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Dancesport in the time of pandemic

The loud cheers and nervous heartbeats were in sync as dancers entered the center stage. They smiled at the crowd and prepared their piece. The music drowned the noise and the couple danced in front of the judges. 

Now, though, the big stage is replaced with a small room and the crowd is nothing but a screen. Yet still, they dance to the beat.

Gylle Niño Diluvio is a 19-year-old student-athlete who has represented Cebu City in dancesport for years. He started dancing at 6 years old, but he was hardly interested before his elder sister, who is also teaching the sport, encouraged him. 

Pag start nako dili jud kaayo competitive kay akong level naa pa sa pangbata so lingaw2 pa ang naa sa mindset until na champion ko sa weekly barangay competition then gipili ko para mo compete nationals and regionals,” Gylle said. 

(I did not start out competitive. At that time, my level was just like a young kid enjoying the sport, that was my mindset until I became champion in our weekly barangay competition and I was chosen to compete in nationals and regionals.)

Since then, Gylle had the chance to travel around the Philippines and the world to compete for dancesport. He was the undefeated champion in the juvenile, junior, and youth categories. He's also a four-time Youth Philippine champion and a two-time World Champion Youth winner in Vietnam. 

Gylle has always juggled his passion for dancesport and school since high school. Now a 2nd year BSED Major in Mathematics student at the University of Cebu, he described the experience of balancing his passion and studies as challenging.

Just like all other sports, though, the pandemic has altered the world of dancesport. And for Gylle, the balancing act got even tougher as the sport needed to shift online due to the pandemic.

Before, Gylle described dancesport as lucrative as there were regular events that required constant training. But because of the pandemic, all these were canceled. 

Gylle was supposed to travel in Europe to compete, but it got canceled due to the global health crisis. And like many events, the competitions and training turned virtual.

Although Gylle is not competing at the moment, he's still mentoring other athletes as an assistant coach.

From dancefloor to screen

It is challenging for dancers to train virtually because the sport is a physical activity that involves a big space and a partner. However, dance studios are closed. The dance studio at the Cebu City Sports Complex, where Gylle and his team practice, temporarily houses the Army that is deployed in the city.

For the dancers’ safety, dancesport is now taught through online platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet. Gylle admitted teaching online has been a challenge since dancesport requires a big floor space and hands on training.

Before dali ra jud kaayo, mas sayon e tudlo og bata kay naa jud sa imong atubangan ang bata og makita jud nila ang tarung na execution and pag pandemic perting lisuda,” said Gylle, sharing his experiences as an assistant coach. 

(Before it was easier to teach children because the child is physically in front of you and you could see them properly executing. During the pandemic, it was extremely hard.)

He added that patience is needed for virtual mentoring especially with the slow internet. Dancesport features dances like cha-cha, samba, and waltz that all have intricate moves, and thus, making it difficult to teach when the internet connection lags or disconnects.

Gylle meets with the children he mentors, mostly students from public schools, thrice a week on video meeting platforms. He said it’s important that dancers still train online because “mura ranag eskwela kailangan jud ta mo move forward and find ways para dili ma stop ang learnings.”

(It is just like schooling, we have to move forward and find ways to not stop learning.)

As competitions also shift online, Gylle said dancers just need to get used to performing at home, in front of their gadgets, as judges observe them online.

Competitors still wear costumes, heeled shoes, and makeup as they dance, while the judges observing online will use Google spreadsheet for scoring. Awarding will be done afterwards with the event host posting the certificates online.

Gylle said “almost everything” significantly changed in Philippine dancesport, but some countries have tried returning to live competition.

Dili jud pwede gatherings so dili jud pwede competition and unlike sa lain country like Russia nag competition na jud sila mura rag normal ang tanan,” he said. 

(We are not allowed to have competitions, unlike other countries like Russia that are holding competitions like everything is normal.)

Gylle hopes one day everything will be back to normal so he can train and compete like he used to. He’s hoping to be a Philippines dancesport representative in the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) after previously placing 5th in the Games’ selection.

Right now, the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) only allows non-contact sports to resume. 

I hope na mabalik tanan into normal like walay protocols (I hope everything will go back to normal like without protocols),” said Gylle, adding that it’s also challenging for dancers to execute some of their moves while wearing a mask, aside from the difficulty in breathing.

Lisod jud kaayo mo improve if dili mabalik sa normal tanan (It is hard to improve if everything will not go back to normal).” – Rappler.com

Beatrice Mae M. Garcia is a sophomore student at the University of the Philippines-Cebu studying Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She currently lives in Cebu City but was born and raised in Iligan City.