Manila teens invited to train at prestigious NYC ballet school

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Raye Vince Pelegrin. Photos by Erica Wolf/ ABT

Raye Vince Pelegrin. Photos by Erica Wolf/ ABT

By April Deocariza

Two Filipino students who performed on stage with Stella Abrera and her fellow American Ballet Theatre colleagues are now in New York City receiving the training experience of a lifetime.

Steps Dance Studio scholars Elwince Magbitang and Raye Vince Pelegrin, both 16 years old, received invitations to study for one year at the elite Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, ABT’s pre-professional ballet training program. The talented boys were spotted while being coached for the Manila gala by Abrera’s husband, Sascha Radetsky, a former soloist with ABT.

This past April, Abrera, the first Filipino American principal dancer with the world-renowned American Ballet Theatre hosted a gala performance in Manila to benefit the Ayala Foundation’s CENTEX program (Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education) which provides holistic, quality education for bright children from economically disadvantaged families. The gala was in collaboration with Manila’s Steps Dance Studio, founded by former Ballet Philippines dancer Sofia Zobel Elizalde.

“These gentlemen had solid technical fundamentals, style, and a very apparent–and infectious–love of dance,” said Radetsky of Magbitang and Pelegrin.

“I felt blessed and surprised,” described Magbitang after he learned about the opportunity. “I didn’t expect that this would happen to us and this would be our stepping stone into a career in dance.”

“I was thrilled and ecstatic because I know that it will be a great opportunity and a fun experience for me,” added Pelegrin.

Pelegrin, Magbitang: ‘Blessed, thrilled.’

Pelegrin, Magbitang: ‘Blessed, thrilled.’

The boys began the training program in the fall, but it wasn’t their first time dancing in New York. Magbitang and Pelegrin were also scholars at the ‘Extreme Ballet’ intensive program this past summer at the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center located in Tivoli, New York. The dancers received coaching from both Abrera and Radetsky during the three-week course.

“I mostly worked with them when setting and coaching an excerpt from Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Seven Sonatas’,” said Abrera. “They were extremely quick in learning the choreography and absorbed the information I gave them about style and musicality. It was a real pleasure to see them evolve in the solos as they worked on them.”

Pelegrin hails from Pasay City. The son of a limousine driver and call center agent, he completed his elementary education at Malate Catholic School. From seventh to ninth grade, he studied at APEC School and finished tenth grade at Emilio Aguinaldo College-Manila. He began his dance training at age 8 studying ballet, jazz and modern dance at Steps Dance Studio. He was inspired to dance after watching his two brothers, also Steps students, dancing on stage. After auditioning, he received a scholarship under the Steps Dance Studio Foundation.

Magbitang grew up in Manila and began dancing at Steps at age 9. His father works as a tricycle driver, while his mother is a caretaker. He was a CENTEX scholar from kindergarten until grade six and attended APEC Schools for high school.

The boys are already enjoying all that New York City has to offer.

“My favorite thing about New York is that you can be yourself. You can express yourself without being judged by other people,” said Magbitang.

Pelegrin loves the city vibe. “I love the aesthetic of the buildings and bridges and the people are lovely.”

They are merely teenagers but already receiving world-class training in the dance capitol of the world.

“Rigorous training at a top-flight ballet institution such as ABT, under some of the finest teachers in the world and among students and professionals of the highest level, in the thriving artistic hub that is New York City, will offer these boys the greatest chance of achieving successful and rewarding careers,” said Radetsky.

“I’m sure this year will be an important stepping stone for them, as they continue to work to realize their dreams of becoming professional dancers,” said Abrera.

© The FilAm 2018

Elwince Magbitang

Elwince Magbitang

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