Keziah Marie Pestaño
Region VII

Kristel Ivy Evangelista has been dancing since she was three years old, and it showed in the way she dresses and presents herself. With her hair neatly placed in a low bun, the airpods stuck in her ears were prominent. Her ears, neck, and wrist were adorned with sparkly jewelry which did not miss my eyes. All in all, I was certain she was privileged.

I doubted how I would be able to properly connect with someone whose life was clearly the opposite of mine. I was right, she was indeed privileged. Yet, she sat in front of me and started answering my questions with gusto and so much character and enthusiasm that I, honestly, was not prepared for. At this point, I was already convinced that she is a gem.

Her world does revolve around her sport. She started dancing ballet when she was three and a half years old, and joined dance sports when she was 12. At first, she was not as good at it as she wanted to be. In her words, her dancing was “chaka” or ugly. It was not until she got in sync with her partner, Jay Robert Auxtero, that they began celebrating triumph after triumph.

However, behind the glory that dancing gave them is her mother who gave everything for her daughter and her love of the sport. Nothing is “free” in dancing; everything comes with a price: the trainers who had to be paid P20, 000 per day; the costumes, according to Ivy, were usually worth around P50,000 to as high as P70,000. During her four years in this sport, her mother has already spent more than a million pesos.

Her mother may have paid the price literally, but figuratively, no one spent more than Ivy did. Since almost all her time had to be dedicated to training, she had to sacrifice years’ worth of bonding moments with her cousins and countless Sundays that she should have spent with her family at church. But she cheerfully quipped that nothing can make her skip doing her eyebrows in the morning despite her 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. training because “kilay is life.”

Asher mother gave everything just so she would be able to continue dancing, there were times when she gave too much. Ivy’s heart was not enough to hold her mother’s expectations and dreams for her, and soon came the fallout.

A dancer’s essence lies in her ability to put melodies into action and in her aptitude in turning rhythm and beat into her own body language. But at that point in her life, she felt like a “robot” whose limbs only moved along to her mother’s words.

DANCE TO EXPRESS. Through her passion for dancesport, 16-year-old Kristel Ivy Evangelista from the division of Bohol had the chance to compete in the Grand Prix 2019 held in Taiwan, with her partner Jay Ronald Auxtero, where they won 2nd place. Now they are part of the CVIRAA athletes competing in the 2019 Palarong Pambansa in Davao City. PHOTO BY RETHEY JANE LAPIS

She felt like she was living her mother’s dreams – not hers. And when she tried to communicate this with her mom, she received a long message telling her how she could not appreciate everything she has done for her. Clearly upset, she replied with an equally lengthy message that started with “I’m sorry I wasn’t enough.”

Because she really believed it after spending years listening to people telling her she could not dance, and that she only won because her mother had connections. Dancing was once her haven, but now it has turned into a cage filled with echoes of their insults constantly ringing in her ears.

She had to remind herself that her mother may have been too much at times, but everything she did was out of her love for her daughter. Ivy’s life has never been and will never be as hard as it once was for her partner, Jay.

Born to a tricycle driver father and a simple housewife, Jay is worlds apart from Ivy. While she lived in the comforts of her parent’s home, he was squeezing himself in a small house with a room just enough for all six family members to lie in. Knowing this, Ivy’s mother supported him financially, from weekly allowance to school fees and costumes. She even offered to pay for his tuition when he enters college.

Dance sport helped him save his future.

Days before going to Davao for the 2019 Palarong Pambansa, Ivy woke up to the news that Jay got involved in a motorcycle accident. He sustained multiple large wounds on both of his legs, and may not be able to dance with her for their competition.

Everything and everyone were in chaos. What should we do? What about all the money and effort you put in your routines? Are they all for naught? Will he still dance?

Yes, he will. For and because of Ivy.

Although worried for her partner’s health, they both decided to go through it. Ivy, who dreams of becoming a pilot, has always loved the sky. I guess it’s fitting for a dancer to say. In every leap and lift, her eyes and fingers always try to reach the sky. Even though dancing is the very reason why she once felt trapped in a cage, she owes it her wings too.

“What do you feel when you dance?”

“I feel like a bird, free from the cage.”