Hipodromo’s jive is Mambo No. 5

Ask me to strut my feet, rock my legs, twist my hips and whirl my arms—ask me to dance—and, like I declared in a column two years back, I’d best resemble a bunch of cartoon characters: The Transformers. You see, my body is stiff, my movement rigid and my art of gracefulness is, well…… graceless.

The opposite of last Saturday. What did my eyes witness? Girls as tiny as six years old spun their weaving arms and shimmied their bellies. Boys, plenty aged 8 and 10 and 14, skipped, hopped, waltzed. One dozen, two dozen, six dozen and more of them all stepped front and back to the tune of the Cha-Cha and did the jive to “Mambo No. 5.”

Oh, Mambo No. 5. Who doesn’t know the tune? Who doesn’t, when the music plays and the words “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mambo No.5” explode off the loud speakers and the beat pulsates, “One… two… three… four… five,” who doesn’t stomp his feet and rock his head?

We all do. Last Saturday, the children stomped and rocked. On the disco floor? At the Teatro dance floor at the Waterfront? No. At the—you wouldn’t guess where—basketball gym of the crowded Barangay Hippodromo.

What more did I see? Hundreds trooped inside the gym. Boys wore black silky pants and dark black leather shoes with two-inch heels. The girls were as colorful as a rainbow in April: plenty wore yellow, many slipped on pink mini-skirts, a dozen fitted green tops and orange dresses and lavender skirts.

The audience? Mostly moms and dads, they numbered, based on the count of my wife Jasmin and I, about 500. And, whenever some of the girls would slide on the cement floor and perform a split—with a full smile, of course—you’d see dazzled looks.

Dazzling. Yes, that’s the perfect term. It was dazzling to witness, in the middle of the thickly populated barangay of Hippodromo (which sits adjacent to the Cebu Business Park), not basketball players with shorts and bare chests dribbling—but youthful girls and boys dancing at the competition called the 2009 Dancesport and Hip-Hop Barangay Competition Circuit.

One competitor, an 11-year-old boy named Tisoy Praxedo, I interviewed. A Grade 4 student at the USC North Campus, when I asked why and when he started, he replied, “Last year ko nag-start. Kuyog mi sa akong barkada. Na-influence ko mo join tungod sa akong barkada.”

Wearing a white long-sleeves polo shirt and a newly-cut short haircut, though I did not get the chance to observe Tisoy perform, he looked thrilled and cheerful. And, yes, one important fact for me to report on: Tisoy lives just a few blocks away in the same barangay Hippodromo.

Yes. For that’s the ambition of Edward Hayco—the Godfather of Cebu Dancesport and one of this island’s most respected sportsmen—to, instead of dancers traveling to his place of competition, he brings the competition to the masses.

“We started about nine years ago,” said Ed, when we spoke by phone yesterday, “and, during our first free summer workshop, we had about 200 participants. The following year, it grew to 400. Then 600. Then a thousand.”

This year? “We have 3,000 children who’ve learned how to dance, spread out in most of the barangays around Cebu City,” said Ed. “We’ve divided the city into 30 clusters, composed of about two to four barangays per cluster, and move from one barangay to another every week.”

The explosion of dancesport in Cebu has been so phenomenal that, during the culmination activity of the summer workshop last year, Ed said, “We held it at the Cebu Coliseum and the gym was shoulder-to-shoulder jam-packed.” And because thousands of dancers saturated the coliseum, the graduation activity and final competition started at 9 in the morning and ended—would you believe—at three… the next morning!

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