What makes Geleen keep on dancing

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo -

Her mantra is simple: Dance as if no one can see you!

That’s what dance icon Geleen Eugenio says in her notes on the CD Marian Rivera Retro Crazy (In Celebration of Geleen Eugenio’s 30 Years as The Dance Legend), released by Universal Records, featuring the smash-hit Sabay-Sabay Tayo which Geleen herself wrote, plus medleys of the biggest retro dance hits of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

“I’ve been following that mantra all these 30 years,” wrote Geleen in whose honor the GMA noontime show S.O.P. devoted the whole episode as a tribute to her in November last year. “As a dancer and choreographer, my trademark is movements done in wild abandon...I see dancers today who copy the steps that I created decades ago...”

Although Geleen started dancing professionally at age 21, she realized that she wanted to be a dancer when she was five years old.

“I credit Ronnie Henares for discovering me,” said Geleen. “He saw me in a fashion show in Hyatt in 1978. John Gaddi, my first dancing partner, and I were modeling na pa-sayaw-sayaw. I guess natuwa sa akin si Ronnie so he got me into Penthouse 7 hosted by Archie Lacson.”

Geleen looked up to the Aldeguer Sisters (Teri and Laly) as her idols.

“I was in grade school then. I started fantasizing myself as a dancer while watching them dance on TV.”

After finishing kindergarten and grade school at St. Theresa’s College and high school at St. Paul’s College, Geleen took up HRM (Hotel & Restaurant Management) in college but she ended up in dancing anyway. “Hilig ko talaga, eh,” she said, “love ko talaga.” So she took up dance lessons under Bella Damian and Vida Bañez, dreaming to be not only “another Aldeguer sister” but also to follow in the footsteps of her cousin Lita Eugenio, then tagged as The Queen of Twist, who was performing on the TV show Nineteeners.

After college, Geleen worked at The Hilton but soon quit when WEA Records boss Ramon Chuaying hired her as company choreographer, training the likes of Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor. That was after her brief stint on Penthouse 7.

“I was Vilma’s choreographer for her movies (Disco Fever, Good Morning Sunshine, etc.) and at the same time I was also choreographing for Nora on her show Superstar. When Vilma had her own TV show, she got me as choreographer but I stayed with her for only one month. The network bosses told me that I shouldn’t be handling two superstars at the same time. Nora was on Channel 9 and Vilma was on Channel 13. Because of loyalty, I chose to stay with Nora kasi mas nauna naman ako sa kanya. I was with her for four years na at that time. But first, I talked to Vilma who is a ninang of my son Miggy. I left Vilma with a heavy heart.

Asked if she was a Noranian, Geleen thought for a while and smiled, Noon ‘yon!”

Who was the better dancer and easier to train, Vilma or Nora?

“It’s hard to tell. Nora is good in memorizing dance steps and Vilma is good in the execution.”

Other stars Geleen choreographed for included Alma Moreno (for her TV show Loveli-NESS), Maricel Soriano (for Maricel Live! on Channel 13 and Maria, Maria on Channel 4)), Kuh Ledesma and Manilyn Reynes (Manilyn Live!).

It was Maribeth Bichara who replaced Geleen as Vilma’s choreographer. Perhaps as an offshoot of their star-mistresses’ rivalry, Geleen (for Nora) and Maribeth (for Vilma) were also pitted against each other and the two dancers tried to ride on the wave of the faked rivalry between them when actually, claimed Geleen, “Maribeth and I were good friends.”

Dance is a growing art and the craze changes as fast as the weather so Geleen continues to master new steps and reinvent her style.

“I grow with the times. I never stick to just one style. I do jazz, modern, hip-hop, ballroom dancing, lahat-lahat na. I am fortunate to have WEA Records as my mother company and now, Universal Records (forerunner of WEA),” confessed Geleen who runs her own studio (single-handedly for a few years and now, renamed Studio V, in partnership with Gary Valenciano and his wife Angeli Pangilinan).

Her two children are products of broken romances. It’s only her son Miggy Tanchanco who’s following in his mom’s (dancing) steps. Geleen’s daughter, Mayton Hernandez, is in the States.

Under UR, Geleen has launched all kinds of dance crazes. The carrier single Sabay Sabay Tayo of the Retro Crazy CD is beautifully and gracefully interpreted by Marian Rivera for whom (and her loveteam-mate Dingdong Dantes) Geleen did the choreography for their Big Dome show Let’s Celebrate! middle of 2008 (and restaged in L.A. in December, also last year).

“Marian is easy to teach. She’s a good dancer, as you must have seen in Marimar. When she dances, she flirts and that’s good; she seduces and that’s even better. She conquers the camera with her sexy dancing.”

The potpourri of six blockbusters guarantees hours of non-stop dancing.

Retro Crazy Megamix #1 (Radio Edit) consists of We Are Family, How Gee, Supersonic, Let’s Go, Magic Carpet Ride (Aring King King), Body Dancer, 628 and Cha Cha Cha.

Retro Crazy Megamix #2 (Radio Edit) spotlights the dance favorites A Night To Remember, Rico Mambo, Name Game, Shalala, Always, Don’t Cry, Swiss Boy and We Like To Party.

Retro Crazy Medley #1 includes Body Dancer, Hypnotize, 628, Don’t Cry and Cha Cha Cha.

Retro Crazy Medley #2 has Rico Mambo, How Gee, Supersonic, Name Game, My Girl and Let’s Go.

Retro Crazy #3 consists of different arrangements of Shalala, Always, Carpet Ride (Aring King King), Chocolate, This Is How We Do it and We Like To Party.

And on Retro Crazy #4 are Le Freak, We Are Family, Lover’s Holiday, A Night To Remember, Whip It and Rock Lobster.

“Do you know why I wrote Sabay Sabay Tayo? Yes, to prove that anyone can dance; it’s only a matter of swaying to the music.”

So what else does “the Dance Legend” aim for?

“To walk down the aisle in a wedding gown,” she said, her eyes turning misty.

Geleen ends her CD notes with a reassurance for everybody.

“Remember, no one was ever born with two left feet. Just dance...as if no one can see you!”

Okay, music please!

(E-mail reactions at [email protected] or at [email protected])

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