THE STUDIO is filled with upbeat music, its rhythm compelling the people in dancing shoes to warm up in preparation for the intense training that is about to commence.
Some dancers stretch their bodies, preparing it for a tiring rehearsal, while others practice swinging in tiptoes like poetry in motion.
Members of UST Sinag Ballroom Dance Company sway in perfect synchronization as if they are used to the rigor of ballroom dancing, their faces painted with smiles proving their love for dancing.
Notable Artlet dancers are seen scattered in different areas of the studio: Rochelle Salvador is preparing materials in one corner, Reign Juanico is training with his seniors, and Kathreen Dave enters the studio a minute later.
Like ballerinas in music boxes, the lives of these Arlets spin inside the festive community of Sinag.
Stories of passion
As the rehearsal begins, Rochelle eyes her juniors conditioning their bodies for another night of training. Being a pioneer, she has had an inclination toward dancing for the longest time.
After discovering her love for the craft in elementary, the senior standard dancer eventually found a true sanctuary and family in Sinag.
“Ever since, nagsasayaw na ‘ko. ‘Yung fire sa passion mo mas umaalab,” she explains as she puts on her dancing shoes.
While most dancers wince in pain, Rochelle continues stretching unfazed as her fiery desire shows that ballroom dancing is more than just a genre of dance.
Just as every ship crew has its captain, Sinag standard dancers have Kathreen as their guide. While she continues her stretching routine, she recalls joining the group in its inaugural year.
Before loving ballroom dancing, the standard dance captain admits to being unsure at first about whether to pursue singing or dancing.
“Whenever I sing kasi, parang ‘di ako ganoon ka-confident on stage… Pero kapag [sumasayaw] ako together with my teammates nung high school, ‘di ako kinakabahan, parang feeling ko super energetic ako, lagi kong gustong humarap sa crowd,” she reminisces as she takes a breather.
Kathreen recalls an important event in her dancing career: UAAP Season 79. It was when she first danced before a Thomasian crowd—she even remembers how she performed with tears of joy.
Emerging from the pool of senior Sinag members, Mao is the newcomer with an undeniable passion for dancing.
Although entering the seminary may have impeded the junior latin dancer’s “hidden passion” for folk dancing when he was in elementary, his social dance class as a Thomasian senior high school student sparked a fire within him that has been hidden for years.
“I felt the nostalgic feeling back when I was in elementary,” he shares.
Despite freshly stepping into the studio, the philosophy student is already determined to reach his goals with Sinag.
“As of now, parang naiisip ko lang na maging like my seniors… [Ang] goal ko ay maging kasing galing nila at makapag-compete na,” he says as he follows the lead of his dancing partner.
Bonded by the love for dance
The click-clacks of their heels harmonize with the beat of the music as they rehearse their routine. The pairs gracefully turn and sway in unison like tree branches on a windy day.
With every flawless swing of their hips and graceful wave of their hands, victory becomes more and more certain for the team in the ballroom competition of UAAP Season 81.
As the dancers took five, smiles and laughter filled the studio, revealing how close the members are to one another regardless of whether trainee or senior.
Rochelle, a senior journalism student, shares that although most of the current members are graduating, Sinag will remain in the good hands of impassioned trainees.
“‘Yung mga trainee, willing naman sila matuto. So, ‘yung mga sumunod sa’min, feeling naman namin ‘di nila pababayaan [ang Sinag]. Kung ano ‘yung passion na binubuo nila, mag–se-stay pa rin talaga ‘yun. Sinag kasi is family na for me, for us. Sobrang bonded na kasi namin,” Rochelle shares.
“Hindi lang siya basta pamilya na friends. Isa siyang pamilya ng mga passionate member. Kahit wala masyadong benefit ‘yung Sinag ngayon kasi bago pa lang, nakikita ko ‘yung Sinag as a family of passionate people,” Mao adds.
For aspiring journalist Kathreen, Sinag is the “light” of her college life.
“Bilang ‘Sinag’ ang pangalan niya, siya ‘yung liwanag sa college life ko. Masyado kasing overwhelming ang journalism sa papers, sa readings. Siya talaga yung stress reliever ko,” she says.
Meanwhile, Rochelle describes Sinag as her “sweet escape.”
“As a graduating student, mahirap kasi talaga pagsabayin. Kalaban mo dito [‘yung] oras, priorities mo bilang estudyante [at] bilang dancer. Ito ‘yung sweet escape ko kasi… once na tumapak ka sa dance floor, iisipin mo na lang sumayaw, mag-enjoy,” she asserts.
Making a mark
The three Artlet dancers’ love for Sinag shines brighter as time passes. Kathreen, Rochelle, and Mao exchanged smiles while sharing their experiences.
Amid laughter, the team’s president Clyde Layug and Latin-American Dance Captain Sabrina Ortega joined in and shared their views on the newest dance team.
“May nakakabit na stereotype na kapag sinabing ballroom dancing, ‘di common [na] bata ‘yung gumagawa. Kaya nandito ‘yung Sinag [para] ipakita sa buong Thomasian community na puwede pa rin siyang pang-youth,” says Sabrina.
“Ginagawa namin ‘to for passion. Mahirap kasi magkakaiba-iba kami ng college, magkakahiwalay yung oras ng availability namin, mahirap makumpleto. Siguro kailangan pa ng motivation talaga,” Clyde adds.
Despite these struggles, Sinag continues to dream big and soar high.
“Hintay lang kayo. Lalago rin ‘to,” Mao suddenly declares, causing the group to burst in laughter.
“Hindi kami titigil hangga’t ‘di kami makikilala rito. Hindi kami titigil talaga hangga’t ‘di kami nakakapag-compete nang halos lahat ng Thomasians nakikipag–agawan sa ticket para lang makita kami,” Clyde stresses.
With limbs tired but souls determined, the Sinag dancers wave one another goodbye—smiling despite exhaustion, knowing they are one step closer to the limelight. F ROMMEL BONG R. FUERTES JR. and SYRAH VIVIEN J. INOCENCIO