23-year-old Filipino ballet dancer makes it to HK Performing Arts

Anton Alvia is living—and working for—the dream inspired by ‘Billy Elliot’

Inspired by Billy Elliot, Anton Alvia pursues his ballet dream. He is also a dance scholar of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. 

Particularly in the Philippines, ballet has been traditionally considered “feminine.”

Although the world of ballet has journeyed through several changes and transformations, stereotypes against male ballet dancers still persist. Men in tights and pointe shoes are not popular. 

Anton Alivia, a dance scholar of Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, is a Filipino ballet dancer.

“I choose ballet because of its beauty and athleticism. It’s also challenging because . . . you always push yourself beyond the norms your body can do,” he says. “It is an unending process of self-discovery.”

Anton—whose full name is Jose Mikhail Anton Yee Alvia—is named after one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time, Russian choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

At age three, Anton started taking dance lessons with his mother, a ballet teacher. But his mother believes he was already learning to glide and twirl inside her womb when she was staging “The Nutcracker” while pregnant.

Born to athletic parents—his father is a sportsman and the president of the GAP Cheerleading Philippines and the Gymnastics Trampolining National Team— the 23-year-old has always had a passion for dancing.

But growing up, he kept his passion a secret. 

With choreographer, Yuri Ng, of the Butterfly Lovers and the artist director of CCDC (City Contemporary Dance Company)

“I never told my schoolmates about it since they think ballet is very feminine, unlike hip hop. It is hard for boy ballet dancers in the Philippines to pursue their passion in ballet,” he shares.

His love for ballet grew when he watched “Billy Elliot,” a British film that revolves around a boy who loves to dance and has hopes of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

“I remember watching the movie when I was 10 years old. I found that our stories and journeys were very similar,” Anton says. “Since we were both the only boys in a class of 50 girls in a ballet class, and we hid our ballet shoes in our bags so that our schoolmates wouldn’t know about it.”

Today, Anton doesn’t have to hide his ballet shoes in his school bag anymore.

In college, he enrolled in Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Major in Ballet at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

On his second year, he decided to take a “risk” and audition for Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, a school he has always visited with his ballet teacher-mother since he was three years old.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the auditions were conducted online. He submitted his dance portfolio and went through the interview. 

Around the end of July last year, results came out. Anton passed the screening but turned down the offer of admission to the dance school.

“I thought of my family first. Since we’re in the middle of the pandemic,” Anton says, citing Covid-19 testing expenses and other miscellaneous fees. 

When HKAPA heard about it, they offered him full scholarship. The teachers of the dance school pitched in funds to fly him to Hong Kong. Thanks to them, Anton leaps closer to his dream.

Anton is a first-year ballet major at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Anton’s solo piece created for City Contemporary Dance Company

Typically, freshmen are not allowed to join any major school productions, but Anton was cast as one of the opening soloists for Butterfly Lovers by award-winning choreographer Yuri Ng, a dance interpretation of the Chinese tragic love story between Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, also called the Chinese Romeo and Juliet story. 

“It was nerve-racking for me since I felt pressured to do my best . . . but overall it was a wonderful experience that I definitely enjoyed and another dream come true moment,” he says.

His dream roles for classical ballet are to be Prince Desire (Sleeping Beauty), Siegfried (Swan Lake), or one of the principal dancers in the Ballet Etudes.

“I see myself dancing in contemporary ballets like Petite Mort by Jiri Kylian and works of Matthew Bourne, Forsythe, or Wayne McGregor,” he adds.

In five years’ time, Anton’s goal is to become a resident choreographer in a company and be able to create contemporary ballets abroad that are inspired by Philippine culture and identity. 

And he hopes to fulfill these dreams one leap at a time.

Performance in the Choreographic Workshop 1: The Suit by Yam Wing Nam

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