The life of dancing continues to shine through up until this very day and age. The opportunity of knowing these dancers, who are gems waiting to be recognized and found, gave Vivre a chance to sit down and talk with some of those who gracefully move in the beat of their own drum. 

In an interview, we spoke with Les Paul Sañez and Melrein Viado, as they let us take a glimpse of their life as a dancer, choreographer, and simply as people who live by the art that moves them.

Have you always wanted to be a dancer/choreographer?

LES:   Honestly, I'm originally not a dancer. I was more of a singer before. I was also a public speaker. Those were the things that I did often. But I was already dancing in between because we have field demonstrations every year in Beda. We have dances in high school but we didn't have proper training. As in sayaw lang for performances. I became more interested in dancing when I met an alumnus [of San Beda] in Notre. He became our coach.

As I time passed, I've fallen deeper in love with dance. So when I was about to graduate from college, it was a struggle for me to decide which career path to pursue. I'm a Legal Management major so I need to proceed with taking up Law. But I eventually decided to pursue dance as a career.

REIN:    Since I was little, there are like "glimpses" of me being a dancer. There's this story by my Tita about how I would dance along to the beat of whatever music was playing in the disco house in front of our house before. But my love for dance started in high school. I didn't have formal training. It was only when I came here in Cagayan de Oro that I had the chance to practice in a studio setting. Here, it’s more on mentorship because the dancers dwell more on the street side. They learn dances in the streets.

After that, I really wanted to pursue dance but there's a hindrance. I'm caught between pursuing my passion and choosing a stable job. But now, I’m looking towards following my passion.

Who or what inspires you to continue your craft?

LES:  For me, I can't deny that I look up to Brian Puspos in the start. Maybe a lot of people did too. But along the way, my mentors like Eric Javier, have helped me pursue dance. They're the ones who started the fire for me to be able to do this.  

As of now, I take inspiration from a situation. I have a plan to change the dance scene here in the Philippines in a way that dance is not just a hobby, but also an honorable job. A lot of people see it only as a hobby. They don't see it as a career that can support oneself or even a family. In other countries, it's different. 

So if it's possible in other places, why not here too? That's what motivates me to keep improving my art. Every time I dance or choreograph, I always think to myself, "I wish this would propel me to somewhere on top that will make people see that it's possible. And that would make people start to believe that it's possible."

REIN:    At first, my inspiration was Brian [Puspos]. Like what Les said, maybe he was everyone's inspiration. But in general, I've looked up to Xtatic because in 2007 they won during the World Supremacy Battlegrounds in Australia. Usually, the ones representing the Philippines in dance competitions are from Luzon, but it was the first time that a group from Mindanao joined and they become champions right away. That really inspired me and made me think "Kaya pala natin coming from a small city".

I moved to Manila to learn more. I joined different groups and I met a lot of new people. Les and I met when I enrolled in his class and honestly, I consider him as my mentor.

In my family, most of my relatives are educators. They want me to be successful in a corporate job or anything as long as the passion for teaching is there. So for me, my passion for teaching is geared towards dance, which is why I want to improve myself so I can inspire and teach people through dance.

What misconceptions do you want to sort of "debunk" about your craft?

LES:  There are actually a lot! For example, dancers don't do well in school. When I was in college, people really believed that dancers like me don't perform well in school but really, they don't know anything. Maybe they have that perception because they always see us rehearsing but everybody's different. I feel like a lot of people are just over analyzing stuff. They think we don't do well in school that's why we choose to dance instead.  

Aside from that, people think dancing is easy. It's actually a sport and dancers are athletes. It requires training and a lot of time for you to perfect your craft. With that being said, dance is also entertainment. So even if you're so good at it aesthetically but you don’t have the entertainment side of it, you’re not going be an effective performer.

There's a lot of background in dance that you need to learn in order for you to become a better dancer but people think it's easy. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Everyone can dance but not everyone can pursue it as a career. You need to learn the essential stuff.

