Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Patrick Giang
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Ralph Escamillan. I am 17 years old and I have been dancing for four years now.
What got you into dancing? What was it about dancing that captivated you?
I think that I saw World Hip Hop and I saw Filipino All Stars and was like, “Whoa! Filipino people dancing in a group!” I didn’t know at the time that a lot of people did that anyways. From that, it inspired me to go into breaking and I did a lot of intensives with Jheric Hizon. After a little while, I wanted to get out of it, not because I was tired of it, but I was tired of the idea of breaking – I wasn’t that into it at the time. I ventured into hip-hop, jazz, ballet, and contemporary, and I explored dance more.
Which of the styles do you feel yourself aligning with more?
I don’t consider myself a whacker but I try to train in whacking and battle in whacking. I am a contemporary dancer, but I would say commercial or choreography hip-hop dance.
In the Philippines and while training, was there a dancer that you looked up to?
That’s hard! Well, there is this dancer called Jojo Zolina – he was the epitome to me of what a dancer should be. He had the swagger, the confidence, the technique and he knew how to use that technique, even in simpler stuff. At the moment, I am really inspired by contemporary dancers, because that’s what I’m training under. Out of the world, it would be Gillian Meyers, for sure – she’s my hero.
What is the one thing in dance that you feel that you can’t find anywhere else?
I think it’s the fulfillment to create. I am an artist, in general. I love to cook – cooking to me is art – I love to paint, I love to draw, I love to play music. Anything to do with the arts, there’s something really special that only dance or arts can fulfill.
You are part of a few groups, such as Kill The Lights, and House of La Douche. Please tell us why you joined these groups and what attracted you to them?
They all came kind of by accident. KTL didn’t have a teacher at the time and they saw me training at Harbour and they saw the choreo that I made up. They made me teach it to their group and then I just started training with them. With La Douche, I just started not too long ago with them, I think around a year. Jojo asked me to start with them. I am also part of a contemporary company, like a paid training program.
What is the first thing that you look at when you watch another dancer? What is it that separates a dancer besides skill alone?
I think the ability to not move but still having that presence is what separates dancers. If you can see someone stand and they can still captivate your attention, then that person is a skilled and powerful dancer.
Right now, you’re 17. As you continue to grow, your body will become more and more difficult to move in. Where do you see yourself in the long run?
That’s a hard question. I have actually been thinkin about this question for a little while now because just switching between the styles, there are so many differences. I think I would like to be in a contemporary company in Toronto, but I would still like to train with the local dancers.
Over the years, many different forms have emerged alongside different genres of music. What are some styles on the come up that people should look for?
I think I’m in that category of fusion dances. I know my boundaries, though. If I did a performance, I wouldn’t call it contemporary, because I know the boundaries for contemporary. My friend does a lot of L.A. hip-hop and it’s definitely quite different and interesting to look out for. I love it even if it isn’t “hip-hop”.
While you’re learning dance, what advice do you have for upcoming dancers?
I think that if you like the idea of dance, you should learn the history of it, too. You might find some things you don’t like, but you will definitely find some things that you love. Don’t give up – take a lot of class. You’re either born with it or you work for it… or you have a lot of money. You need to be persistent!
What is HYPE?
I think HYPE is something that gives you goosebumps. If you see a breaker and you see a crazy stall or you hear a new song that has a great beat, that’s HYPE – it’s that thing.