MANILA, Philippines – Mickey Yatar has earned a unique shot to showcase his dancing flair in the world stage.
So even if the champion street dancer from Baguio feels quite anxious, he also feels more than thrilled to test his skills and represent the Philippines in a bigger competition.
“Of course anyone will feel nervous, but I’m more excited than nervous in this world finals because it’s a blessing to see so many amazing dancers, and by watching them, it can really spark something in you,” said Yatar.
The 31-year-old will represent the country in the world finals of Red Bull Dance Your Style on December 10 in Johannesburg, South Africa after ruling the national finals last July.
“You get stronger too and better just by watching the masters at work,” said Yatar. “So yeah, I’m excited to see them and showcase Filipino talent on the world stage.”
Yatar wants to win the global event not just for himself. By making a global mark, he knows it can leave a lasting impact on aspiring Filipino dancers and push the sport in the Philippines to a higher level.
“I feel like this is an opportunity for Filipinos to see the value of dance, that there are people like me who are very passionate in dance and really want dance as their path to get inspired,” Yatar shared.
As fun as street dancing looks, Yatar shares it takes a lot of effort to balance the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of his training.
Yatar works hard in the gym to strengthen his body, performs movement exercises, and makes sure to keep up with his conditioning. In preparing for the world finals, he also visits other places like La Union to prepare himself for whatever weather welcomes him in South Africa.
While he used to practice everyday, Yatar shares now that he’s older, he has learned to prioritize the importance of recovering from heavy physical training. He does not want to overwork his body, he says, to avoid any unnecessary problems before the big dance.
“So my practice in a week, I at least have three dance training and then maybe twice for conditioning,” he said. “like going to the gym, like having morning training and then full stretches and all that so I balance it too.”
“Hindi lang bugbog ganun (You can’t overwork yourself),” he added. “It’s hard, even for the knees because I’ve been dancing for a long time already, so the injuries and all that, sometimes it’s hard to avoid.”
Yatar also makes sure to get the mental and spiritual aspects in check.
“I’m really like trying to have the right mindset for the competition because it’s very overwhelming once you get there,” he shared.
“So if you have the right mindset, you’re gonna stay focused.”
Yatar isn’t working alone, though, as he has his coach, Lea Angelica Alhambra, to help him.
Alhambra, who was also his coach in the national finals, plans his training and gives tips on what to expect in the global competition.
“She reminded me of the things that I’m good at, and also my weaknesses, so maybe I can work on them with the given time left,” he said.
Rediscovering his passion
Despite coming out on top in the national finals, Yatar shares he also had to deal with some personal struggles early in the pandemic.
For almost two years, Yatar stayed in Baguio and tried to cope with what was happening around the world by distracting himself with video games, reading and learning new things, and staying on the internet to connect with friends.
He admittedly lost his passion for dancing at that time.
“I said I’ll take a break from dancing because it was also hard that I was the only one dancing in the room,” he said.
“I tried to keep my dancing at home, but it was hard. It was hard to get inspired, you didn’t know what will happen after the pandemic, there were so many uncertainties that time.”
The only thing that kept Yatar from completely letting go of dancing were the social media activities of his fellow dancers.
“I’m still seeing them grow and it kinda helped me to keep my passion for dance even though I’m taking a break,” he shared.
The hiatus finally ended when Yatar caught wind of the first Red Bull Dance Your Style Philippines competition.
“I think two months before June when we learned about it,” he said. “When I found out, that’s when I started becoming active in dance again.”
Due to his limited preparation time, Yatar felt a bit of panic, but at the same time, energized to train once more because he had something to look forward to.
“I came back to dance because of friends and the community,” he said.
In the global finals, Yatar wishes to elevate the sport in the country and inspire more Filipinos to pursue dancing.
“My dream for the community is for them to have the same opportunities to showcase Filipino talent outside because it’s so hard for Filipinos to really go out,” he said.
“There’s so many things that we have to deal with outside dance just so we get that privilege to represent and all that. It’s not enough that you’re just a good dancer.”
Securing visas, he notes, is just one of the issues that dancers usually need to hurdle whenever they want to compete or bring their talent overseas.
But Yatar hopes challenges like these won’t stop aspiring Filipino dancers.
“There are many in our community who are very talented, really good dancers, very artistic and creative who haven’t had the chance to be seen outside,” he said. “And that will give our country so much honor once people get to see that.”