by Rod Escobar Cantiveros
Local ballet dancer Justin Calvadores might be young, but he’s well on his way to reaching his goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer. While he entered the world of professional dance later than some, his drive and determination have helped him land a starring role in RWB’s holiday classic, Nutcracker. Calvadores hopes he’ll inspire others just like him to follow their dance dreams.
FJ: It is amazing to have a very talented Filipino Canadian to grace the celebrated tradition of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Nutcracker. How did you reach this level within the performing arts?
JC: I started dancing at Sisler in Sisler’s Most Wanted, and from there I began doing hip hop, jazz, disco and ballroom. I remember one teacher telling me I was naturally good at ballet so I searched the internet for local studios and I begged my Dad to bring me to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to sign me up for classes. I started in the RWB School Recreational Division and during my final dance recital in 2012, the Director from the Professional School was in the audience and saw my final piece which resulted in an invitation to attend the four-week Summer Session in July. It was an amazing honor to be considered for the program. From there, I’ve joined the full time program which has contributed so much to my development.
FJ: Who influenced you to make ballet your chosen career? How about your current inspiration?
JC: At first, I wasn’t sure if ballet was the direction I wanted to take, but what I learned quickly is that ballet is an amazing foundation for all styles of dance. If you are strong at ballet, your technique in all of your other dance styles will improve. Once I realized this, I decided I wanted to pursue this style of dance and this is when my love for ballet really started to develop.
As for my inspiration, it would definitely be the teachers at the RWB School and definitely my parents. I think about the level of sacrifice and support that my parents offer me and none of this would be possible without them.
FJ: Ballet is something foreign to most members of the Filipino community. You can count very few ballet enthusiasts in the community, would this be your medium to inspire the community to enjoy ballet?
JC: I definitely hope that my dance is inspiring to others. It feels wonderful to be representing the Filipino community and it feels good knowing that this could be the start of many other Filipino young people thinking about getting involved in ballet or even other styles of dance in the Winnipeg dance community.
FJ: What were the challenges you faced at first when you decided that ballet would be the foremost interest in your life.
JC: Starting late! (laughs) It’s been a real challenge starting at this age. I was going into grade 10 when I first started and at first I felt behind some of the other students in my class. But through this process, I’ve learnt that it’s never really too late – that every person has their path to take, their story. The silver lining of starting late is that it has helped me to appreciate the journey and use the time that I have with dance to really love each moment.
FJ: How do you develop and perform the character that is assigned to you?
JC: When I am first exposed to the choreography, I think about who the character is, why they’re there and their intention. I then go through each movement and really break it down. I want to make sure that in performance, with every movement, my character is connecting with the audience.
FJ: As a role model, what is your advice to your Filipino friends pursuing this career?
JC: I want to encourage younger students, if they have that passion or desire to start dancing, to not hesitate. Dance is a very disciplined art form where you learn a lot about yourself, how to overcome challenges, how to persevere through struggles, while having a lot of fun at the same time. It has been a great experience for me.
FJ: Fifteen years from now, who will Justin Calvadores be?
JC: It’s hard to know exactly, but I’ve always told myself that no matter where I am in the future I want to make sure that what I’m doing what I love and what makes me happy – so whether I am involved in dance as a dancer, a choreographer or a teacher – right now I feel like those are all paths that are possible. Wherever I do end up, I hope to have reached out and inspired people along the way.
Justin Calvadores is a current student in the RWB School Professional Division and will be starring as Julien in the RWB’s Nutcracker which runs from December 19-29 at the Centennial Concert Hall.