03/06/2016

Waiting in the wings

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It’s a daunting task, maybe premature to some extent — to dub these young’ns as the vanguard of the performing arts scene. What do they know at this point, right, when they’ve barely even begun? Angela Lansbury calls ‘em “whippersnappers” — that is, young and inexperienced yet already presumptuous and overly confident. But we mustn’t forget, Mrs. Potts (and the woman behind Murder She Wrote) is also of a different generation, where permission is scarce if nonexistent, and artists’ backs are proverbially against the wall.

Our generation of performers is a tad different — governed by heightened sensibility, exposure via domestic choice and social media, and an irreverent, unbridled passion to aim for the stars. For them, it’s okay to be overly confident; to be driven; it’s okay to dream big because they have permission to — permission granted by those that blazed the trail before them.

From opera to ballet, theater to hip-hop, soul to contemporary, Young STAR assembled a group of passionati who are doing right by their creative DNA — proving that in this day and age, passion is the foremost currency towards world domination.

Missy Macuja-Elizalde, 16 (@misseh_elizalde)ballerina and theater actress

Where you’ve seen her:

Ballet Manila’s The Nutcracker, Tatlo Pang Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang, and La Cage Aux Folles

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Who are your idols in the industry?

In the ballet world, my mom Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Osias Barroso, Natalia Osipova, Misty Copeland, Roberto Bolle and Maya Plitsetskaya. In the theater world, Ramin Karimloo, Lea Salonga, Sierra Boggess, Rachel Tucker, James Snyder and Idina Menzel.

If you had the opportunity to study your craft, where would you do it?

I’d love to travel to study dance (or maybe even theater!) either in London or New York. The advice given to me at the beginning of my college search in sophomore year was “If you want to major in and explore a fine art like dance, go to college in a major arts city. Like New York, Paris, or London.” Hopefully I’m lucky enough to make it into a great university!

What’s your dream role?

I would love to dance Kitri from Don Quixote because I think that Kitri is such a relatable and fun character as she strays from the typical ballerina role. It is also my mom’s signature role which makes it all the more special. I also want to dance Juliet because her character has so much depth and character development, and I’ve always been in love with the hopeless romantic idea of doing anything for love.

If you could collaborate with another genre for a project, what would it be?

I think an interesting take on ballet would be if aerial dancing were added, although this has sort of been done before. Since ballet is all about pulling up and reaching out, I think adding flight would go the extra mile. Plus flying is really awesome.

Ejay Yatco, 24 (@ejayatco) musical director and composer

Where you’ve seen his work:

Friction, Toilet the Musical, Dani Girl and Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady

When did you first develop a passion for music?

I started taking classical piano when I was five or six. I did a Trumpets workshop at 17. And that’s what introduced me to the world of musical theater. I did Ateneo Blue Repertory when I was in college. I’ve been a musical director since.

If you could study music further, where would you do it?

Probably Tisch (in New York). They have a musical theater writing program there. Joe Iconis is a graduate. He wrote some songs for Smash.

Who do you look up to in your industry?

Alan Menken. Jason Robert Brown. Pasek and Paul. And after doing Dani Girl recently, I really appreciate Kooman and Dimond. Locally, Vince de Jesus, Ryan Cayabyab and Rony Fortich. Willy Cruz. Louie Ocampo.

What is your dream project or collaboration?

I’ve always wanted to do my own version of The Little Mermaid with my own original music but not set in the sea. Kind of like Once on this Island. I’ve always wanted to work on a dance-ical — like write music for a dance musical where it’s all contemporary dance.

Rachel Coates, 18 (@theatrachel)
theater actress

Where you’ve seen her:
Scrooge, Fate, Romeo and Juliet

When did your passion for theater first spark?

When I first moved here to the Philippines 10 years ago. I was this really awkward kid who had no idea how to express myself. We were being homeschooled by my mom. Theater was incorporated into our learning methods. We learned the alphabet by singing it. The times tables by singing it.

Who are your idols in the industry?

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. Joel Trinidad. I tend to look up to actors who crossed over and became directors. A lot of the Red Turnips. People who are thorough about their process as actors. And of course, Shakespeare.

If you could study theater further, where would you do it?

University of the Philippines. I feel their theater program is very comprehensive. They’re diverse — and I think that’s what’s important here in the Philippines.

Dream role.

I’d really like to do more Shakespeare. Of course, the immaculate Lady Macbeth. I’d also like to do a gender-bend character. Like maybe Queen Lear.

Timmy Pavino, 24 (@timmypavino) pop singer and semi-finalist, The Voice

When did your passion for singing begin?

I kept watching Aladdin. I kept humming A Whole New World. My parents made me sing it. I sang it to them. It’s the first time they heard me sing. They would always put me in front of people. Eventually I got used to it.

Who are your idols?

Lea Salonga.Meeting her was kind of a full circle moment — especially with The Voice. I also listen to a lot of Martin and Gary. Now, I like Ramin Karimloo in theater and in pop music, Justin Timberlake. I respect the producing point of view. I think more like a producer now and a songwriter than just a singer. The singer part has become second nature.

If you could have your own concert, who would be your guest stars?

I’d love to have Mr. C as a musical director. Regine and Martin — them, too. They have so many ideas that are authentically OPM.

Best thing you learned in your time on The Voice.

The industry is so small. Play fair and be honest. Relationships are important, for your own integrity and dignity. You should respect your own craft and the craft of others.

Jon Abella, 23 (@itsjonabella) theater actor and dancer

Where you’ve seen him:

Dulaang UP’s Ang Nawalang Kapatid, Dulaang Laboratoryo’s Ouroboros

Three words to describe yourself:

Passionate, geeky, determined.

