Dapitan ballet family’s students win gold, silver in Singapore competition
DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – Ballet is considered here to be earmarked for the affluent. But the love for this form of dancing pushed a Dapitanon family of ballet dancers to impart their talent to the young in Zamboanga del Norte, still among the country’s poorest provinces.
Despite the hardships and financial difficulties of running their own small ballet school – Jete Performing Arts Studio – the family was able to send 3 contestants to Asia-Pacific Arts Festival in Singapore on August 17-18, bringing home two golds and a silver.
Snatching gold medals for “Classical Ballet Solo” category were Reyna Mae Venezuela, a senior high school student of Jose Rizal Memorial State University (JRMSU)-Main Campus in Dapitan and Kaye Lorraine Salcedo of Andres Bonifacio College (ABCollege) in Dipolog City.
Winning a silver medal was Merry Diane Silva, also of ABCollege.
The festival was participated in by delegates from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
“We’re happy that our hard work paid off. We are proud, now we’re no longer looked down as poor people in the mountains that have no sense of grown-up dancing,” said Henedina Zumel-Rocamora, founder and manager of Jete Performing Arts Studio.
Henedina’s 5 children — whom she taught ballet — have already been helping her run the studio since 2008.
But because there is no money in ballet here, Henedina has to work as Physical Education teacher at JRMSU-Main Campus. Her 5 children also have other jobs on the side.
The eldest, Johanna Kay Rocamora-Zamoras, 30, is a commerce graduate and is working at a rural bank; John Ray, 28, took up Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) and just came home after two years of teaching ballet at the Department of Ballet of Thailand (DBT); Jush Anne Rocamora, 25, also a commerce graduate, is now teaching ballet at DBT; Jenny Mae, 23, finished Tourism then worked as non-regular employee at GSIS-Dipolog and is now back to full-time teaching at Jete; and Joseph Ian Rocamora, 21, is studying ballet while finishing HRM.
Jush Anne also brought to the Asia-Pacific Arts Festival her Thai student, who won silver medal.
Henedina said that life with ballet was never easy, “ilabina nga akong mga ginikanan ignorante sa ballet (especially because my parents didn't know what ballet was).”
She finally got a break when a relative shouldered her expenses to study ballet in Silliman University in Dumaguete City. Because of high costs, she transferred to a smaller dance studio.
“Then I just pursued ballet, while working as PE teacher,” Henedina recalled. “I also taught my children. Luckily, we started to be known when my eldest, Kay, was able to join Ballet Philippines.”
She said that joining Ballet Philippines was tough, adding that her heart ached during an interview upon hearing unkind comment: ‘Dapitan? Di ba probinsiya yun? May ballet pala duon?’” (Dapitan? Isn't that a province? There is ballet there?)
Henedina said that in 2008, Gregory Aaron — one of the owners of Atlanta Festival Ballet in Georgia, United States — learned about Johanna Kay and invited her to teach at Ballet Center Cebu, which Aaron had earlier bought.
“Mister Aaron even conducted ballet workshop in Dapitan, and that’s when he knew our family. Maybe he saw something with my children that he invited them to teach in Cebu every summer, and he also helped us produce ballet performances in Dapitan,” Henedina said.
The Rocamoras and Aaron were able to perform Nutcracker, Snow White, Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Swan Lake, and Cinderella in Dapitan with an average cost of only P200,000 for every production.
She said that at first they call their studio “Shrine City Ballet” and later changed it to “Jete Performing Arts Studio." They had studios in Dapitan and in Dipolog, but later closed the Dapitan studio as the growing enrollment became overwhelming, with students mostly coming from Dipolog.
Jete Performing Arts Studio first sent a lone contestant — Aleya Therese Baje from Dapitan — to the Asia-Pacific Arts Festival held in Vietnam in January this year.
Baje brought home a gold medal. —Rappler.com