SF dance community unites to aid sick Pinoy choreographer

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July 17, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino American dancer and choreographer Enrico Labayen was giving final critiques to dancers before show time.

But this particular show was unlike anything he has ever choreographed.

The show was staged in his honor last Saturday at the Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco.

It was meant to raise money to help Labayen survive a deadly disease.

Three months ago, the 60-year old Labayen found out that suffers from the liver disease known as hepatitis C.

According to the Hepatology Society of the Philippines, close to nine million Filipinos are suffering from hepatitis B and hepatitis C and do not even know about it.

“Before that I was feeling good, right,” asked Labayen. “All of a sudden I got my health insurance and then I’m sick! So hep-c, right? The first thing I did was research the new drug, Sovaldi.”

Sovaldi is a very effective drug against liver disease but it is very expensive.

It costs $1,000 dollars a pill or $84,000 for the necessary 12-week treatment.

That’s when the dance community decided to step in.

Bay area dance companies, dancers, choreographers, and the LGBT community put together a benefit concert called “Encore for Enrico” to raise funds for Labayen’s medical expenses.

“They don’t owe me anything,” said Labayen. “I’m so grateful and so blessed that God and my community, little do I know, cares for me and that’s a big surprise.”

Labayen was a dance prodigy from the Philippines who received a scholarship at the American Ballet Theater.

With a dance career spanning over 40 years that includes numerous honors and awards such as being named as one of 2005’s Global Filipinos by ABS-CBN International, Labayen insists on working with not just good dancers, but good people.

“To me the dance is secondary, said Labayen. “It is a requirement but for you to dance for me you have to be a good human being. I want honesty and the truth from you.”

Even though he is fighting a serious disease, Labayen is optimistic and does not plan on taking his final bow any time soon.

“I’m going to be here for a long time that’s why I chose that song “I’ll Be Seeing You,” said Labayen. “You might not see me for three months but I’ll be seeing you when I get back. I’m not ready to say good-bye yet.”

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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