Making dance a part of your life creates a fun rhythm in otherwise rigid school days and academic schedules.
Like many extracurricular activities, dance makes you look forward to a number of things: meeting new friends, learning new skills in rehearsals, celebrating big and small achievements (whether it’s nailing a movement sequence or finally getting your splits), and planning a grand dance concert.
While all of these sound exciting and fun to anyone interested in the performing arts, dance comes with some cost and serious commitment.
In this story, university dance alumni tell their stories and give advice to aspiring dancers who ask: Should I join a school dance club?
“I joined the UP (University of the Philippines) Mindanao Dance Ensemble with the same level of passion I’ve had since I was a kid. I love to dance and I always looked forward to practice after school hours,” said Ira Sisa Aparra, 24, a communication arts graduate from UP Mindanao.
After joining the group, she got more than what she expected.“Some challenges came my way, mostly admin work that came with being the leader of the group. On some days, I had to deal with the lack of dedication from other club members,” she said. “There were times when I would feel very tired after rehearsals, but I made sure not to miss out on any academic work.”
Ira persisted with her training and picked up a few life lessons along the way. “Being a ‘student-dancer’ taught me to balance things out. The creative process taught me to be patient, too! Choreography and technique take a lot of time. To deliver the best performance, I had to double my dedication and effort,” she said.
There were a few things she gave up, too. One of them was her fondness for mani-pedi sessions. Her nails often end up banged up when she goes back to dance practice.
“Dancers don’t have the best toenails. But I had a wonderful four-year experience. To me, dance is profound, relevant and everything in between,” she said.
“Dance made me more disciplined with time management; it gave me a sense of priority on things,” said Gloryrose Dy Metilla, 33, a UP Mindanao architecture graduate.
Gloryrose, who eventually led the group as artistic director, looked back on her dance club as a beacon that showed a path to her future.
“I loved how dance guided me with my life and helped me to become more creative, she said. The best part about my experience was how dance inspired me to do my thesis on architecture and movement. That won me The Redpoint National Best Thesis Award for Architecture in June 2009. The dance studio was the womb of my creative concept.”
Dance also led to many episodes of self-love and discovery.“It taught me to love my body and to move in ways I never imagined. It gave me confidence to be in front of a crowd. My dance club experience gave me perspective in life—after all, like dance, life is a movement in space,” Gloryrose said.
Glorypearl Dy, 34, a UP Mindanao communication arts graduate shared a similar story.
“Dance made me more confident. It helped shape my life choices and it helped me to get in good touch with my body, myself and the spaces and people around me,” Glorypearl said. “It’s a life skill I continue to use in my day-to-day interactions until today.”
She gave dance some of her time and received more in return.
“Dance taught me discipline and made me a better person. I devoted my late afternoons for working out and practicing and it opened possibilities for me,” she said. “It made my grades better! I never missed out on dates and other endeavors!”
Ultimately, dance helped Glorypearl make better life decisions.
“The training I got from dance helped me choose the path I want to take in life. It also trained me to think twice about making critical life choices. One time, I felt bad after learning that I was replaced for a choreography role because I cut my hair really short.”
More than a scholarship
“I joined in the Kabpapagariya Ensemble because I was looking for a scholarship. I got more than that—I found family and a chance to grow as a tribal dancer,” said Raydan Tangwayan, 21, a Mindanao State University General Santos City graduate.
Raydan, who now works as a cultural worker, recalled that his days with dance had their ups and downs.
“My experience wasn’t without rough days. There were times when I doubted myself and I also lost focus on my studies. But I made it—I finished school and shone as a performer along the way. I am happy that through my dance, I was also able to promote my culture and share my advocacies,” he said.
His advice to young dancers?“When you join dance clubs, dedication matters more than skill level. There will always be chances to improve, but it will require discipline and balance,” he said.
He said that dancers always need to be in touch with their heart and surroundings: “We need to go with the flow of nature. We need to coordinate with the figures of dances and be flexible. Life requires flexibility, coordination and discipline.”
Another dance scholar had a similar narrative.
“I joined the university dance club for a scholarship. Dance sustained my studies,” said Joey Toledo, 26, from the University of Mindanao. “It was a journey that helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses, and my place in my environment and the people around me.”
His passion led him to keep doing what he loves most. Today he works as a professional dancer, teacher and event organizer.
He attributed his success to giving his heart to every rehearsal and every choreography.
“Dance required my commitment and serious time management. Back then I had to juggle school, time with my family and girlfriend, and everything in between,” Joey said.
Everything that he is today was largely shaped by time spent with his university dance club.
“I like how dance stimulates my brain and body in the same way that it also gets me really tired. There’s a ‘give and take’ and ‘no pain, no gain’ relationship with me and dance.
“I got injuries and scars but they also came with life lessons about following passions and staying alive and open to learning. One day, I’m studying jazz, the next I am doing hip-hop. Learning by heart is a part of the journey,” he said.—CONTRIBUTED