What’s your dream role?

Aladdin. I love Aladdin.

If you could collaborate with someone, who would it be?

Ian McKellen! The things that you can learn from him just by watching him perform. And who wouldn’t want to be onstage with Magneto and Mithrandir?

What advice can you give young people who want to get into theater?

Make all the mistakes that you can make. Right now, I just want to grab all the opportunities. Wag mo dayain. Never, ever cheat. There are no small roles in the theater. Never aim for applause.

Janine Samaniego, 23 (@anna_janine) violinist

Where you’ve seen her work:

Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini; featured soloist of UP Arco’s Strings of Hope Concert; Friction

Tell me something about yourself.

Before being a violinist, I was a pianist. Then I got dengue. I had a change of heart. So I pursued violin more. I may be a violinist but I’m very, very, very shy about performing in front of people, especially family. I don’t know. I think it’s because they know I’m a violinist so I have to be good at it.

How did you first get into playing the violin?

When I was K2 in St. Paul (Pasig), my classroom was beside the music room. It was made of glass windows lang. Every day, without fail, I would peep through the glass doors and I’d look at the people who’d play the violin. One day, they invited me in. And they asked me to play. My parents didn’t believe it.

Who are your idols?

Julia Fischer. She can also play the piano and violin at the same time — concert-level. Sobrang galing. And then, Sarah Chang.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Having my own studio, teaching kids, and performing once in a while in concerts with an orchestra.

Jana Mahusay, 20 (@janamahusay) hip-hop dancer, member of the A-Team, champions at the 2014 Hip-Hop International World Championship

Talk about your lineage in dance.

My mom used to be part of Hotlegs. Also my tita. And my lola used to be part of Bayanihan. And my Titoused to be part of the Maneuvers. He’s one of the pioneer members of Ateneo CADS.

I suppose it runs in the family! Who do you look up to in the industry?

My coaches, MJ Arda and Angelica Arda. Internationally, Parris Goebel. She’s from New Zealand. She’s amazing. I haven’t seen anyone dance like her. And she started very young. And she’s not skinny. She’s pretty malaman. Gives me hope. Ha-ha!

What’s your dream project?

To dance for Beyoncé. Or have a whole concert for my team — the A-Team.

How do you see yourself growing in the next five years?

For sure, I’d still be dancing, but I hope I’d be way better technically and that I’d be able to handle criticism properly. I hope that by that time, I’d be able to inspire way more people than we are now. I want them to believe that anything is possible if they put their blood, sweat and tears into it.

Michael Que, 21 contemporary dancer

Where you’ve seen him:

Pavilion IV, Layag (champion, NCCA Sayaw Pinoy Competition 2014), Class Menu Revisted

When did you fall in love with contemporary dance?

Actually, galing ako sa Makiling School for the Arts. I was a folk dance major. Medyo na-open sa akin yung contemporary dance.

What do you love most about it?

Improvisation. May liberty ka. Nakakagulat na may magagawa ka na something out of nothing. Surprising talaga.

If you could study dance further, where would you do it?

May girlfriend akong nasa States ngayon. Mag-e-MFA siya, either Arizona, Iowa or Florida. Kung saan siya, sana ‘dun din ako. Siya performing arts, ako choreography.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

Right now, parating composer. So siguro composer — may batuhan ng ideas.

Toni B, 23 (@tonibmusic) soul singer

Where you’ve seen her:

Madfest feat. Kimbra, Route 196, SaGuijo, Craft and 12 Monkeys.

What’s your favorite track on your album, “Carnival”?

Definitely Bang Bang. It’s like that whole tease and taze. Me and my band were going crazy doing it.

Who do you look up to?

People tell me my music reminds them of Regina Spektor. But my other songs are more inspired by Motown. The old feel as opposed to the new kind of feel. This new album I’m working on is more swing, foxtrot. Imagine Great Gatsby.

What’s your dream project?

Still songwriting, but in a different field. I want to do more things in sound design. Like for example, horror movies. I want to know how to make those sounds that are very subtle but give you enough oomph — that make you uncomfortable while watching it. I learned recently that the guy who designed the sounds for The Exorcist, he recorded a bunch of weird things — one was a jar that had bees in it, and then he played that backwards at a low volume. That’s the kind of thing I want to do. Making sounds that make you feel something.

What advice can give young people?

Just because everyone’s doing a certain kind of thing right now, what’s in style right now — don’t go with what they say. At the end of the day, you don’t want to fit in for the time being. You want to mark yourself and distinguish yourself.

Mariel de Leon, 21 (@mariaangelicadl) Cheska Ostrea, 18 (@francheshirecatt) Cris Go, 20 (@wheredidcrisgo) The Opera Belles, opera singers

When did your passion for opera ignite?

Mariel: I watched the play of Philippine Opera Company — Maria Callas’ Master Class. After that, I kept searching for other types of singers and songs.

Cheska: I started in theater. Now I’m with the Opera Belles.

Cris: I started when I was 13 and I entered the Philippine High School for the Arts. I was a voice major — that’s where I learned about classical singing. Then I started watching operas in the Philippines — like La Boheme.

Three words to describe your music.

Cheska: Classy.

Cris: New.

Mariel: Game-changing.

What are your dream roles in the opera?

Cris: To reach out to the younger generation — to bring the classical sound with pop to them. Of course, albums, concerts.

Cheska: In theater, maybe something different from the usual. Like a bad girl.

Marielle: Violetta in La Traviata. In theater, of course Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera.

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Photography by JOSEPH PASCUAL

Additional sittings by MARGARITA BUENAVENTURA
Produced by TOFF DE VENECIA

Shot at WHITESPACE

Special thanks to CRIS VILLONCO

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