Still stomping!
- Ida Anita Q. Del Mundo (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - At the age of 72, Tony Casimiro is donning a new hat – and strapping on his tap shoes – as the newest dance instructor at Arts in the City, teaching tap dance.

To anyone who asks whether he can handle the physicality of teaching dance classes at his age, he answers readily, “I’m 72 and still stomping, still clapping!”

True enough, Casimiro’s energy is that of a teenager’s as he shows off some of his moves in one of Arts in the City’s dance studios.

He hits the floor in his tap shoes, the click-clack echoing his own excitement as he demonstrates some of the moves that he plans to teach his students as a warm up. Seeing him perform his claps and steps and sways is no less than impressive.

Casimiro, who started as a stage performer in dramas at the Orient Theater at the age of eight, clearly inherited his father’s talent for dance and love for performing.

His father, Bayani Casimiro, was dubbed the “Fred Astaire of the Philippines” and was a constant dance and comedy partner of the King of Comedy himself, Dolphy.

Keeping it in the family, his mother Nieves was also a dancer and performer.

However, Casimiro confides, “Actually hindi alam ng papa ko – ang alam niya ayaw ko sumayaw (Actually my dad did not know about it – he thought I didn’t want to dance).”

As a teenager, Casimiro would invite friends over for ballroom dancing when his father was not at home. “Minsan nahuli niya ako (One time he caught me),” he says, and thus set off the dance career of the young Casimiro.

Because of his dancing, Casimiro was able to perform abroad many times. His first time was in 1958, when the 18-year-old was part of his father’s group, Bayani’s Merry-Go-Round.

Tony Casimiro strikes a pose at The Gallery at Arts in the City (left). In the dance studio, he gamely demonstrates routines using the traditional Filipino bakya (above left) and classic tap shoes (above right). STAR photos by MANNY MARCELO.

Casimiro’s eyes shine as he recalls his experiences as a performer at the various big name studios of the time, including LVN, where he worked with choreographer Al Quinn.

He eventually formed his own trio, the Merry- Go-Rounders, and performed in Vietnam and Guam.

“We were the only Filipinos performing there,” he says. “The rest were Europeans.”

Early on, Casimiro decided, “Never will I do the same things that my father was doing.”

He adds, “Yung tap dance pinaubaya ko na sa kanya (I left the tap dancing up to him).”

It was only when his father passed away that Casimiro started taking up his routines – culminating in a performance of an old routine of his father and Dolphy, which he performed on the comedian’s show, Home Along the Riles.

Aside from dancing and performing, Casimiro became a dancer and choreographer for the NBC show Tayo’y Mag Happy-happy. He was also an emcee for Crazy Corporation and joined bands as a percussionist.

A Commerce major at San Beda, he delved into jobs that were not related to performance – he had a stint as a licensing officer for the POEA and TESDA; he taught computer programming; and now he works with a company’s lending and collecting department. “Ginawa ko lahat ng makakayanan ko (I just did everything I could).”

But Casimiro has dance in his blood, so it was inevitable that he would return to the stage. It was the late Dolphy who got him back into his tap shoes.

Casimiro recalls fondly meeting his Tito Dolphy when he was eight years old. He adds, “I was 11 years old when I went with them to Hong Kong for a year... When I was 12 I went with them to Japan.”

Casimiro describes Dolphy as an all-around performer. It was Bayani who recognized the comedian’s potential for dance and when he offered Dolphy a part in his group, the Comedy King answered, “Kung tuturuan mo ako mag tap dance, sasama ako (If you teach me how to tap dance, I’ll join you).”

Casimiro says of the Comedy King, “Ang napansin ko sa kanya ay mapagmahal talaga siya, maingat siya sa gamit niya, at matulungin talaga (What I noticed about him is he was very loving, he took care of his things, and he was very helpful).”

Sure enough, it was Dolphy who helped Casimiro return to dance. When Bibeth Orteza mentioned to Dolphy that she wanted her son Raffy to learn tap, the comedian told her that the only one he trusted to teach tap dance today was Tony Casimiro.

Bibeth posted the exchange on her Facebook page and Casimiro found her through the social networking site.

At Dolphy’s wake, he was introduced to Sandy Hontiveros of Arts in the City, who promptly offered him the venue for his tap dance classes.

Na-endorse niya ako sa kahuli-hulihang sandali (He endorsed me up to his last breath),” says Casimiro of his Tito Dolphy.

Casimiro will hold classes for both beginners and those at an intermediate level. The classes will start on Aug. 14, and will be launched together with many other Arts in the City programs – Jim Paredes’ workshops on tapping into the creative universe, a samba marathon, and more.

Aside from Orteza’s son, Dolphy’s daughter Zia Quizon might make an appearance at the tap dance class.

“I hope so,” says Casimiro “Para buo ang barkada (so the gang is complete).”

“Anyone can learn if they have the interest,” says Casimiro. He recalls taking piano lessons when he was young – and lasting only a month.

Looking back, he says he was demotivated by the endless scales he had to practice, when all he really wanted was to play a song.

Taking this into consideration, Casimiro says that he will teach his students some easy steps and routines right off the bat to give them a sense of accomplishment. “I want to show them some steps that are easy and can be applied right away.” 

Casimiro has fond memories of his Tito Dolphy. His father Bayani Casimiro and the Comedy King perform as a tap dance tandem .

 He also looks forward to teaching tap dance with a unique twist – tap dance with bakya, which he also demonstrated with the same energy and exuberance.

And, while Casimiro looks up to the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, he shares that he prefers to use new music for his classes – he is particularly excited to teach a warm-up routine set to the song “Sexy Thing.” He will be teaching the same classic steps, with new music, he says, in hopes that it will make tap dancing more interesting.

 He also notes the important contribution of the group Happy Feet, who won Pilipinas Got Talent, in being able to drum up more interest in the dance style.

“Join the fun!” he says, especially to beginners and the curious. As he dances on, there is a spring in Casimiro’s step and a sway to his gait, reflecting not only a continued interest in, but a true passion for, tap dance.

For class schedules, contact Arts in the City at tel 889-3028.

CASIMIRO DANCE DOLPHY TAP TITO DOLPHY
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