Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

John Michael M. Acol is one of the rising choreographer/dancers in Soccsksargen who continues to advocate for hip-hop and contemporary dance in the region. Acol and his team showcased their skills in dancing by joining different competitions and performing at various events in the country and abroad.

He took up AB Psychology at the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges. Acol was a former dance master and principal dancer of Teatro Ambahanon Philippines. He is also a visual artist.

He is the founder of Organic Freestylan, a group of hip-hop freestylers based in GenSan. He is also the leader and choreographer of Jah Rules, a group that got 5th place and became one of the international qualifiers in the United Dance Organization. They aspire to be recognized for their own styles.

They will represent the Philippines in the United Dance Organization (UDO) Asia Pacific Street Dance Championship on April 6-9, 2023, to be held in Bangkok, Thailand.

In an interview, he talks about dancing, his process of choreography, and his dream to compete in the world hip-hop championship.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

Yadu Karu: When did you realize that you love dancing?

John Michael Acol: My first dance experience altered the course of my life. Back in 2011, when I was in my fourth year of high school, I felt the powerful force of dance. I feel connected to the dance scene. I am meant to be a part of it. I've never stopped dancing since that day because I believe it's my voice and expression in society.

YK: When did you begin choreographing? Tell us about your first experiences.

JMAC: My first choreographic experience was humiliating because they branded us copycats, which is somehow true because the dance scene in Cotabato City lacks a formal dance workshop. Therefore practically almost all dancers in the city had to copy choreography on YouTube.

Since then, I've studied a variety of hip-hop dancing techniques via YouTube. I'm currently in GenSan, where I met Theatre Ambahanon Philippines. The way I think and choreograph has improved as a result of the proper training I am receiving.

True, there are many talented people, but how they develop depends on their environment.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: What is your genre/style in dance?

JMAC: It's hip-hop dance and contemporary dance. I love those two styles because they focus more on the exploration of movement and creativity. For me, there is no barrier at all. Your imagination is your limit.

In hip-hop dance, the style gives you the freedom to express yourself by connecting to the boom-bap beat old-style genre of music. You feel the vibe of hip-hop culture. I also enjoy doing hip-hop freestyle and the exploration of movement to the flow of the music.

In contemporary dance, you have the freedom to express your thoughts through dance and make choreography inspired by society.

YK: When choreographing a piece how do you approach the creation process? What do you draw inspiration from?

JMAC: In the creation process, I always embodied my tagline, "Be unique". If they don't appreciate my creation, it's okay, because I now know how to value my choreography and that I give my pure intention to it.

I always trust my instincts because, before I create the choreography, it must be finished in my mind. I already visualized everything, including audience interaction, and choreographed how they would react.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a choreographer/dancer?

JMAC: The most difficult challenge is uniting all members. It's tough to manage the members, especially given the group's diverse values and attitudes. Hence, when it comes to competition, all members of the group must be taught the correct mindset.

My strategy was to do a master class after I taught a choreography so that they could appreciate the complexity of the choreography even deeper. The emotions and characterization will then be used.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: What skills have you learned as a dancer that make you a good choreographer?

JMAC: To be a good leader you need to be a good follower. You must have:

1. Discipline
2. Respect the call time.
3. Be an optimist
4. Work hard
5. Think outside the box

YK: What qualities do you look for in a dancer?

JMAC: Discipline, respect, passion for the dance, and a thorough understanding of how a group operates.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: A performer is struggling to learn the routine. How do you proceed?

JMAC: As a choreographer and teacher, I need to get down on their level to assess their ability. Similarly, if they are having difficulty with a step, I will not go to the following part and will instead give their body time to comprehend it.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: Tell us about your experience choreographing at Teatro Ambahanon.

JMAC: Being a choreographer is difficult because there are numerous elements to consider in order to create a great piece. To have a decent output while creating a piece, you must be aware of the things you put in it, similar to how you drive your real life.

At the same time, competing with your dance colleagues is enjoyable since it gives you the confidence to generate new concepts and not fall behind in terms of making choreography.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: This April, you and your team will compete in the United Dance Organization (UDO) Asia Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand. Can you share some details about it?

JMAC: The United Dance Organization (UDO) was established in 2002. UDO is the world's largest International Street Dance Organization, and fastest growing street, hip hop and commercial dance brand globally. Its mission is to provide dancers of all ages, levels, backgrounds, abilities and disabilities, a positive and supportive platform to unleash their creativity and passion.

UDO is one of the big dance platforms for street dance competitions. Every year, UDO searches for a new set of choreography for street dance styles. UDO has many affiliates all over the world, and the Philippines is one of them.

The UDO Philippines competition selects the top eight to perform for the Asian Pacific qualifier. The top 3 will proceed to UDO United Kingdom, the biggest stage in street dance competition.

If my team wins in the second round, we will proceed to the United Kingdom for the finals.

Dancing to express: An interview with John Michael Acol

YK: What advice would you give to an aspiring choreographer or dancer?

JMAC: Stay authentic to your own craft. Have a clear vision and the confidence to implement your own style. It's all about you. Be true to yourself.

YK: What are your future plans?

JMAC: My dream is to be the first Filipino from Mindanao to win the world hip-hop international championship. I have plans to compete and win in the 2023 World Hip-Hop International to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Win or lose, it is an opportunity to perform on such a big platform.



  1. This man has a Wide Vision. I'm so glad to read a local blog about (Performing Artist - Dancers) like this, dreaming and walking the talks. Hoping to read more inspiring Performing Artist - Dance Leaders stories and insights around our region (SOX). Thank you for this initiatives sir <3


Post a Comment

The author encourages readers to post sensible comments in order to have meaningful discussions. Posting malicious, senseless and spam comments are highly discouraged.

Thank you for reading Yadu Karu's Blog.