Whatever she does is buzzing feed for primetime arts and culture news.
So, when the NCCA-organized International Dance Xchange takes place in Isabela early this May, Shirley Halili Cruz is again the regal busy bee who creates and coordinates the excitement that attracts dance fans and aficionados, art enthusiasts and reporters – even the nosey competition – to that cultural event, which gathers at least two thousand national and international dancers and an estimated audience of around 40 thousand.
Unsurprisingly, Ma’am Shirley, as she is respectfully called in the socio-cultural and academic arena, puts her vaunted organizational skills to the max in this year’s Dance Xchange as re-elected – a record-breaker for a member – Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ National Committee on Dance. On record, too, that she is the founder and overall director of recent big nation-wide projects including Sayaw Pinoy touring concert, National Competition, International Dance Day Celebration, Dance festivals, conferences and workshops.
Still and outside of her seven-year interactive collaboration with NCCA’s terpsichorean projects, Ma’am Shirley is wordwidely known, first and foremost, as the founder and artistic director of the eponymously named Halili Cruz School of Ballet (HCSB) which international prestige today rests on its being awarded as “The Most Outstanding Ballet School in Asia Pacific “ – an honor earned for its systematic and outstanding ballet education program resulting to excellent international achievements in international dance examinations, competitions and other international events.
While the 5-branch HCSB is strictly a definitive institution – yes, it has become so since its founding in 1985 – for ballet dancers, its affiliated Halili Cruz Conservatoire and Halili Dance Company offer lessons for those inclined to all levels of classical ballet, modern jazz, tap, pilates, hip hop and contemporary dance. These two groups are consistent top-prize winners in international competitions in Asia, Australia, Europe and America – and subsequently recipients of very high grades from international assessment programs in Australia and New York.
Always striving for excellence
Whatever public acclaim that HCSB has so far gained both in national and global dance stages, it all points back to visionary Ma’am Shirley who from the very start has, in all her personal endeavors, always strived for excellence. Indeed, through the years in realizing her dreams and goals she has maintained that delicate en point stance and womanly attitude, enabling her to balance both her family and professional life with graceful aplomb and, in many instances, colorful grand jete choreography.
Raised in a big family of achievers, she has always been a purpose-driven woman, inclined to do her best in her many interests in academics, leadership, social works and in the art of movement in which dance is the major genre.
“Since I was nine years old I realized that my calling aside from dancing is to teach and mold young minds and bodies into the art of dance. Dance is my passion and teaching is my way of sharing such passion. I started teaching when I was 15 yrs old, “ says Libra-born Ma’am Shirley, adding that when she founded HCSB, it was for her “a realization of a dream for the Philippines to have an educational institution dedicated to teaching dance – ballet in particular – with a systematic and wholistic education program.”
And, quite decisively and swiftly, she proceeded to execute the necessary moves to reach head-on her singularly groundbreaking goal. Earlier armed with a Business Administration degree – with triple major in Accounting Management and Marketing – she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Santo Tomas and Letran.
Pursuing her passion for dance, she was mentored primarily by Bonnie Weinstein Calagopi, Weinstein Calagopi, Edgar Valdez, Vela Damian, Maniya Barredo and Tina Santos. Then to buff up her personal resolve, she took additional training in Professional Teaching Courses in New York Academy and Conservatory of Music and Dance, American Ballet Center, Neubert Ballet Institute and in New York Academy of Ballet’s School of Excellence. Her overall immersion in New York’s complex cultural scenario provided the impetus to change the course of her own professional path. “I had the opportunity to learn different ballet syllabi, inspiring me to design something appropriate for the Filipinos’ physique and innate talent,” she emphasizes and on hindsight.
Later and upon her return to the country, she brilliantly authored a Classical Ballet Syllabus for consistent implementation in her (then) newly-established Halili Cruz School of Ballet. This well-defined 12-level syllabus affirms what HCSB is now, in her own inspired words, all about: “... an outstanding school with excellent methodology and with dedicated teachers who are themselves equipped with skills to develop young talents.”
While her syllabus requires student dancers’ adherence to ballet’s strict physical disciplines, the educator in Ma’am Shirley gives additional wholistic and intrinsic food for the mind and spirit, much more than a mere instructor can provide. “As a teacher, I feel this natural overflowing generosity that I want to share everything I know. Everything I have. . . I teach character building, values formation and personality development – for my students and dancers to live with integrity and humility, to share and be generous.”
Yet, when she tells her students to enjoy, to strive for excellence and to become well-rounded individuals, it is because, as she concludes, “I even want my students to be better than me. . . That is the best legacy I could ever leave.”
Thus, Ma’am Shirley has consciously – with innate steely resolve and dedicated focus – evolved from a vivacious and lithe ballerina to a pragmatic and positive-thinking teacher. For the country and the more than 10 thousand who have luckily studied under her indefatigable wings, she is living – more a loving –proof that a dance artist and dance educator par excellence exists quite awesomely in our cultural midst.
Dream Big! DANCE!
The Halili-Cruz School of Dance (HCSD) has lined up different dance courses for the kids and the kids at heart which they can take up this summer: Halili-Cruz School of Ballet for classical ballet and the Halili-Cruz Conservatory for jazz, hip hop, tap, lyrical and contemporary.
All the dance courses offered are syllabus-based. To enhance the students’ capabilities, HCSD invited guest teachers from Russia and England to conduct master classes during this intensive summer dance program.
The courses offered in this summer intensive will surely open doors to remarkable new possibilities for learning. It would help the students dance, move, act, imagine and realize.
Come dance with HCSD and find out why it has been awarded as Hall of Fame for Best Ballet School by the National Product Quality Excellence Award. Experience how we train the students who have been elevated to the Aliw Awards Hall of Fame as the Best Classical Dance Company in the Philippines.
The summer dance workshop will run from April 17- May 27, 2017 and will culminate with a concert entitled “Summer Dance Divertissement 2017” at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila on May 27, 2017.
The Halili-Cruz School of Dance also offers summer ballet classes in: St. Pedro Poveda College,QC (April 4- May 18, 2017); Miriam College, QC (April 18 – May 18, 2017; The School Room, Ortigas (April 4 – May 18, 2017).