They started with 200. Then, 400. The year after, 600. Next, the number reached 1,000. Each year, when the Dancesport Team Cebu City held their free summer workshop to teach children how to ballroom-dance, they assumed the growing number would stop.
“We thought the numbers couldn’t grow higher,” said Ed Hayco, the team leader of Cebu Dancesport. “When we reached a thousand, then, a year later, 2,000 participants, we told ourselves, ‘Wow, this is big. We’ve reached full capacity.’ But then, the number grows even bigger.”
In 2008, guess how many children—some as young as five years old—have joined the sport of dancing?
Three thousand. Yes, the initial number of 200 multiplied 15 times.
“Our goal,” Ed related to me when we spoke last Monday, “was to go down to the grassroots level. And so, starting in 2003, we went to the barangays. Instead of the children coming to us at our preferred venue, we went to them. We started with a few, then we added more. We began holding free dance workshops during summer. As more and more children joined, summer was not enough. And so we expanded to more months. We also included not only those in school but also the out-of-school youth.”
What Ed Hayco started six years ago has blossomed. Today, they hold tournaments and workshops in almost every barangay in Cebu City.
“What’s most amazing is the transformation of the children,” Ed adds. “At first, especially the boys, when they come to us they’re ‘bugoy’ and ‘yagit’ and ‘hugaw.’ They wear no slippers and walk awkwardly. They’re shy and have poor posture. Many of them, coming from poor backgrounds, have no confidence and no self-esteem.
“But then, after weeks of learning proper posture and walking tall and learning the basics of dance, you see a transformation. In a few months, they’re able to carry themselves well. They’re able to project themselves. And, unbelievably, they’re able to build self-confidence and self-esteem. From ‘bugoys,’ they’re turned into children with self-respect.”
Ed, a successful entrepreneur who started this boom (with wife Eleanor) when he himself entered dance competition nearly a decade ago, is correct.
I, for one, saw it last Saturday at—of all places—the Hipodromo basketball gym. Young girls and boys with chins looking up, with postures erect, with smiles that melt the judges’ scorecards. Because in Dancesport, as I’ve observed, you have to look confident. You can’t win if you lack self-belief. And what positive transformation Team Cebu City Dancesport has imparted on the Cebuano youth.
“We pay our top coaches substantial salaries,” says Ed. “And our mandate to them is to teach other coaches so that they, in turn, will teach other coaches for free. And so, what happens is what I call a ‘cascade.’ One head coach teaches five coaches; these five teach another five each; these 25 teach five each… there’s an exponential effect. And so more and more trainers are taught; more and more children learn… for free.
“In fact, what’s most amazing is that many of our trainers at these free workshops are children. Imagine 8- or 9-year-olds as coaches? It’s amazing. Plus, the children develop leadership skills. Today, many of these 8-year-olds are able to instruct and coach teenagers much older than them.
“The goal is that everybody helps out. If you’ve been taught for free, and if you develop to become a champion, our only request is that you help others for free. This cascades to hundreds of beginners and spreads the sport to everyone.”
What Edward Hayco—who, let me add, will celebrate his 50th birthday during the love day this Saturday—has done is praiseworthy and admirable.
His passion for dancesport, his eagerness to spread the art and theatrics of dancing to children, his selfless actions… they’re all steps that make Cebu the Dancesport capital of Asia.