From Adversity to Stardom: Junior New System from the Philippines Soar to New Heights!
By Rico Aguirre / Backgrounder excerpt
From adversity and hardship always comes the most artful of masterpieces. And no artist worth his salt ever starts out wealthy, their propaganda notwithstanding.
In such difficult circumstances did the Junior New System Dance Crew begin their fairy tale life. In the bowels of Sampaloc, a poor, crowded, squatter-infested district of Manila, a group of brothers watched their older siblings gyrate to the staccato beat of hip hop music, in English and Tagalog. As the older boys gravitated to other interests, younger ones, aged ten to sixteen, stepped into their shoes and improved on their dance movements, attracting other vagrants, orphans and sundry garbage-collectors to their nightly practice sessions. For lack of anything better to do, they became good at hip hop, calling themselves Junior New System, or JNS. As the trains rolled by, the JNS boys rehearsed beside railroad tracks, snatching their throw-away mattresses from the steel wheels just in time.
For six years from 2009 they toiled, becoming good enough to compete in local dance contests, riding rented jeepneys from town to town, winning a couple of thousand Pesos here and losing more competitions there than they care to remember. And so they struggled, quarreling occasionally with parents worried about their children, always returning to their hovels too crowded to really call home. But there was no single contest that would catapult them to fame, only a long, hard slog that kept them awake on the road till wee hours of the morning. Until a former dancer, Mar Visda, offered to manage their meanderings.
In March of 2015, their Manager wangled an audition for JNS for the first Asia’s Got Talent show to be held in Singapore. Dedication to their craft got the producers interested enough to give them a place. When they first appeared on AGT, the four foreign judges were immediately wowed by their lyrical method, different than the tough, in-your-face, street-oriented hip hop norm. By their second performance a couple of weeks later, they had completely changed the audience’s impression of hip hop, warming their way into the judges’ hearts with a never-before-seen dance in stiletto heels to win a Golden Buzzer award, propelling them directly to the Finals. But there were so many Filipino finalists that the TV audience’s votes were divided, knocking JNS down to third place, along with two other Philippine talents.
A series of public invitations to cultural dance exhibitions followed, and for a few months JNS was busy, accepting a few invitations to appear in major network noontime shows, and a trip to Penang, Malaysia to cap that city’s 2016 New Year countdown. They were becoming an Asia-wide phenomenon, creating modest-sized fan bases in Malaysia, Indonesia and even Taiwan.
As if this weren’t enough, the Philippine cultural establishment named JNS as the Best Dance Company in the country, culminating in two ALIW awards in a row for both 2015 and 2016. Hip hop had arrived, and it took a team of poor Sampaloc boys to bring it home.
World Championships of the Performing Arts (WCOPA)
In 2016, JNS auditioned for the World Championships of the Performing Arts, hoping to win a place, this time on the World stage in Hollywood. Led by Mr. Gerry Mercado (WCOPA's National Licensed Director), JNS was selected to become part of the 2016 Philippines National Team delegation.
They flew out in July 2016, and in their classic low-cost, crowded, yet disciplined way, JNS won their first WCOPA contest in Long Beach CA. After that followed three more dance category competitions, all of which they won as well.
Finally, on Saturday, July 16, 2016, WCOPA selected Junior New System as the Grand Champion Performer of the World on WCOPA’s 20th anniversary.
Having won many Philippine cultural awards and local trophies, JNS had finally become U.S. world champions as well! They will retrieve their prize in July 2017, spending a month in Hollywood to train under the Millennium Dance Company. Then they will hand over the crown to the next WCOPA 2017 champion.
From the hovels of Sampaloc to the halls of Hollywood! Not since the invention of light to banish the darkness has such an incongruous sequence been created by discipline, persistence and sheer love for the Performing Arts.
Click below to Watch the 2016 JNS Wining Performance at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood!.
*** For more information on how to become part of this great experience go to: http://wcopa.com/contestants/how-to-be-a-contestant
*** Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click below to follow the 2017 WCOPA Team Philippines on Facebook!
Congratulations to Rita Estevanovich