Lisa Macuja School of Ballet bag Top Prize at Asian Grand Prix competition in Hong Kong

Filipino Prima Ballerina present her bemedaled teen danseurs fresh off their win at the 2018 Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition. Photo courtesy of Ballet Manila Archives.

Teen danseurs from The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet have proven they are Asia’s best ballet dancers, standing toe-to-toe with their female counterparts at the 2018 Asian Grand Prix (AGP) International Ballet Competition held in August at the Hong Kong Academy.

The Ballet Manila (BM) teen danseurs, Rafael Perez and Brian Sevilla, both won the top prize in their own categories tied with female ballerinas. The two male ballet dancers were the only Filipinos given medals at the 8th edition of the AGP.

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Brian Sevilla, 16 years old, won the AGP 2018 Junior B Division Gold Medal.
Rafael Perez, 17 years old, won the top Silver Medal at the AGP 2018 Senior Division. No gold was given in the senior category.

Gold medalist Sevilla also won the Queensland Ballet Academy 2-week scholarship, a cash prize from Atelier Yoshino to help him reach his scholarship destination, and a Gaynor Minden Prize consisting of products from the dancewear brand.

Sevilla had previously won the Junior B Silver Medal at the 2017 AGP.

Ballet Manila recounts the teen danseurs’ journey to their medal finish:

“Dancing the Franz Variation from Coppelia, Sevilla was one of just three boys remaining in the Junior B finals, competing with 12 girls. Perez, who danced the Basilio Variation from Don Quixote, was one of four boys left in the Senior finals, along with six girls.”

BM is led by its artistic director and School director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, the Philippines’ first Prima Ballerina and first foreign soloist to join the Kirov Ballet.

Macuja-Elizalde applauded the young Filipino dancers saying, “The fact that Rafael won the Senior silver and Brian won the Junior B gold indicate that the training in Ballet Manila in classical ballet is up to par with the best and older institutions of dance.”

“Also, it is a triumph for our male scholarship program and Project Ballet Futures,” the prima ballerina was quoted in a BM article, referring to the ballet school’s scholarship program. The efforts have been so successful that BM for several years now has had more male than female dancers in its ranks.

Garry Trinder, AGP jury president, noted the dearth in male participants, accounting for only ten percent of 240 competitors this year.

“What I am pleased with the most is that Ballet Manila has established itself as a force in international ballet competitions especially this year, and is now particularly known as the producer of top-caliber male ballet dancers!” said an enthusiastic Macuja-Elizalde.

Herself a prize-winner in her earlier years, Macuja-Elizalde believes that joining competitions such as AGP contributes to the development of BM dancers as they represent their Russian Vaganova training and as they meet peers from other parts of the world.

“You win some and you lose some. Ballet competitions are all part of life and you always win no matter what the results are because of the learning and the journey,” she said.

Sevilla will be joined by another Philippine ballet school competitor, Sabine Nicole Burket of Danspace Ballet School, who also won a 2-week scholarship to Queensland Ballet Academy, and the Atelier Yoshino Prize travel expenses support to scholarship destination.

Another member of the Philippine schools’ delegation, Annika Angeline Browne of Dance Theater Arts, was given the Sansha Prize for placing 5th in her division.

Brian Sevilla and Rafael Perez emerged as AGP winners competing among 240 of the best dancers from the Asia-Pacific region. Over 700 dancers competed for finals slots at the 10 regional competitions held earlier this year.

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