Mano Amiga alumni, now incoming Philippine High School for the Arts students, shine during ballet recital

The lights dimmed, the curtains opened, and a long line of dolled up children in flounced tutu skirts tiptoe their way across the stage. Much like a wonderland, gigantic playing cards and gargantuan wall clocks hung around a projected screen, welcoming the audience to the magical world of dance.

Dance Basics 2017 recital started with Aladdin’s A Whole New World as the number’s musical backdrop, with some of Mano Amiga’s grade 6 girls dressed in satin, Arab-style ensembles gracefully leaping while waving colored cloths in the air. The program went on number after number reminiscent of fairytale Disney movies – from recent ones like Tangled to the classics like Lion King.

Camille Rosalaes and Jazailah Cababat, Dance Basics scholars and Mano Amiga alumni, shined through with each arabesque and every stretched gallop. It took us back to the moment over six years ago when Dance Basics did a free workshop in Mano Amiga FTI. Crammed in a little classroom, the girls showed unrelenting eagerness to practice and know more about ballet, encouraging Dance Basics’ Trina Zafra and Nesa Tanyag to offer free training and coaching sessions for the two even after their workshop. And just as we thought the program was done, Nesa Tanyag announced they were going to show a send-off tribute to two of their dearest girls.

Tears began pricking our eyes as they presented Camille and Jazailah’s journey. Photos of that crammed room in Taguig with the wide-eyed girls trying to reach their toes, montages of their training with globally renowned prima ballerinas from Ballet Philippines and Julliard University, videos of Jazailah claiming that dancing will allow her to travel the world, and another video from their moms encouraging them to follow their dreams.

This June, our Mano Amiga alumni Camille and Jazailah will start another journey at the Philippine High School for the Arts, after being carefully chosen to be two of the 15 scholars handpicked from 200 applicants across the Philippines. Our girls walked center stage as Trina and Nesa gave them bouquets of flowers – overflowing emotions and gratitude filled the AFP theatre.

In the midst of pirouettes performed, tutus worn, tears wiped, and hugs exchanged, we saw how giving children access to the many dreams that they can pursue is in itself like magic.