On any given Saturday, the Amoranto Sports Complex on Roces Avenue, Quezon City, is a hive of activity—with weekend sports enthusiasts and fitness buffs huffing and puffing at its basketball courts, badminton courts, swimming pool, boxing and multipurpose gyms.
But Amoranto—which boasts of a velodrome and a 15,000-seat stadium—isn’t just for sports, it’s also a venue for the arts.
The Quezon City Performing Arts Development Foundation Inc. (QCPADFI) makes its home here.
The group is at the height of preparations for its upcoming performance in “Fab! A Tribute to Tony Fabella” on Oct. 11-13 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Little Theater.
The children of QCPADFI, says artistic director Luther Perez, will be doing the finale of the show—an excerpt from Fabella’s rambunctious “Shoes” which he originally choreographed for Ballet Philippines.
“‘Shoes’ is a five-movement piece. The last movement is the tour de force,” Perez says. “That is what we are doing.”
It is just right that the group should be given the grand finale. Of the many groups performing in the tribute, the QCPADFI is probably the one closest to Fabella’s heart.
Dance school for the poor
Fabella, who passed away in 2009, was one of the three moving forces behind QCPADFI. With dance stalwarts Eddie Elejar and Perez, he established the group in 1994 as a dance school for underprivileged children. It was made a foundation in 2001.
Fabella popularized classical and contemporary ballet and fused them. Aside from QCPADFI, he co-founded and was president of the Manila Dance Center.
He was an Artistic Council member of Philippine Ballet Theater; and former lead member of the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company and the company’s artistic consultant.
Elejar, QCPADFI artistic consultant and also an institution in the local dance world, has this to say about Fabella: “Tony developed from folk dancer to ballet dancer to choreographer. I saw his immense talent in choreography. He wasn’t afraid. He had nothing to lose. His ideas were different. He would choreograph in different schools because he said that’s where the talent was. He was excited to see new talent and new faces na sumasayaw ng kanyang sayaw (do the dances he created).”
In a video documentary on QCPADFI, Fabella says that he, Elejar and Perez had long dreamed of having a dance school for poor children.
Elejar says he was inspired to put up the dance school for poor children after an observation trip to Beijing. He says the Chinese government would pluck students from small villages, separate them from their parents for a year, and bring them to Beijing to study. “They made it a point that even athletes would take ballet!”
Fabella, Elejar and Perez won the support of the QC government under Mayor Mel Mathay in 1994, and thus were able to get the group up and running. It has since existed under the aegis of the QC government, with Mayor Sonny Belmonte and his daughter Joy, now the vice mayor, as its champions.
Vision and mission
QCPADFI has 400 beneficiaries, with ages 7 and above. Half are dance scholars while the others undergo training as members of the children’s and youth choirs, and the guitar ensemble. The school also trains scholars in indigenous instruments.
Scholars, says Perez, are selected in yearly auditions held every summer. They are from all over Quezon City and must come from low-income families.
“The scholars attend classes three times a week in classical ballet, traditional folk, hip hop and contemporary dance. They are given transportation allowance, free training uniforms, including ballet shoes, and snacks. Whenever there are performances, they receive extra honorarium, says Perez.
“Our vision and mission,” he adds, “is to give underprivileged children certain skills that we hope will get them employed. Although you have not heard of our kids joining the major dance companies, they have been able to go abroad, dance on TV, and some have secured college scholarships—all because of their training here. So we find fulfillment in that.”
For the tribute to Fabella at the CCP, QCPADFI will join other schools where Fabella had taught: Acts Manila, Perry Sevidal Ballet, Vella Damian School of Ballet, Philippine Ballet Theater Conservatoire, Pink Toes, Ballet Manila School, Ecole de Ballet, Halili Cruz School of Ballet, Radaic School of Classical Ballet and the CCP Dance School.
Call CCP at 8321125 loc. 1607 and 1611 or 1803 or 1406.