Sending a Philippine contingent to international dance sport competitions is no easy task. Of all people who has realized this is well-known and veteran TV, film and stage actress Vangie Labalan.
Vangie, who calls herself the “Manila Tango Witch,” has been in love with ballroom dancing—particularly tango—since three decades ago and has since supported a lot of Filipino tangueros and tangueras who participate in overseas dance fests. The most recent of these is the Korean Tango Festival in Seoul (which shouldn’t be confused with the Seoul Tango Festival, to be held on April 28 to May 2).
“I may not be with them because I have so many commitments in my show biz career–my bread and butter–but my spirit is with them whenever and wherever they perform,” Vangie said in an exclusive interview.
Vangie serves as spiritual and moral guide, and as critic of a group of tango wizards and aficionados.
For this, the versatile and awarded actress has maintained quite a few groups of tangueros and tangueras, most of them friends, whom she associates herself with, despite the motley terpsichorean talents in the country.
The Philippine delegation which competed in Korea, and whose members Vangie has been running around and dancing with, were composed of partners Dennis Lagazon and Mariecel Oñate who bagged Second Prize while a Korean pair clinched Top Prize.
Other Filipino duos were Marvin White and Jen Campos, Sam Insorio and Judy Berger, and Ryan Fabul and Malu Camagun-Dy Buncio who were among the Top 5 placers.
“It was a tough fight. Imagine, hundreds of dancers from around the world joined the festival and the Filipinos emerged the largest winners. Mind you, the judging was very meticulous,” informed Vangie.
Apart from this, Vangie has her encouraging words of wisdom for the dancers knowing fully well the limits of the Filipinos in transnational dance sport intramurals whose majesty and affluence participants from developed countries display.
“We have the talents but we fall short of many demands in dance sport. Most foreign participants are richer and can afford the lavish preparations,” declared Vangie.
Airfares, accommodations, stipends, elegant clothes, flashy bling or ostentatious accessories and other requisites, which don’t come in cheap, are essentials as well as in competing.
“Alas! Filipinos can also afford but not as much as the moneyed foreigners,” sighed the actress.
There are sponsors but they aren’t aplenty although Vangie cited philanthropist Marvie Cojuangco-Yulo, herself a ballroom fixture, as a major supporter in the latest Korean conquest of premiere Filipino dancers.
“That’s why rigid rehearsals are required before any contest. I contribute my ten-cent worth of ideas to improve tango among Filipinos especially Argentine tango which is the standard movement in the dance,” said Labalan.
On April 15, these winners were feted to a victory party at Aracama The Fort and today, they will again be honored in the same venue in a doubleheader of a new show billed “Tangoserye,” a term coined for a series of tango gigs with storylines in the tradition of “Kalyeserye” (a term employed in comedic narratives situated in alleys and popularized by the noontime couple Yaya Dub aka Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards), and teleserye (which means television opera and now an official word in Oxford English Dictionary), and a brainchild of Vangie and her tandem in tango, Starsky Dulalas.
A second edition, “Tangoserye,” will feature a mix of dance and literature with The First Tango of Mrs. Wang where Dulalas tutors comic wannabe Murat, also known as Niel Born OK, to be an expert tango mover as he sways and swings with Mrs. Wang.
The act will highlight anew Manila’s hot tangueros and tangueras, some of whom will compete in the upcoming Tokyo Tango Festival in June.