top students there for an in­ten­sive month-long train­ing here so the pro­gram can go on year-round with­out their hav­ing to be travel to Bo­hol of­ten.

Gre­gory ex­plains that they do their outreach be­cause “I love to dance. Ev­ery­body should be able to dance. Ni­co­las and I are in heaven when we dance. We want ev­ery­one to dance. I have to make peo­ple be­lieve that to be a qual­i­fied teacher or dancer, you don’t have to have a col­lege de­gree. If you want to in­vest your time and your ef­fort to be a pro­fes­sional dancer and teacher, then we will do our best to find a job for you. Our schol­ars can earn a liv­ing if they are good in dance and if they per­se­vere in the pro­gram.”

“Cebu,” says Ni­co­las, “de­serves to have a bal­let com­pany. And though we don’t for­mally have one yet, we have the mak­ings of it in Bal­let­cen­ter, along with the bet­ter ones in our out-

reach pro­grams, who per­formed with us in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ which will go on tour like ’The Nutcracker.’ Our prob­lem for our schol­ars are their bal­let toe shoes which are very ex­pen­sive. We hope there are kind hearted art pa­trons out there who will help us give them the toe shoes they de­serve.”

Gre­gory still goes back to the US, is still com­mit­ted to do bal­let pre­sen­ta­tions for At­lanta Bal­let. Ni­co­las, on the other hand, says his Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” is his farewell per­for­mance as prin­ci­pal dancer. It was a mag­i­cal, mov­ing per­for­mance, one that makes one be­lieve that yes, Cebu, with its tal­ented dancers, does de­serve a bal­let com­pany to call its very own: it’s about time Cebu has one.

TEACH­ERS Ni­co­las Pa­caña and Gre­gory Aaron with lit­tle students of Bal­let­cen­ter.

MR. A

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