Tag Archives: dance

A Life Full Of Passion — And Dance

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
Initially, I wanted to meet Malu Rivera-Peoples in person. Having been in contact with her only through e-mail since last year, I have been meaning to write a story about her and achievements. However, our busy schedules until now couldn’t meet in between.

Aside from the fact that her success story is a worthy topic, my interest in her is partly personal.  Growing up, I’ve dabbled in the performing arts, having studied piano for five years and voice for a short time.  But there was one thing I couldn’t really handle – dance, because I’ve always admitted that I was born with two left feet.

Short of meeting with her personally, I am already an admirer of Ms. Rivera-Peoples’ craft, passion and commitment to share her undeniable talent to others who dream of a life of dance.

Dancing at the age of 10 under the tutelage of Felicitas Radaic, Luis Layag and Steve Villaruz, by the age of 16, she was already part of the Dance Theater Philippines, the start of her professional career

“I had such a full, exciting, and rich life as a student and as a young adult because of dance.  We trained, traveled and performed around the world.  I feel I have been blessed by all the success as well as the disappointing experiences as a dancer,” she said and added, “I owe a lot to my very first teacher Tita Radaic who passed on her passion, dedication, and respect for dance.   I learned the discipline from her.  I also am very blessed to have had such a professional and creative artistic director in my professional years with Ballet Philippines.”

Ms. Rivera-Peoples then went on to the international stage, training with international figures such as Kenneth Gillespie, Armin Wilde, Norman Walker, Luminita Dumitrescu, William Morgan, Alfred Rodriguez, Gray Veredon, and Mikael Kukarev.  She has also collaborated and performed with internationally acclaimed guest dancers such as Alicia Alonso, Margot Fonteyn, Patrick Bissell, Fernando Bujones, Leslie Brown, Joyce Cuoco, Martin Van Hamel, Natasha Makarova, Eleanor D’Antuono and Rudolph Nureyev.  She has traveled all over the world and has performed solo roles in full-length productions of Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Nutcracker and Romeo & Juliet, to name a few.

But her biggest achievement seems to be off the stage – as a teacher.

Ms. Rivera-Peoples’ teaching career began at age 14, under the supervision of her teacher, Felicitas Radaic.  At the age of 16, she became a member of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD, London), qualifying her to prepare children for the annual RAD Children’s Examinations.  Then at 19, she opened her own school in Manila, the Silid-Sining Workshop for the Performing Arts in Manila, which continues to operate to this date.

In 1983, Ms. Rivera-Peoples migrated to the US.  By the summer of 1991, she co-founded the Westlake School offor the Performing Arts (WSPA) in Daly City.  Under her leadership, WSPA has continued to have the respect and reputation of the community for being an outstanding school.  The school and its students have been receiving awards for their ensemble and solo entries in competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix, the International Dance Challenge, Showstoppers and Prelude, in both junior and senior divisions.

“Any one who runs their own business would say that the work is 24 hours a day.  It is the same with running a performing arts school, you are continually on the edge of your seat creating new works (as a choreographer), hiring teachers to replace the good ones who had to move on, letting go of teachers who have not delivered well, promoting students who deserve and having to deal with parents who do not agree with your decisions, so forth and so on,” she explained.  “I have learned to take it all objectively, and because of all the human interaction the business has fortunately allowed me to have, I have learned so much about people, relationships, life, and so much about myself as well.”

Aside from these, Ms. Rivera-Peoples is recognized as an excellent choreographer, receiving several awards for modern, ballet, lyrical jazz and musicals.  Twice awarded as Outstanding Choreographer by the Youth America Grand Prix in Long Beach in 2004 and 2006, she also directs WSPA’s full-length ballet, The Nutcracker every year at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  Just last year, she was selected as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the US in Washington, DC.

As to her advice to those who wish to pursue a career in dance, she simply said, “Follow your heart and do not give up.  When you are true to your goal and true to yourself, everything in the universe will work together to make sure you reach your destination.  The journey may not be easy, but the rewards will be beyond your imagination.”

(For inquiries about WSPA’s programs and class schedules,  you can contact them at (650) 757-1244, e-mail  wspa1@sbcglobal.net or by logging on to  http://www.wspadance.com.)



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FilAms representing top 3 groups in MTV dance show

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – FilAms are represented in every finalist dance group on season 2 of MTV’s Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance crew, a hit competition reality show that pits dance crews from the nation against one another for $100,000 cash prize and a touring contract.
On a hot sunny day at Dodgers Stadium, one-by-one the groups took the field strutting their best dance moves in front of thousands of fans and you couldn’t help but notice that many members of the groups had at least one Filipino face.

It’s a sign of things to come, according to Angelito Casal of Super Cr3w.

“This is just the beginning for us,” he said before his dance crew performed.  “You’re going to see more brown faces. You’re going to see more Filipino faces in the media and all over entertainment. This is just the beginning. Get ready for it.”

It’s a sentiment that rival member of SoReal Cru agrees.

“This is dope [cool],” said Andrew Baterina. “If you see all the teams, there’s at least one Filipino on every team and on a lot of teams the majority of them are Filipino. It’s about time. We’re getting up there especially in the dancing scene.”

Filipinos are known for dancing. With its long array of traditional cultural dances like the tinikling, Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Maglalatik, that’s how many of this year’s FilAm contestants started to dance.

“It’s in our culture. We’re drawn to dance,” said Baterina.

Top 3

Fourteen dance crews started the competition …whittled down

While the Los Angeles – based Fanny Pak has only one FilAm on the team, Cara Horibe, the other two groups rosters are made up of FilAms.

