Hazel Sabas-Gower & Sofia Zobel-Elizalde: Partners in dance
JOYFUL HARVEST - Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao () - May 23, 2011 - 12:00am

The art of dance is like the art of writing,” says critically acclaimed choreographer, and ballet instructor Hazel Sabas-Gower about her oeuvre. “You need some kind of inspiration; you struggle somewhat in the beginning, and approach it like it is your life.”

To avoid the tired clichés, she advises against being dependent on music for one’s choreography. “Start creating movement with music only in your head. Explore what is within you. Try to do awkward movements that aren’t ‘ballet’ and find your own voice.” She continues, “Create shapes and lines because imagery is important. Choreography is very visual and all elements have to work Ask yourself: Can my dance stand alone?”

Now based in the United States, Hazel began her formal ballet training with the Royal Academy of Dance program under Felicitas Raidic. She was a principal dancer of Ballet Philippines and had notable lead roles in Don Quixote, La Fille Mal Gardee, La Bayadere, Carmen and Classical Symphony, among others.

“I was a very reticent person and people didn’t believe I could make it because I was so shy,” she reveals. This, despite performing internationally from age 14. “It was the Golden Era for ballet (in the Philippines) but I never looked at myself as a ballerina; I was determined to do something else. The love of choreography was burning inside me.”

Hazel credits dance icon Alice Reyes for encouraging this interest. “I was enamored with choreography because she encouraged us to do dance studies.” A piece entitled “Doodles” earned Reyes’ praise. “She told me, ‘Hazel, there’s a bit of genius there.’ It became a confirmation; my motivation for love of movement.”

After obtaining a diploma in Creative and Performing Musical Arts from UP (“I was one of two graduates who earned a dance degree in 1985”), Hazel underwent a rigorous program of dance performance and choreography courses at New York University ‘s Tisch School of the Arts. She won a prestigious Fulbright grant, and has received numerous awards.

Since then, Hazel has worked or studied with world-renowned artists; has performed alongside famous dancers Yoko Morishita, Fernando Bujones, Alicia Alonso, Patrick Bissell, Martin Van Hamel, Leslie Brown, Joyce Cuoco, Julio Bocca, and Wes Chapman. She was artistic director of Ballet Lubbock and Ballet Mistress with Ballet Memphis where her choreographies including Dracula, Firebird and Deconstructing Gershwin were well received by critics. She has taught, directed, and/or choreographed in the Philippines (Ballet Manila and Ballet Philippines), United States (choreographer at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet; instructor at Texas Ballet Theater Academy; assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst; ballet faculty at Texas Christian University and University of North Texas), and Spain (Ballet David Campos.)

On May 29, “Green,” a neo- classical ballet choreographed by Hazel Sabas-Gower, will be performed by advanced students of the Steps Dance Studio and danseurs of Ballet Manila.

 Currently in the Philippines as guest teacher and choreographer at Sofia Zobel Elizalde’s Steps Dance Studio, Hazel Sabas-Gower describes her latest, critically acclaimed dance composition called “Green” as an ode to the simplicity and beauty of nature. “I wanted to interpret the elements of nature in dance so that it hits people in their core. It is an interpretation of nature’s essential elements — earth, water, air and fire.” “Green” was first performed at the Choreoplan 2011 by the prestigious Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.

Hazel explains that the neo-classical piece is set to a unique rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music by accordion musician Richard Galliano, and was created as a tribute to her parents. “This piece says a lot of things. It is for my father, the late Dr. Leon Borja Sabas, a surgeon who loved playing the accordion; and my mom Luz Escalante Sabas who has always been active in the zero-waste program as a ‘Green’ eco-warrior.”

For local dance enthusiasts, the good news is that “Green” will be performed at the 17th Anniversary Concert of Steps Dance Studio, one of the most innovative and creative dance studios in the country today.

Steps founder and managing director Sofia Zobel-Elizalde says: “Hazel is a long-time friend and I am so honored to have her as our guest teacher and choreographer this summer. New work with difficult choreography is good for the students. I feel that Hazel’s work is so sophisticated that it makes our students look professional. But in the end, I just like people to really enjoy themselves. This is why we can’t be lazy. We try to keep on developing good art. What I really love about ‘Green’ is that the dance sings the music so that it pulls a string of emotion.”

* * *

The 17th Anniversary Concert of Steps Dance Studio will be held at the CCP Main Theater on May 29, 2011 at 6 p.m. For more information, call Steps Dance Studio at 757-2984 or 843-8472 or visit http://stepsdancestudio.ph.

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