REIN:  When people know that I take this particular dance class, most of them say things like, "Ba't ka pa nag-aattend ng class eh magaling ka na (Why do you still attended classes when you're already a good dancer?)" Honestly, it's not easy and you should have the drive to learn more.

Dance is not like, okay you're gonna attend one class and then you'll become a great dancer already. There's so many things to learn so you can become not just a dancer, but also a choreographer. You have to learn the technical side and hone the creative side as well.

Throughout all the years you've spent working on your craft, what have you learned so far?

LES:    I feel like all those years of training has helped me execution and technique wise. I've learned more about what my body can do. We all have different body types so along the way, I got to understand that just because someone can do it, it doesn't mean you can do it too. Some people can do certain dance moves that maybe you can do too because you have the same body type.

Dance also teaches you to be responsible. You also have to be disciplined when it comes to studying different styles and moves. For me now, even if I'm sort-of already established, it doesn't mean that I shouldn't take classes anymore. I still take basic classes like contemporary, jazz or ballet and to think they're all basic. Honestly, these types of dances are the foundation to make you a better and effective dancer.

REIN:    For me, dance forces you to take care of yourself. You really have to live a healthy lifestyle in order to do more advanced stuff and to be the best version of yourself. So it's not just the mindset that you have to change but your body too. It's a wholistic change.

As creatives, we all have our own processes when we're creating something. For example, when you're choreographing a particular song, how do you usually do it?

LES:    Actually, there isn't a particular pattern that I follow. There are days when I like a certain song but I can't choreograph a dance for it. There are also days when I don't really plan to choreograph it but suddenly, out of nowhere, the inspiration strikes and I want to work on it.

My creative process starts with figuring out what the singer is trying to say. At the end of the day, the song has to match with the emotion that I want to portray. It's so important to connect these two different things. From there, I create a story in my head. The steps will make sense no matter how simple it is because I'm following a story.

I don't always do these things when I'm choreographing because there are times when I just want to put whatever I think of. Basically, there are two sides of the coin. Sometimes I overthink the choreography but sometimes I just allow my emotions to dictate my dance. The latter shows the raw side of the dance.

REIN:    My process is similar with Les. There's no definite timeline because sometimes there's a song that I want to choreograph a dance for last year but I just finished it now. So it depends. Now that I'm still on the exploration stage, my creative process is focused on incorporation whatever I learned from my formal training. I try to experiment as much as possible.

What’s your advice to those who are still starting out?

LES:    First, just dance and listen to music. Allow yourself to be raw. If you really want to improve, enroll yourself in a studio so you'll learn more about yourself, about what dance is all about.

The best advice I want to give is not to be like me because I want you to be you. I want you to find your own identity in dance. Dance is more of an expression of who you are and we’re not all the same. We all have different identities, likes and dislikes, especially about music.

So don’t let the internet, destroy the curious child in you. Whatever music you want, whether you like Kpop or dubstep, if that's the kind of music that sparks your interest, why not try it and be the first person to do it here. That's so much better than always trying to ride with the waves and be like other people.

REIN:   Don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself! Sometimes people, especially when they're still starting out, they're stuck in their comfort zone and they're afraid. This is so true especially if you’re from a small city like Cagayan de Oro where people's bonds are so close that whenever you try to do something, you're gonna think "Kung gagawin ko 'to pag-uusapan ako ng mga tao."

So don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself as long you know what you're doing and you have a definite goal. Just start because you won’t be the version of yourself you want to be if you don’t try.


LES PAUL SAÑEZ is a dance instructor at Groove Central Dance Studio. He's a member of School Of Goodlock. He's also a dance coach of Quezon City Science High School and UST Terpsichorian Circle Medicine.

MELREIN VIADO hails from Cagayan de Oro city. He is currently an instructor at the ACTS Dance and Arts Academy, dance coach of celebrity kids for Mavs Talents Management, and a member of the 2017 VIBE PH Champions, TPM. As a dance coach, he has already taught in studios in Cdo, Metro Manila, and Kuwait. 

Vivre (/Vi/) is a homegrown lifestyle website based in Cagayan de Oro, PH. If you'd like to contribute, don't hesitate to shoot an email to

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