Wednesday, September 10, 2014


"You always have a chance
to make your dreams come true.
I don't believe that there's anything you cannot do.
You are given that much time,
that much opportunity.
The secret is, to get yourself ready
so that when the opportunity comes,
the battle is yours to take anytime, anyhow...
to win it in the end."

These are the words lived by my good friend, Aaron Jan Mercado, who is now on his way to train as swing for the upcoming musical, "Here Lies Love" that will grace London theatres in September of this year. Why I know it? I've been a witness to it all. How he worked hard for it, how he got himself trained for it and most of all, I saw how his frustrations had become his stepping stones into becoming the better version of him everyday. And that's what I'm ready to share to you today to inspire the dreamer in you.


AJ on flight during the 2013 Dance Competition
called Hong Kong's Best Dance Crew
Aaron Jan A. Mercado, commonly known to us as AJ, is the kind of person who doesn't want to waste time.  Now that he's 28, he claims to be more focused, serious and determined in prioritising his goals.

Most teenagers in the Philippines would be busy partying, hanging out, meeting up at STARBUCKS that I think in the long term, would be diabetics for that much spent time sitting there with a frap. AJ, as a teenager, did not have that much luxury as per time since he started dancing since he was 12 years old.

As a company dancer for Dagyaw Theatre and Dance Company (1998-2002) and Edwin C. Duero Dance Company (2002-2003), he was able to to go all the way up to being a choreographer and teacher for Faith Javellana Dance and Arts Center (2003-2004) and from then on, he worked his way to further honing his skills in dancing for Ballet Philippines by deciding on moving to his own country's capital, Manila, Philippines. There he remained to be a scholar and a company member who had demanded time and effort from AJ. AJ took the road less traveled by many. He was attending 2-3 dance classes a day but he never felt regretful of it ever.


One of them jam nights with AJ
From the humble province of Jaro, Iloilo to Manila, Philippines to Hong Kong, AJ never stopped achieving for something. May it be for personal growth, advancement to his performing skills or just basically, keeping a conversation up, he aims to make use of his time productively.

In addition to his fluid ballet skills, AJ remained fit and flexible and had expanded to a much better version of him as he learned BUNGEE ACROBATICS AND STILT WALKING. He was able to attend vocal lessons when he had time and was able to learn how to play the guitar and piano on his own.

I remember having jam nights with him and knowing how to learn how to play several songs (most especially Alicia Keys ones) in the guitar the easier way because he would literally research on it via youtube. With an aim to be able to sing while playing the guitar, he makes it all handy for me. I have to lay out my friend as: HE DOES NOT TAKE ANY BULLSHIT NOR DOES HE TOLERATE ANYTHING SENSELESS. He finds it difficult tolerating illogical opinion nor is he considerate of people who choose unprofessionalism over hard work. So he helps people who are serious in what they want to achieve and I believe he finds delight in every person's achievement. He's the type that he'll praise good work if it is worthy of it. But he'll help you out if things need improvement or in which angle you should concentrate on to make it perfect. He would want the best out of you. He's a good teacher. And I know many people will agree to that.


That being said, the talented AJ went on gracing audiences of his performances. He started as a parade dancer at the happiest place on Earth upon expanding internationally starting in Hong Kong.  Besides being able to dance on stilts and doing aerial performances, AJ got exposed to a series of projects (High School Musical, CARS, and special events in and out the park), versatile triple threats and wider art form that helped him get more inspired and strive for more learning. He never wanted to have idle time. He continuously went for vocalist and dancers auditions. Eventually he got noticed to be rightful of a spot as a chorus dancer in the Lion King Theatre. In addition, he had choreographed unforgettable pieces for showcases.

"Always be ready so that when an opportunity comes,
you can grab and own it at any given time." - AJ
In 2011, The Next Best Thing (TNBT), in which AJ was adjoined with co-Filipino dancers, was formed and had joined Hong Kong's Best Dance Crew Competition. They have won 1st runner up in the said competition but in 2012, The MOVEMENT, which was composed of almost the same talented people, had finished the competition as Champions under the Jazz/Contemporary Category. In 2013, their piece ala So You Think You Can Dance made them land on the 2nd runner up.

Hong Kong's Best Dance Crew is one of the major competitions held here in Hong Kong and prestigious and known dancers of the whole country come together to battle it out for the title. Celebrity judges are also invited to figure out the most worthy of the title "Champions". Here is their 2013 performance, you be the judge:


When I asked my featured performing artist of what it takes to be where he is now, he answered, "Never stop dreaming and never stop learning. If you want something to happen, be sure to move "to" it. As for me, I never stopped researching, training and whenever I want to achieve something, I work on it and I won't stop until I get it perfectly. Of course, there's nobody who's perfect but I believe practice helps a lot in having the needed discipline to attain my goals."

Hong Kong had helped AJ become the better version of him. By the time, "Here Lies Love" had its audition dates set in the Philippines, he was more than ready.

He had known of the necessary information thru the net and then after arranging a vacation leave, selecting flights and researching about the musical, he said, "Here goes nothing." But as his close friend, I knew he was more than confident in going for it. Expectations aside, he flowed thru the dancing part and studied the materials given to them overnight then went for it in a breeze. He didn't hesitate in letting himself go and that gave him the advancement above the rest of the applicants. He didn't allow himself to panic because he just wanted to enjoy in being himself throughout the process. Alongside known celebrities residing in the Philippines, AJ couldn't help but feel he's an underdog in comparison that he was so shocked when they emailed him that he got the part and that he had to leave in 2 months time to rehearse as swing. He had to be ready in the next 2 months for the musical to be shown in London. He was literally swept off his feet when he heard of the good news. I felt privileged in being considered as one of the few people he had consulted as he was torn at first if he'd go for it since he loves Hong Kong and his job there. In the end, he knew that this was his long time dream and now that it's happening, there's no way he'd let it go.


He's yet to be another huge persona that is representing Philippines in the limelight, but there's always that part of yourself that should remain real and true. I would surely miss AJ so, for old time's sake, we decided to have fun a little bit in going thru the following:

1. Are you naughty or nice? BOTH! But add a "super" to naughty and "super" to that word nice!
2. What do you do when you're under stress? I eat and sleep to distress.
3. If we are all waged equally, what job would you do? I would still choose to do the same thing since for me, performing is my way to spread love because I love performing. I love being on stage, being able to give something to the audience and there are no other words to describe how exalted I am when I get something back from the audience like an applause, their genuine delight and that love that is being channelled because of performing is just incomparable and priceless.
4. What do you consider your best asset? My Smile. LOL!
5. What attracts you most in a person? Personality. Like I said, I have low tolerance to people who cannot arouse me mentally.
6. How many times have you been in love? Next question please. Hahahaha!
7. What gets into your nerves? When I'm hungry, I easily snap and when the weather is too hot, I get grumpy.
8. Type of music: Contemporary and Pop.
9. Favorite color: Blue and red
10. What kind of a person do you admire the most? An honest one.

Related posts:
1. ARIEL REONAL - Another Filipino extraordinaire gracing the cast of Miss Saigon 2014, now showing in West End, London sharing how he didn't give up his dream of wanting to be in Broadway.

2. WHERE PASSION TAKES YOU - A small talk of what "Here Lies Love" the musical is about.

3. NO TEARS, GET INSPIRED INSTEAD - a rundown of passionate Filipinos who have been achievers in their own right.

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