Al Quinn then & now: Music & dance in a nutshell
LIVE FEED (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2012 - 12:00am

When one speaks of music, dancing and choreography, there can only be one name that comes to mind — that of Al Quinn. It all began at the Manila Grand Opera House in the late ’50s with Shirley & the Moderners, the very first jazz dance group Al formed in the country; to dancing with Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran; working with Nida Blanca and Nestor de Villa at LVN; choreographing Dolphy movies with Pilar Pilapil, Lotis Key, Alma Moreno as leading ladies. This month, as he celebrates his 50th year in the business, we see no signs of him slowing down.

As he busies himself directing the Star Awards for Television, airing Sunday, Nov. 18, on ABS-CBN, Al shares with us his thoughts on television today, and how the competition between Kapuso, Kapamilya and Kapatid is not helping the industry in any way.

“It breaks my heart that it has come to this,” he tells us.

Since the Star Awards is aired on ABS, entertainers outside the awards proper, will only come from ABS. And the same practice is followed by GMA and TV5. “But this is an industry awards night. It should be open to all,” Al says.

He thinks the competing stations could find a solution, as proven by his last directorial job Dolphy Alay Tawa: A Musical Tribute to the King of Philippine Comedy, simultaneously aired by the three major networks and attended by their biggest stars.

It is also Al’s birthday month as he will turn 79 but hardly looks it. What is his secret? The dancing helps, he admits, but more than anything it is his outlook in life. He doesn’t make anything become a problem. “Lahat nagagawan ng paraan.”

 While chatting with Al, we discover him to be the ultimate lagarista, meaning he has never worked exclusively for one company. He would make himself available to everyone. When he moved from live entertainment at the Manila Grand Opera House to the era of the Big Four motion picture companies, he worked mostly with LVN (founded in 1938 by Doña Sisang de Leon), and Premiere Productions (founded by Ciriaco Santiago in 1946, continued by son Cirio). He missed the chance to work with Lebran and Sampaguita (founded 1937 by Azucena Vera Perez and Dr. Jose “Doc” Perez) because Doc wanted an exclusive arrangement. Now, we understand why he is uncomfortable with the exclusivity aspect of today’s networks.

All the exposure to lovely women in the movies eventually proved irresistible to Al who choreographed and directed for Premiere the dream sequence of Tipin, first starring role of Lani Oteyza, Elizabeth Barnes in real life. Although their union produced five children, it still ended in separation. In 1985, Al married Elizabeth Bolanos, former flight stewardess of Cathay Pacific with whom he has three children. Apparently, his wandering ways have ended.   

  In discussing his career in dancing, Al recalls his taking up ballet at the UST in 1957, but ended up learning so many other types of dances. When he met Pancho at a fund-raiser, they hit it off that Pancho asked him to join the movie Maria Went to Town as a dancer. It was also Pancho who changed his name from Alcuin Pastrano to Al Quinn.

What would follow dancing but choreography which he self-studied. He brought his jazz group to the Friday Variety Show on Channel 7 at the Republic Supermarket on Avenida Rizal. “We were paid P20 per show,” Al relates. Premiere’s Adela Santiago, in-charge of the studio’s musical comedies, hired Al as choreographer and set up a dance group called Als Dancers. One of his dancers was Ramon Zamora. 

Life was fast-paced. He was dancer, choreographer, dance director and actor in movies like Lo’ Waist Gang and other action flicks, and was introduced by Pancho to Dolphy who asked him to choreograph his movies. On TV, he directed Carmen on Camera in black and white, Carmen in Color when color TV arrived and was one of the directors of Nora Aunor’s Superstar on Channel 9 during Martial Law. Al found himself even busier on Channels 9, 13 and City2, the three stations operational during Martial Law.

After the Marcos era, Al directed Bahay Mo Ba ‘To for GMA with Ronaldo Valdez, Tessie Tomas and Gladys Reyes in 2004, and Quizon Avenue for ABS in 2005. He did all the Metropop Awards nights, the Cecil Awards and still directs the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageants. The one new activity he has added is painting in the realistic mode. There is no doubt he will again excel in it.   

(E-mail the author at

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