‘City Moves’ dance program honors late student

Christine Bernadette Ondevilla (right) performing in the Spring 2014 musical “In the Heights.” Legend Magazine file.

Alan Hickey

Christine Bernadette Ondevilla (right) performing in the Spring 2014 musical “In the Heights.” Legend Magazine file.

Amber Henry

The City Dance Department dedicated the entire “City Moves” performance last weekend, to honor the life and impact of a passionate student choreographer and dancer, Christine Bernadette Ondevilla, who died by suicide on Sept. 6, one week after turning 23 years old.

“Now I see the signs,” said Bernadette’s father, Nilo Ondevilla, “But I did not know then.”

Nilo Ondevilla and his family attended the dance concert on Dec. 5 and spoke to many friends and staff who wanted to share their stories of his daughter with him.

“I’m learning so many new things about her,” Ondevilla said.

“She was a really great inspiration for me, like a big sister,” said sophomore dancer Regine Arevalo. “I didn’t have much confidence when I first started, I was really shy. She helped me find my style and bring my own personality out in my dance.”

“She had a real special connection with the dance community at large, but especially with the students at City,” dance director Alicia Rincon said.

Rincon hired Berndadette Ondevilla as her assistant for choreography for the hip-hop dance numbers in the musical “In the Heights” and in “Dancing on the Fine Edge.”

“Bernadette was a consummate professional. Enthusiastic, always prepared. Full of life,” Rincon said. “The community was shocked when they learned what happened to Bernadette.”

Shaking her head, “I never saw that side,” Rincon said.

The final number in the concert, “In Sorrow We Breathe,” was choreographed by hip-hop dance instructor Grace Shinhae Jun, “in memory of Bernadette and the young lives lost too soon.”

“I didn’t want to create a piece that was really depressing. I wanted something that celebrates life,” Jun said. “While we are mourning, while we are missing, we can also remember their lives.”

“She was lively, loving, humble, gracious, down to earth … juicy,” Brianna Bellamy described her peer and beloved friend. “Someone very special. She was following her passion and one day she wanted to get her MA in dance.”

“Instead of me turning away and pretending it never happened,” Bellamy said, “doing this piece has helped me cope through a grieving process.”

“I had hoped that dance would be a healing tool for Bernadette,” Jun said. “She seemed to be delving into more projects.”

Jun said that Ondevilla had confided in her: “I knew she was struggling, we had met and talked. She seemed not as bright and cheerful. But I never would have imagined.”

Ondevilla was concurrently taking classes and performing at City College, Mesa College, UCSD, Culture Shock and various dance teams, while teaching hip-hop classes at 3Be3ts Dance Company.

According to Bridget Savant, studio manager at Culture Shock, Ondevilla trained in hip-hop, modern, ballet, contemporary, house, popping, krump, breakin’ and burlesque, “just to name a few.”

“Bernadette pushed herself hard and seemed to challenge her body as far as it could go with movement,” Savant said. “She loved to fuse styles and understand the history and technique of each one.”

Ondevilla had a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCSD, won Best Dance Choreography from the San Diego Film Awards 2014, and has been accepted into Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Her mother will receive the posthumous award in her place this coming spring.

The Dance department is raising funds for a scholarship in Bernadette Ondevilla’s name by selling t-shirts, tote bags and other items with the “Dancing on the Fine Edge” logo on it.