Everyone has dreams, but not everyone is given the opportunity to pursue or achieve it. Apart from luck, resources play a great role. It’s a good thing that institutions and scholarships exist to help those who don’t have the means to pursue their passion. Sometimes the best can be found in the unlikeliest of places and are just waiting for their big break.
Ballet Manila is always on the lookout for potential ballerinas and danseurs, and recruits them through the Project Ballet Futures. The scholarship program helps talented dancers from the most deprived neighborhoods in the country by giving them a full dance scholarship, along with meals, transportation, supplements, dancing gear, and allowance.
Two of its most talented recruits are Jamil Montibon and Jessa Balote. The two grew up in the slums of Tondo, scavenging for a living. Now that they are dancers for Ballet Manila, they have performed in prestigious theaters in Hong Kong, South Korea, and London, in front of world leaders and society’s elite. They even have time to explore the culture of the country they’re in!
According to Montibon, “Ballet Manila has helped me aspire for more. Before I entered the company, I was resigned to the fact that I will probably spend the rest of my life on the streets, collecting trash. Ballet Manila has made me realize that I have something to offer to the world. Now, my dream is to become a soloist and travel to more places. I really want to see The Kremlin Ballet Theatre with my own eyes!”
To be enrolled at The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila is a great feat. All dancers undergo classical dance training based on the famous Vaganova style of dancing, considered by many to be the best in the world. And of course, there’s the opportunity to work with Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Ballet Manila’s artistic director and chief executive officer. She’s also the first foreign soloist in the esteemed Kirov Ballet in Russia, and charmed audiences for her powerful performance of Kitri in Don Quixote in 1986.
Both Montibon and Balote were personally selected by Macuja-Elizalde. The prima ballerina noted Montibon’s strength and jump, as well as Balote’s ability to cleanly rotate her legs 90 degrees to the left and right.
From the slums of Tondo to Hong Kong, South Korea, and London. Both dancers have come so far, and it’s thanks to the passion and advocacy of Ballet Manila. Who are we going to discover next?