Groovin’

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita February 15,2017 - 10:10 PM
Montinola and Esgana

Montinola and Esgana

There is a saying that goes: “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”

For 33-year-old Manuel Montinola Jr. and 29-year-old Michael Esgana, nothing can be closer to the truth.

Montinola, fondly called Junex by his friends, started to speak the language of dance even before he knew how to utter a single word.

By the time he was four, Junex was already dancing to the beat of Funky Town, the top hit of the ’80s popular American disco act Lipps Inc.

“I can’t really elaborate how much I love dancing. But all I can say is that if there’s any beat that my ear catches, the blood in my veins starts to boil and then the feeling of happiness starts to overflow that I don’t even notice I’m already dancing,” he said.

Growing up, Junex was part of several dance groups, which furthered his interest in dancing.

Like Junex, Michael started to dance at a very young age just for the fun of it.

Now at 29, he has turned dancing into his main source of income as part of one of Cebu’s famous dance crews, Don Juan.

“I love dancing because I am able to express my feelings. Like when I am lonely or having a problem, I can just dance to express my feelings,” Michael said.

For the last two years, his group, Don Juan, has been dominating local, national and international dance competitions.

Manuel “Junex” Montinola Jr. during one of his hiphop cardio dance classes in a gym in a hotel in Cebu City. (CONTRIBUTED)

Manuel “Junex” Montinola Jr. during one of his hiphop cardio dance classes in a gym in a hotel in Cebu City. (CONTRIBUTED)

Starting young

Junex became part of a four-member dance group in school at the age of eight.

At age 13, he developed a deeper interest in dancing which had then become a more serious and important aspect of his young life.

Dancing ceased to become just a hobby. It was pure love.

“I grew up in squatter areas and we were financially incapacitated. But my love and passion for dancing drives me most that I have to dance for free just to be happy and entertain people that I don’t even know,” narrated Junex.

Despite the dilemma of having to juggle his schedule between studies and his passion for dancing, Junex persevered in both.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering in 2007 as he too had grown an interest in computers.

But although Junex could have easily pursued a career in computers, what flourished was his desire to dance a multitude of genres including jazz, hiphop, dance sport, breakdance, ballroom dancing, cheerdance, theatrical, Bollywood, lyrical, and classical dance.

Through the years, Junex has won several dance competitions; while Michael has had several awards under his belt as a member of the popular Don Juan.

Michael was part of the dance group when it won back-to-back championships in the Sinulog Best Dance Crew competition in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The group was also hailed winners of GMA 7’s Bet ng Bayan dance category.

Michael and his groupmates were also invited to perform in South Korea for the country’s various festivals in 2016, showcasing their talents in at least five South Korean cities.

Don Juan was the official Philippine representative to the South Korea Wonju Dynamic Festival where they were joined by more than 100 other dance groups from 15 different countries.

Meanwhile, Junex, who had enjoyed his life as a dancer, temporarily put this on hold when he decided to take a job in an international cruise ship in 2008, enticed by the high salary it offered.

On the ship, Junex worked as an assistant chef; but his love for dancing followed him even in the middle of the ocean.

While he worked in the kitchen, he found the opportunity to dance again by joining the ship’s “Crew Show” in 2009, performing before the ship’s guests for an extra 30 dollars a night.

“One of my greatest goals and dreams in life is to be able to dance and teach worldwide. I have been in an international cruise ship but I’m still pursuing more countries to meet and learn about their dance cultures,” Junex said.

Dance is Life

For personal reasons, Junex decided to return home to Cebu after working in the cruise ship for two years.

Michael Esgana

Michael Esgana

He has since been working as a full-time cardio hiphop and zumba dance instructor of a fitness center in one of Cebu’s famous hotels.

And while his dream to dance around the world has taken a back seat for now, Junex awaits a final interview with an agency to join another cruise ship so that he could once again live his dream.

As for Michael, there is no other job he would much rather have than being a full-time dancer.

“Before, I had work. But I resigned. Now, I am focusing full time in my dancing career. I can get by, and I am also much happier with dancing,” Michael, who was not able to finish his undergraduate studies in Computer Science due to dance crew commitments, said.

Since show bookings and dance competitions don’t come like a regular job, Michael admits that managing finances as a full-time dancer has remained a challenge.

“Sayaw gihapon bisan og lisod na (I still dance even if it gets hard). I have so much love and dedication for dancing,” he said.

“Kung sa relationship pa (If this were a relationship), I am very loyal,” Michael added in jest.

“Dance is life for me,” he said.

Two stories, one love

Junex and Michael may have gone on different journeys but their passion for dancing is the same, almost like having a similar DNA.

For Michael, dancing may have cost him to lose track of his studies, but still, it taught him valuable life lessons like discipline and respect.

“Dance can teach you discipline. It also teaches you respect that even if a person is not really a dancer, there is a way that you can learn it. Be passionate and thankful if you have that talent because dance can give you happiness forever,” said Michael.

As for Junex, even as he incorporates his love for dancing with better-paying jobs, he believes dancing is his “forever true love”.

“No matter how many failures I have been through, no matter how much harsh and worse the critics are killing me, no matter how far I become as a dancer as I age, that wouldn’t stop me,” Junex said.

“My love for dancing is and will always be forever that even in my last hours in (my death) bed, I may still be grooving with my dextrose tubes on,” said Michael, laughing while undeniably speaking from his soul.

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TAGS: Cebu, Citigym, competitions, dance, dance groups, dance instructor, Dancing, gym, hiphop, instructor, love

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