Dubai: Wearing a big Afro hair, baggy sweatpants and a Michael Jordan jersey, Sharjah-based dancer and choreographer Christopher Lawrence Trasmaño weaves through a crowd of pedestrians at a busy intersection in Deira.
His hair attracts attention as it bounces with his every step toward his dance crew’s usual practice spot: A patch of grass under a row of trees near the Union metro station.
But it is not his hair that’s his main attraction. The Filipino, who is known in the local entertainment circuit as CLFrostyle, is one of the UAE’s pioneering freestyle dancers.
His most memorable performance? “Working on New Year’s Eve 2013 for the Dubai Water, Fire and Light show. We’re at the foot of Burj Khalifa and there are at least 10 dancers on the stage, with an orchestra on the side,” he recalls.
“It was the first time I bought my mum a Louis Vuitton. I got paid Dh31,500 for dancing at the base of the Burj,” he says with a grin.
He is hoping to land his crew, the DXB Titans, the same kind of lucrative gig.
For now, the Filipino dancers are busy practicing everywhere they can, every chance they get.
“We mainly train in the Union station’s grass park area and the fountain area for flips, tricks, breakdance and other hip-hop styles,” he says, pointing at a smiling crew of guys aged 24 to 34.
A mini speaker begins playing funk music. It’s a scorching hot day but this crew of Filipino “ninja” dancers hardly break a sweat as they start to practice their breakdance.
Their stage names are as quirky as their dance moves: JP, Jervy, Jhayr, Jab, Kevin, Ryan, Cypher, Toby, Carl, Jake, Bryan and Rhael.
They’re prepping up for the Titan Dance DXB competition at Boracay club in Dubai on July 6 where they will be competing with 14 other dance groups in the UAE for the Dh15,000 grand prize. A dozen of the competing groups are Filipinos, he says.
“The UAE scene for Filipino dance crews is very underground. Very few know about the Filipino crew,” Trasmaño says.
His goal, he says, is to bring Filipino dance talent to the fore. “I want to give them a platform. All we need is a platform,” he says.
“If you look at world hip-hop competitions in the US, we had five Filipino crews winning. We’re very good in choreography,” he says.
Hip-hop in UAE
After spending 12 years in the UAE as boy and then moving back to the Philippines to pursue a career in hip-hop dancing, he found his way back to the UAE in 2010 to help his mother cope with divorce.
“I was at my peak. My mum got depressed, just separated from her second husband,” he says. She wanted him to take over their wedding planning business. “I told her I couldn’t do it.. it wasn’t my passion,” he says.
He turned to what he loves most: dancing. He also got a lot of encouragement from his family, including his Emirati half-brother and cousin who are break dancers in the Philippines.
Since 2010 he has formed two dance groups in the UAE. He says he is currently creating an all-female dance group and a children’s dance crew.
The UAE provides a “lucrative environment” for dancers, Trasmaño says, adding that this is one of the reasons why professional dancers in the Philippines have ventured into the UAE.
But more than just for the money, Trasmaño says he is happy to pour his heart into dancing. He’s happy that he and his crew are getting attention; even if some of it is for his hairstyle.
“I come from Catanduanes in the Philippines. When I saw the native Aetas with their curly hair, I thought I must have descended from them. So I let my hair grow like this. I haven’t cut it for eight years,” he says with a big grin.