A Tale Of Love And Passion For The Art Of Dance
DanceSport is an art form that entails athleticism and physical prowess. One must have the stamina to endure an effortless sequence of movements to music.
As one watches a dance sport competition it never fails to captivate, enthrall and transport the audience to a fairytale—a world of grace, poise and artistry.
But behind those poetic movements are challenges.
In the Philippines, the Standard Dance pairing of Sean Aranar and Ana Nualla is no stranger to beating the odds, climbing to the top and being hailed number one in the country.
Being partnered for the first time was a gamble for these two competitive athletes. In the International Standard competitive dancing, height matters. For the pair to successfully mimic the shapes of a parabola, hyperbola and funnel, their height difference must be minimal.
“Yes, we had a struggle in our partnership because of our big height difference. I am 5’7 tapos si Ana 5-flat lang. When we had our first try out, I asked my coach kung may pupuntahan ba ito? Baka hanggang dito lang kami sa pinas, baka hindi ito pang international?” Sean said.
Despite this setback the couple managed to win the championship trophy at the 2013 Philippine Summerball Competition on their first salvo as partners.
After several years of being consistent on top, their career started to dwindle.
“2014-2015 were our rough years. The whole year of 2014 we got stuck in top 3. The following year, we ended up 4th place, having difficulty to go up. And so, come 2015, we set a deadline to our partnership. Our deal was if we don’t make it to the podium or even reach 2nd place, we will terminate our partnership,” Sean revealed.
The duo decided to give it another shot before deciding their fate as partners—whether to stay together or move on.
“We joined the 2015 Nationals hoping that the bad luck would end. By God’s grace we placed 2nd. After that year, we became members of the RP National Team. We went on to different international competitions at maganda ang results namin. Happy din kami kasi we placed 5th in the 2018 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games sa Turkmenistan. Ang pinaka memorable sa amin is when we placed 6th sa World DanceSport Open Competition in Kdainiai, Lithuania. It was a very tough competition,” Sean said.
To be the best, Sean and Ana knew that they needed to work harder and set goals as a team. Considering the criteria of judging in a DanceSport competition namely technical quality, movement quality, choreography and presentation and partnering skills, the couple decided to venture into other activities aimed at helping them hit their targets.
“We did cross training because just like other sports like weightlifting, hindi ka pwedeng magbuhat ng barbell kung hindi ka physically strong. Kami din, hindi namin magagawa ng maayos yung steps and routines namin to our maximum potential if we don’t cross train,” said Ana.
“Nag research kami and consulted experts for us to be better. We did gym training to improve our stamina, endurance and body strength. We also trained in other dance forms like ballet and jazz. Also, nag acting lessons kami. Acting is important sa pag interpret ng dance, especially sa facial expressions and proper emotions,” Sean added.
Part of their quest of being an all-around athlete is to undergo a lifestyle reset. The athleticism of competitive dancing can be very demanding to the body; and fitness and nutrition play a vital role to improve one’s strength, intensity, performance, and recovery.
“Before, we were so chubby at mabigat, ang hirap gumalaw. So in time, nag consult kami sa nutritionist. We have a recovery meal every after training. We eat fish or chicken kasi our body needs protein after heavy practice to repair our muscles,” Ana reiterated.
“Now, we always keep in mind to eat only what you need. No more soft drinks, too much rice and unnecessary cheat days,” Sean added.
Just like any other sports, no matter how disciplined you are and how careful you try to be, injuries are inevitable. And when injuries happen the process of coming back is difficult and Ana is testament to this.
“Sa Standard dance style madaming head actions, figure movements ng body and low on your knees ang stance namin. With the long hours of training, kahit gusto pa ng mind mo mag practice our body cannot keep up. Nagkaroon ako ng injury sa spine kasi sobrang pagod na yung muscles ko sa likod. Hindi pa ganun ka lakas yung muscles ko to support yung neck ko nag snap siya. I had to stop for six months,” explained Ana.
“I felt very very devastated. That time kasi champion na ako. Alam ko ring dancesport is really the love of my life. But then I have no one to blame and should not blame anyone. So that time I just offered everything to God. Unti-unti akong nag pursige until lumakas ulit ako and continue my winning ways,” Ana added.
Despite their laser focus in achieving their goals, the unexpected happened. What started as a fraternal adoration bloomed into something deeper.
“I had a girlfriend, and she had a boyfriend at that time. She’s four years older than me so I treated her as my ate; so every time I experienced struggles with my school and other stuff, I asked her for advice,” Sean said.
“As time went by, she became single, we often traveled together, had struggles together, knew more about her… and then it happened. The next thing I knew I liked her already,” Sean admitted.
In the blink of an eye, the next thing Sean and Ana knew, they were in love.
“Being in a relationship has a big impact on our career partnership, since both of us are already comfortable with each other, the chemistry in our partnership worked. Dancing made our relationship stronger because we both know that we walk on the same path with the same goal. So, we just strive together on and off the floor,” he continued.
Lack of facilities and support is the greatest struggle of every dance athlete in the country. Access to quality and suitable training grounds is imperative in the improvement of skills, techniques and performance.
“Mahirap pa din makipagsabayan sa mga European countries kasi they are very well funded and supported, pero as a very passionate athlete, alam namin na hindi yun excuse. We are Filipinos, bukod sa talented, we are a very resourceful people,” Ana explained.
Today, despite all the challenges Sean and Ana confronted, they stand tall and proud as they are seeded number one in the country.
As Dancesport makes its way back at the 30th Southeast Asian Games after 12 years of being sidelined, Sean and Ana, for the very first time, will represent the country for the Standard Dance Division.
To ensure that they will be ready for their upcoming international competitions, Sean and Ana will train at Kaunas Lithuania and Stuttgart, Germany in July this year.
As love and passion are the catalysts that fuel the art of dance, so are they the source of strength and commitment for Sean and Ana to each other and to Dancesport, their true first love.