Filipino American dance artist gives back to his homeland

Photo by Joseph Pe

Roberto Villanueva, Founder of BalaSole Dance Company

ROBERTO Villanueva, acclaimed Filipino-American dance artist, is set to embark on a mission trip to the Philippines to offer master classes, lectures and workshops as his way of giving back to the country of his birth.

“About five years ago, I did some assessment of my life, career, experiences, and future. Then I asked myself the question “what have you done to positively impact others?” Villanueva shared.

For the past few years, he has been grappling with this thought and this year, he arrived at the decision of pursuing a mission trip to the Philippines to share his skills and knowledge with the dance community as a professional artist.

Villanueva thought of BalaSole Dance Company, a non-profit dance organization he launched in the U.S. back in 2010 and how it has been helping a lot of dance artists, as well as young and elderly people. This organization provides visibility and mentoring to dance artists who are marginalized and overlooked because of their size, shape, color, age and style.

“I also asked myself another question—“Are there opportunities for me to do more?” Then I had the idea of doing a mission project/trip outside of the U.S. and I immediately thought of the Philippines,” Villanueva shared. “At that time I also came to the realization the discipline and strong work ethic that led to my successes were attributes to my upbringing and formative years in the Philippines.”

Born in the Philippines, Villanueva left the Philippines in 1984 and didn’t revisit the country again until after about two decades. He recalls instantly reconnecting with his roots and the culture after his initial visit and he has been doing his annual visits ever since.

He has 28 years of professional experience in the field of dance as a producer, director, performer, choreographer, adjudicator and educator in the U.S., Europe and Asia, as well as 25 years of professional background in business, financial, non-profit, operations, organizational and arts management.

Photo by Eric Bandiero

Villanueva currently serves as Director of Dance and Adjunct Professor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent and as Group Sales Manager for the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem. He trained at the Alvin Ailey School, SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance and University at Buffalo, where he received his B.A. in Dance Performance. Villanueva has produced and directed 19 New York City concert seasons for BalaSole Dance Company. 

From November 8 – 16, 2019 he will be donating his performances, lecture presentations, workshops and master class to some of the top universities in Manila —namely University of the Philippines (UP), De La Salle University (DLSU), De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), and Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU).

Villanueva has thought of a multi-pronged approach for the classes he is planning to hold, in order to maximize impact.

For the master dance classes, he wants the students to learn a different style of contemporary dance and efficient approach to movement. For the lectures, he wants the students to have a more holistic understanding of the professional field of dance—the creative process, the business aspect, its value, career options, financial sustainability and physical longevity.

For the workshops, he wants the students to understand and recognize the interdisciplinary aspect of and innovative thinking in the field. For the show/performance, he wants the students to witness and learn about how he applies everything that he covers in his master classes, lectures, and workshops.

Hailed for his technical virtuosity and compelling personality, Villanueva has received several accolades from various critics in the dance community.

According to Villanueva, he attributes the successes in his personal, corporate and artistic life to his upbringing and formative years in the Philippines.

He has performed with dance companies such as Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, Steeledance, Marie-Christine Giordano Dance, Pick of the Crop Dance, and Buffalo City Ballet. He has worked/mentored artists from world renowned companies including the Martha Graham Dance Company, Limón Dance Company, Lucinda Childs Dance, Parsons Dance, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, Les Ballets Trocadero De Monte Carlo, Ballet Frankfurt, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Twyla Tharp Dance, Giordano Dance Chicago, and Rockettes.

Villanueva won the national title “Mr. Dance of America” from Dance Masters of America. He has been nominated for The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York Award under the Arts & Culture category for his achievements as a dance professional. He also received a “Distinguished Alumni Award” from the University at Buffalo’s Theater & Dance Department for his contributions in the field of dance.

Follow Villanueva’s journey in the Philippines in the following venues:

• November 8, 2019, De La Salle University – Villanueva will be providing solo performances and brief lecture presentations for physical education students as part of DLSU Culture and Arts Office’s “Art in Action” Program. The lecture presentations will cover topics such as Value Proposition, Creative Process, and Careers in Dance, and The Business of Dance.

• November 11, 2019, University of the Philippines – Villanueva will be conducting a Contemporary Dance master class and a lecture presentation on “The Well-Rounded Dance Professional” for UP College of Music Dance Program students. The lecture presentation will provide the students valuable insight and holistic perspective on the professional field of Dance and cover topics such as Value Proposition, Audience Engagement & Creative Process, Basic Financial Literacy, Strategic Career Trajectory, The Business of Dance, The Optimal Body, as well as other key concepts/practices taught in business schools and corporate settings as they relate to the field of Dance.

• November 12, 2019, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde – Villanueva will be providing DLS-CSB School of Design and Arts Dance Program students and other field experts a lecture presentation on “The Well-Rounded Dance Professional.” The lecture presentation will provide the students valuable insight and holistic perspective on the professional field Dance and cover topics such as Value Proposition, Audience Engagement & Creative Process, Basic Financial Literacy, Strategic Career Trajectory, The Business of Dance, The Optimal Body, as well as other key concepts/practices taught in business schools and corporate settings as they related to the field of Dance.

• November 14, 2019, Ateneo de Manila University  – Villanueva will perform several solos in the remake of his one-man show titled “Pieces of Me: An Inside Look At A Filipino-American Dance Artist’s Journey on November 14, 8PM-10PM, at Doreen Black Box, Soledad V. Pangilinan Arts Wing, Areté. The production, an evening of solos, is being sponsored and presented by Areté and the School of Humanities, Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University. To further expand the involvement of the Philippine dance community, Villanueva will personally select five local Filipino artists to also perform his solos in the program. Through Villanueva’s personal commentaries, the audience will get a unique glimpse of his life as a dance artist in New York City, his perspective on the challenges and imbalances in the field of concert dance, and his inspiration for each solo. Never one to hold back, Villanueva’s show is distinguished for its intelligence and honesty, and designed to reveal both his artistic strengths as well as his personal vulnerabilities. Villanueva will also perform and premiere his new solo “Arugain” as a tribute to his mother, other mothers worldwide, and his motherland. Tickets are free for students upon presentation of an ID card, or PHP 200 for non-students (Buy tickets at bit.ly/piecesofme19).

• November 15-16, 2019, Ateneo de Manila University – Villanueva will conduct two workshops on “Design Thinking For Everyone Through Dance Making” for dancers and non-dancers on November 15, 6PM-8PM, and November 16, 10AM-12PM, at 2F William and Claire Tan Untiong Performing Arts Studio, Areté – Ateneo’s Creative Hub. This dance-making workshop is for anyone who wishes to explore design thinking and innovation through movement as a tool to express ideas, develop themes, tell stories, visualize phenomena, and create products. The workshop is ideal for people who desire to explore interdisciplinary work in or between the arts and the STEM/business fields. After a familiarity with movement patterns, participants get the chance to design their own movement sequences to reveal unique insights on a given subject. Tickets are P150 (Register at bit.ly/DTDMArete). 

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