Caro Wilson and Steps Dance Studio bring Christmas spirit with ballet protégés dancing with stars

Interior and lighting designer Mark Wilson presents his latest holiday collection that benefits Steps Scholarship Foundation

Dancing with the stars. If you set the thought of the American reality TV show aside, that phrase is truly poetic. Just imagine, dancers gleefully moving as the stars descend from the night sky and light them up in their every step. That’s one fairy tale moment anyone would love to see. Fortunately for us, we can have a glimpse of that spectacular sight with Steps Dance Studio’s performance featuring Mark Wilson’s beautifully crafted parols in the tune of Filipino Christmas classic, Ryan Cayabyab’s “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit.” And there’s a chance for you to bring a piece of that holiday magic to your home.

The symbol of hope

Staying up north in Baguio, Mark cannot help but express how different the previous Christmas season was due to the pandemic. “It was not the Christmas that I have been used to. It is not a Filipino Christmas,” he says, a point many would definitely agree. Much like the biblical Magi, the man behind the wonderful creations of Caro Wilson dreamed of a star that will help bring back the spirit of the Yuletide season to Filipinos’ homes, especially in our today’s situation.

Benguet Pine wreath

Mark presents his latest holiday collection featuring one of the ultimate emblems of Paskong Pinoy, the parol. But instead of going for a flamboyant and festive aesthetic, the designer chose for the parols to have a more subtle beauty, aiming for a timeless and classic vibe that puts the spotlight on Filipino craftsmanship and materials.

The ornament collection is made of natural abaca sourced from Bicol and bamboos for the structure. Much like a cosmic display, the parol line comes in different colorways, from holiday colors like red and green to cooler tones such as silver, blue, and the natural champagne color of the materials. The collection’s abaca gumon, sinamay, and weaving techniques are elements that will definitely delight people. Upon taking a closer look and one will see the delicate details Mark incorporated in each of the holiday star decors, from the cross abaca twine stitchings echoing the Crucifix to the loops for the star’s tails that mirror his jewelry work. Completing the collection is a Benguet Pine wreath, adorned with red and green ribbons and a silver-plated cone at the center.

Transparent abaca sinamay with red-stained bamboo parol

Woven abaca with bamboo frame parol

Benguet Pine wreath

“I want to bring back the Christmas spirit, and I needed it now,” the designer says. “I settled on the parol as a symbol of Christmas and the symbol of hope. I was hopeful that 2021 will have a different kind of Christmas, more free because of the vaccinations that were happening. But I guess I underestimated the Delta variant and here we are locked up again. Nevertheless, I’m glad I brought this out. It’s putting people into the mood again.”

The future stars

Creating a different kind of star is Steps Dance Studio. Since its establishment in 1994, the school has been honing Filipino dance protégés and inspiring them to be the best they can be. That goal didn’t stop even during the pandemic, with its classes going online. But what makes the premier dance school special is its ability to gift anyone the chance to learn the art of dance through its foundation.

Founded in 2007, Steps Scholarship Foundation has been an avenue for young kids’ dream of performing to become a reality. For the longest time, it has partnered with the Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education in finding potential mentees from Tondo and Makati, and give them a chance to pursue something they’re passionate about.

Currently, Steps Scholarship Foundation supports an average of 50 dance scholars per year, providing them uniforms, RAD exams, transportation, and food, as they go on and study at the school. Its latest success stories include two 19-year-old boys, Raye Vince Pelegrin and Elwince Magbitang, both are now in New York studying in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance, and under apprenticeship at the American Ballet Theatre.

Elwince Magbitang, Sofia Zobel Elizalde, and Raye Vince Pelegrin

“The beauty of Steps and the beauty of the foundation is when it comes to any art form like dance, there is no rich or poor, or who comes from where or what,” founder Sofia Zobel Elizalde says. “It's about kids having equal opportunities in life. That's the way I like to look at it, having equal opportunities at the dance education. So, no matter where you're from, you can come to Steps.”

Its next goal is to introduce dance studies more to children beyond Metro Manila. Marking the beginning of that journey is the opening of the school’s second studio located in Batangas. Dubbed as the Stella Abrera Dance and Music Hall, the project came to fruition with the help of fundraising projects led by the Ayala Foundation in 2019. Going further than the four corners of its dance halls, Steps has also assisted displaced dancers during the pandemic by collaborating with LikhaPH.

’Tis the season

In keeping up with the season’s spirit of giving and today’s bayanihan in the local arts scene, proceeds from the sales of Mark’s enchanting holiday collection will be donated to the Steps Scholarship Foundation to aid its initiatives.

Steps Dance Studio's students with Caro Wilson's parols

“I want to work with Sofia for a very long time because I adore what she does for her young dancers,” Mark says. “I know it is a very long-term program. So I have been trying to support it in some ways.”

“Arts is so important and I’m grateful to Mark that he supports dance at a time like this because we are not allowed to do live performances up to now,” Sofia muses. “I love collaborations, and when he called me up and asked if Steps Scholarship Foundation could be the recipient of a small percentage of the sales, I jumped right on to it. Mark has always been an advocate of the arts here in the Philippines and he really supports what I do. What nicer way to collaborate than to have these beautiful locally made parols.”

An installation showcasing Mark’s parols at the Peninsula Manila is in the pipeline. For now, see the full holiday collection here and follow and to stay updated.