The Las Vegas based dance crew, Super Cr3w, is a heavy favorite to win the competition. The crew boasts three Pinoys including Casal, RJ Puno, and Ronnie Abaldonado. Chris Gatdula, a member of the America’s Best Dance Crew season 1 winner Jabbawockeez, was a former member of Super Cr3w.

Puno said it was just exciting to be able to perform in front a famed venue like Dodger stadium.

“We’re really excited I don’t know what to say,” said Puno. “We’re just going to get down and dirty.”

Puno added that his team is prepared to make it to the finals.

“We need to attack and execute,” he said. “We’re going to put our hearts into every performance.”

The Houston, Texas-based SoReal Cru is a predominant FilAm group. Baterina, Brian Fucanan, Mark Fucanan, Ailyn Joy Isidro, Jackie Lautchang, and Brian Puspos are all FilAms. The other member Pat Lam is a Chinese American.

Baterina said people are always surprised to see Filipinos living in Texas.

“A lot of people think that Texas is cowboys and Indians and that we ride on horses but there’s a lot of Filipinos in Houston,” he said. “It’s a big community over there.”

Baterina said America’s Best Dance Crew has so far been an once-in-a-lifetime experience for everybody in the group.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “We’re always going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”

He added that they are working hard to win the competition.

“When we wake up, we practice, we use the bathroom, we sleep and it repeats over and over again,” he said. “It’s never ending. Going to the grocery store is free time for us.”

Puno of Super Cr3w said that if his dance crew wins he’d be showing his Pinoy pride for everybody to see on MTV.

“You know I have a big Phi-lippine flag in my room,” he said. “And if we win this [competition], I’m going to show it to everybody on the dance stage.”


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FilAm Dance Crew No. 1

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — A San Diego-based dance crew with three FilAm members won the inaugural Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew competition on MTV last March 27. More  than 38 million people voted  JabbaWockeeZ as the resounding winner over Status Quo, a Massachusetts-based dance crew.

FilAms Chris Gatdula, Rynan Paguio and Phil Tayag were among six members of the masked group that shared the winning purse of $100,000 and ultimate dance crew recognition.

The Asian Journal tried to contact the FilAm members of the JabbaWockeeZ this past week for an interview but all interviews have to go through MTV, according to a JabbaWockeeZ member.

For eight weeks, the JabbaWockeeZ, break-danced, head spun and even performed the Charleston before being chosen into the finals.

The group’s signature style and synchronized dance routines  to the latest music impressed the judges rapper Lil’ Mama, hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks and former N’ Sync member, JC Chasez. The group only made the elimination round once during the competition.

The JabbaWockeeZ always wears their signature mask to concentrate on the group to give the allusion that no individual member stand out from the rest of the dance crew.

There was also another FilAm dance crew in the competition that made it into the semi-finals. Kaba Modern is a street dance group established in 1992 by a group of kababayans (fellow Filipinos) at the University of California in Irvine, according to the Kaba Modern website.

“The name originally put together to perform as ‘The Modern Suite’ at their Pilipino Culture Night, the group has evolved from being a PCN suite to becoming one of the most cutting-edge hip hop troupes in California,” according to the website.

However, during the semifinals Kaba Modern faced off against the JabbaWockeeZ ,with the latter winning that round to advance to the finals. Ironically, there were no FilAm members who competed for Kaba Modern during the MTV competition.

The JabbaWockeeZ is a 10-member dance crew but only six competed in the MTV event. The name is derived from the “Jabberwocky,” a character in Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s been reported that in total there are five or six FilAm members. The group had 11- members but one, Gary Kendell, passed away before the competition. His death was a recurring story line on MTV and source of inspiration for the JabbaWockeez throughout the competition.

Partying with the Jabbas

After the decision had been rendered, the members of the JabbaWockeeZ partied it up in the Hollywood night scene. The members were seen at the Bungalow Club after the win, then Shag nightclub on Friday and Saturday at the Highlands Hollywood club.

FilAm Lorraine Caguin, a friend of Gatdula’s since 1997, partied it up with the group after the win. She observed that the members of the group were mobbed everywhere they went. “It was nonstop,” she added.

Caguin and Gatdula attended high school together at Cimarron Memorial in Las Vegas, NV.

“He [Chris Gatdula] always liked dancing,” recalls Caguin, now a Registered Nurse in a Lakewood Hospital. “I remember when I saw him learning how to do windmills.”

She said that the JabbaWockeeZ dance crew formed in 2003. The members were all from different breakdancing crews. Gatdula was in a break dancing crew called Full Force in Las Vegas, she said. She’s proud of Gatdula and the rest of the JabbaWockeez’ performance.

There was no doubt in her mind that they were going to win the competition when they entered.

“I must have voted at least 50 times,” admitted Caguin to reinforce their winning. “I was just clicking on my computer and posted everyone to vote for them on my personal myspace.”

The competition isolated the group from their friends and family.

“Throughout the competition, they were on lock down. They couldn’t communicate with the public, make phonecalls, or check their laptops. They weren’t allowed to talk or see anybody they know,” Caguin explained.

She said Gatdula expressed his fears to her about the final round against Status Quo. “He felt confident that they were the better dance crew throughout the competition but he was scared since everyone expected the JabbaWockeeZ to win that no one was going to actually vote for them,” she said.

She doesn’t know what Gatdula and the other members are going to do with the $100,000 cash prize. “They are thinking of either splitting it or possibly investing it into the group.”


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