WATCH: Ilonggo dancesport duo shares lessons from Palaro 2017
ANTIQUE, Philippines – Marc Layson and Heather Parangan may look like typical grade 10 students, but as the school bell signals the end of a day’s class, they switch their school uniforms for sweatpants and dancing shoes.
On a dimly lit theater, they sweat their hearts out to different beats. On cue, they transform from 17-year-olds into passionate dancers articulating every pose, twist, and turn with their youthful spirit.
Representing Western Visayas for dancesport Latin American-Junior category at the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa 2017 in Antique, Marc and Heather share their journey to Palaro and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
So you think you can dance?
Heather started dancing when she was 8 years old. Since then, she has been competing in dancesport and even won several local inter-school competitions.
“My dancesport journey started when I was in grade 2 and it was love at first dance,” Heather shared.
Marc has also been dancing since elementary. He’s been joining folk dance and hip-hop competitions in school. Though he never thought of joining dancesport.
“My mother was informed that dancesport came back at the festival of talents. I thought it was a good opportunity to dance again so I asked Ma’am Catequista, our adviser in UP, if I can sign-up. Luckily, she was very supportive and said yes.”
Finding a partner wasn't easy for Heather, especially in a school where people put academics above anything else.
“I’ve had three partners in the course of this (Palaro) journey. The first one I’ve trained with for a month but he had to be replaced. The second, we trained for four months but he backed out two weeks before the competition.”
Heather was devastated but she didn’t have to look so far. Turns out, the lucky pair was actually in her class and was also once her partner in an inter-school pageant.
“I couldn’t say no because we also had a partnership. When we were in Grade 7, we became partners at a pageant in ‘Lakan at Mutya’ and we won so our sense of partnership, our connection, might work in dance sport,” Marc shared.
Trust and passion
Marc had to jump right into the routine, with two weeks left before the competition. They had no time to start from the basics.
“I play for varsity volleyball, so the agility and endurance training was fine. The actual dancing, however, was far from the dancing I used to do,” Marc said.
Heather also noted on the difficulty of managing their time between school work and training. "We usually wake up very early to prepare for school, rehearse during breaks then back to class. We train right after till before midnight and stay up late for homework then the cycle continues. We had to triple our efforts, it was exhausting but we really wanted this."
Dance as sport
While some would dismiss dancesport as an actual sport, Marc and Heather agrees that they’re as much an athlete as everyone else.
“The training we go through is as painful as with any other sport. We have to prepare our bodies for three dances multiplied by the number of times we’re gonna be called back to dance as the competition progres," Heather argued.
She added: "We get no time-outs, no substitutions and no breaks more two inhales and two exhales. We experience muscle pains after every rehearsal, we get injured, we sacrifice as much as everyone else,"
Dancesport isn’t exactly a man’s world. While it requires a male counterpart, the movements usually defy masculinity as defined by gender stereotypes. Marc, however, laughs about conforming to gender norms.
“The male partner guides and supports the female partner. Dancesport is equalizing in that sense. One could not perform well without the other partner. It’s about emotions and expression, you just really have to be yourself and enjoy,” he pointed out.
Dancing for their dreams
Marc and Heather ranked 5th against competitors across the country during the Palarong Pambansa 2017 – and it's a feat they both celebrate.
“We may have not won the much coveted medals but we know we did our best. I think our supporters saw that and we will always be champions for them,” Heather shared.
She added: “The road to reach the Palaro is not that easy and it is even harder when you’re already there. The competition is really tough but we’re very blessed to have gone this far. We’re just happy that we had a chance to represent Region 6."
A week after their dancesport debut, they’re back at school wearing their uniforms, ready to take their finals exam. The UP system adjusted its academic calendar and for Marc and Heather, this is another performance they have to nail.
“Our journey doesn’t end here," Marc shared. "I guess now we have to share the gift of dance to other people so they too can have their shot in Palaro." – Rappler.com
Russel Patina is Rappler's lead Mover in Iloilo.