Ronelson Yadao prepares for Christmas Show

With 16 years living and breathing dance, Ronelson Yadao, the Artistic Director of Philippine National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes’ eponymous Alice Reyes Dance Philippines (ARDP), has more in store for enthusiasts.

Fresh off a recent successful performance of Pulso I, the ARDP choreographer is hard at work for this Friday’s upcoming rendition of Pulso II, with surprises in store for viewers of all ages. “I am also expanding our Christmas production Puso ng Pasko. The idea is to have our very own Filipino Nutcracker,” he revealed in an exclusive interview with The Daily Tribune.

A portrait of Ronelson Yadao by Jojo Mamangun

With musical arrangements by the Philippine National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, Puso ng Pasko aims to highlight the Yuletide festivities from various regions of the country.

“We hope this could be a family activity the Filipino audience can enjoy. We wish for it to be a part of the Filipino Holiday Traditions every Christmas season.”

(L-R) Actor-Director Marco Viaña, Philippine National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes, and ARDP Artistic Director Ronelson Yadao oversees a vital rehearsal at the Main Theater Lobby

Born to Waray parents from Samar and Leyte, Ronelson, known as Nelson to family, peers and colleagues, grew up in the district of Malate in Manila. Raised in a musically-inclined family, with an older sister who sings and an older brother who likewise dances, perhaps it was always his destiny to eventually take the stage.

Plagued by worries of asthma, the young dreamer began his foray into the world of dance at age 12 with street and folk dances at the Manila Dance Center.

The artistic director (leftmost) demonstrates the proper execution of the stance in Alice Reyes’ Carmina Burana

His first took center stage in 2002 when he starred in SHOES++, directed by Denisa Reyes, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Theater, no less!

He eventually studied classical ballet at the Philippine High School for the Arts, a specialized institution of learning that focuses on arts-oriented classes. His immersion solidified his decision to truly make dance his career.

As he expectedly took up Bachelor in Performing Arts Degree Major in Dance from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, he was concurrently already a soloist for Ballet Philippines. With the exception of a fulfilling stint in Taiwan, he lent this expertise in the Ballet Philippines as a Principal Dancer and eventually, a Co-Associate Artistic Director.

ARDP Artistic Director Ronelson Yadao and ARDP Artist Karla Santos with Dapitan Movement Workshop participants (Photo by LARAWAN)

A Company Artist for the CCP Dance Workshop, he also received a grant from the Cultural Center of the Philippines Professional Artists Support Program, which aims to support deserving individuals.

Today, in addition to his ARDP role, he likewise serves as the Associate Artistic Director of Guang Ming College – Artists Residency Program, the first in the country to be a part of the Fo Guang Shan International University Consortium. The institute was founded by Chinese Buddhist Monk Hsing Yun, one of the most influential teachers of modern Taiwanese Buddhism.

Ronelson Yadao with fiancee Antonette Go with their respective families (Photo by Paw Castillo)

Through the years, his favorite role remains to be the Wayfarer in the Songs of a Wayfarer by Norman Walker, which has been performed to international acclaim. Meanwhile, his favorite self-choreographed piece is Dance On! for Headspace, a film which premiered online in 2021.

This young man, through his exposure and experience, looks forward to innovative discoveries each and every day in his passion of choice. “You get to learn new moves, new techniques and new choreographies,” he shared, when asked about the best part of his profession.

(L-R) A playful trio of Richardson Yadao, Ronelson Yadao and Ricmar Bayoneta after surviving a full day film shoot

However, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. As dancers, practice is crucial. Thus, they are subject to long hours of repetitive exercises. However, Nelson sees this as routine, no longer a challenge. “I guess that’s the formula to be good, at the very least.”

Although he does not have any dream roles left — “I don’t think that way anymore,” is his mindset now — he still has hopes for a dream dance. “A piece by Jiri Kylian, Martha Graham or other well-known modern dance choreographers,” is on his bucket list.

Ronelson Yadao and Marco Viaña practices with the Guang Ming College Hiraya on the CCP Main Theater Stage

As someone who does not believe in luck, his pre-show ritual consists of only two elements: coffee and perhaps a nap if time permits.

When pressured, he prefers to relax by sleeping, enjoying good food or practicing his devotion. When not in the studio, he unwinds by playing video games in his free time.

As Ronelson Yadao gears up the end-of-year presentation of the Alice Reyes Dance Philippines, he imparts some words of wisdom to aspiring dancers. “Don’t skip your fundamentals. Master your technique. Work diligently, with no shortcuts. Always be present. Have fun!”

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