Everything starts with a dream. Clichéd as it may sound, it’s true. Hopes, dreams, and passion are only some of the many reasons on how local semi-professional dance team The Alliance was brought to life. It all started out with coaches JJ San Juan and Andrew Sha’s desire to make the dreams of their fellow dancers come true—to dance on the international stage and represent the Philippines. Founded in 2013, The Alliance is now one of the most sought after dance teams in the country. Fresh from their bronze podium finish at the varsity division of the recently concluded Hip-Hop International 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, I sat down with some of their members, JC Calderon, Steffi Tolentino, Dan Delgado, Royce Resuello, JP Alcantara, Dae Rondilla, and Jamon Martin as they talked about the journey of the team, from local training grounds to dance stages all over the world.
It was a stormy Saturday morning when I met the team. Some were new faces, some weren’t, as two of them were my former dance mates from another group. A long time ago, I was a dancer too. We were all gathered in the holding area preparing for the shoot, while we anxiously checked up on results of the semi-finals of HHI 2016, happening that very moment. They were praying for their teammates representing the varsity division of the championship. The shoot was a breeze. Just as they projected faces on video with those killer moves, they absolutely pulled it off on photograph too. I was mostly excited for the video part, as we made them dance to Drake’s “Too Good.” And while I watched them move, I was discreetly wiping tears from my eyes, for I was secretly wishing that I could be there, dancing like that again too.
After the shoot, we sat down for the interview like friends coming together to catch up. I asked them where The Alliance is now, and how the journey has been ever since they started. “We can’t really say that we’re there yet. Our direction is ‘going there.’ It’s definitely not a golden road. We need to train every day to sync our movements, to put The Alliance personality in our members,” says Jamon Martin, The Alliance’s head of marketing and promotions. In a span of three years in the dance scene, The Alliance has bagged recognition from different dance competitions, locally and internationally. They have been competing in the prestigious stages of the World Hip-Hop Dance Championship, Hip-Hop International, and World of Dance. But all of these don’t just come naturally. It takes a whole lot of work to get to that level. “We do our best every day to improve, to learn and to adapt everything that we can. Dance-wise, life-wise, anything [that we can learn] outside our comfort zones,” Jamon tells me. The Alliance is an open dance team, meaning the members come from different schools, teams, and institutions. They were raised in dance in different cultures and practices, and as a team, they all help each other instill the personality of The Alliance in each and every member. “Every day, we’re learning. We’re improving,” JP Alcantara adds. They share that every single day is a two-way process. Everyone learns from each other. The leaders impose The Alliance personality on the members, while the members, coming from other teams, get to share who they are and where they come from. From there, they create something else, something improved.
Struggles aren’t new to The Alliance. Before they can come up with beautiful dance routines, there are lots to go through first. “If we have a competition or any performance at all, the first thing we have to do is to train for it. We have to make new routines. So unang una naming ini-invest is ’yung time namin. Some of us are working. Some of us are still studying. We really have to balance our time and schedule. Even though pagod na from school or work, we really have to do it kasi we committed to it. And we love what we do. That’s what matters,” Jamon says, and everyone agrees–not just for The Alliance, but for every dance team out there. They are all faced with financial, emotional, and other struggles. And I think all dance teams would agree when I say that support is very much needed. “Napapansin lang kami kapag nanalo na. Sana every step of the way, doon ’yung support,” the team pleads. “We hope more people get to accept what we do, and what we dance for. It’s also a matter of a generation relating to another. Maybe they’re still trying to understand that this is something worth supporting, and I guess we just have to wait and continue proving to them that it’s worth it,” says JP.
I asked them how all these struggles have made them the dancers, or even the people, that they are today. “I believe it honed our discipline more. We were able to improve our time management skills. We learn to set our priorities straight. And ’yung maturity level namin. The youngest members of our team are around 15 years old. When you compare them to other 15-year-olds, they’re different. We don’t baby them; we treat them as equals. And mas na-e-expose kami sa iba’t ibang types ng tao, na-i-improve kami kung paano kami mag-a adjust.”
[pull_quote]“Dancing is something you do because you want it. You’re not dancing to impress anyone. You’re dancing because you want to satisfy yourself, your passion, your growth.”[/pull_quote]
Not every journey is a winding road filled with struggles. As they shared the good points of building the team, I couldn’t help but recall familiar memories from my dancing past. “We consider each of our members as family. We try to connect within The Alliance not just as co-dancers, but also as people, as friends. We also share the same interests, passions. We get along in so many ways and we’re just thankful that we met along the way,” Jamon shares. The team is deeply inspired by a lot of factors, and the people they meet are not an exception. “Now, there are so many emerging good teams coming from the Philippines that are really good and ang sarap ng feeling na ang dami naming napagkukuhanan ng inspiration ngayon.” It’s really not about the competition all the time. It’s mainly more about what they can get from the journey. “We come to The Alliance full of inspiration and hungry to learn more. The team keeps this fire burning,” JP says.
In The Alliance, they don’t just focus on honing their dancing skills. “We don’t just train our members artistically. We also train them with moral values. We teach them real life lessons, things they can use in the real world that you don’t learn in school. We don’t just box ourselves to learn just dance. We try to apply what we can learn from the team that’s useful in other situations,” Jamon tells me. In order to send their members to compete abroad, the team organizes a fundraising dance concert entitled #AllianceSendOff to cover the expenses of the team. Aside from being the performers, the team is also in charge of putting the event together, from promotions to stage design, and even up until logistics.
The Alliance goes by these words: “We change. We adapt. We overcome.” Jamon explains each aspect of the team’s words to live by: “We change, meaning we change the perspective on how they treat dance. We try not just to box ourselves with the styles that we know already. We adapt to what’s new. We adapt to what the people would want to see. We adapt to everything we learn, inside and outside the team. Lastly, we overcome. For every struggle that we face, we overcome it as a team, as a family.”
A message for aspiring dancers, or even dancers who have stopped already, here’s what they have to say: “It has to start with you. Dancing is something you do because you want it. You’re not dancing to impress anyone. You’re dancing because you want to satisfy yourself, your passion, your growth. Kasi ’di ka mag-go-grow sa dance if ’di mo sisimulan sa sarili mo. And sa mga nag-stop na mag-dance kasi ’di pinayagan, wala nang inspiration, may ibang priorities na—once na dancer ka, dancer ka na habangbuhay. ’Di mawawala yung dance.” And by this time, I excused myself, as I could no longer be discreet in wiping the tears off my face.
Editor’s Note: The Alliance are recruiting new members to join their ranks. Check the details below:
Story by Grace de Luna
Photography by Tristan Tamayo
Makeup for Steffi Tolentino, Royce Resuello, and Dae Rondilla by Camille Villaruel.
Grooming for JC Calderon, Dan Delgado, JP Alcantara, and Jamon Martin by Bullet Reyes