Ever since the preliminary competition, people couldn’t stop talking about Catriona Gray’s “lava walk” and slow-mo twirl. It wasn’t the usual pageant walk where women are expected to remain poised with two hands on the waist as they smize at the camera. She really commanded the runway and her mentor Carlos Buendia, Jr. (“Caloy” to many) made sure of that while choreographing that walk.
After FrontrowCares’ Children’s Charity press conference, Caloy gave us a rundown of how he trained Catriona before Miss Universe. “We started with two months of theater workshops. So, full of workshops, inhibition exercises,” he shared, adding that he had a background in theater from being the former artistic director of Teatro Tomasino. “She appreciated [the lesson] because she loves Broadway musicals.”
Next were dancing lessons for another two months wherein Catriona learned how to control her movements. For the lava walk, Caloy found inspiration in a documentary about Mount St. Helen’s eruption. “Ang ganda-ganda nung lava flow. It’s very smooth then it gets faster,” he said. “Plus, the connection that she’s an Albayana—proud Bicolano.”
Caloy added that he has a background in ballet which became especially beneficial for the slow-mo twirl. If you’re wondering how he came up with that, he said his music box, which has a dancer that’s spinning slowly, convinced him to teach the same move to Catriona.
“For a couple of months, medyo struggling. As in, Cat would cry [while doing the twirl] because she has back problems (scoliosis)… But then, she doesn’t complain and she kept doing it,” Caloy recounted. “She perfected the twirl in a month. During the first few tries, she would stumble. In the last try, she was like, ‘I’m turning slowly!'”
Caloy also showed us the footwork for the twirl to see how difficult it was for Catriona to do. First, you walk then midway, you slowly twist your body using your left foot. Keep your balance and pose once you’ve done a full 360. He said it’s important to “spot” like you’re doing a pirouette. (It sounds easy on paper but we dare you to try it.)
It was basically thanks to muscle memory that the beauty queen was able to achieve the signature twirl. From there, Caloy was able to formulate how Catriona would move and project while walking based on her body proportions. He was also the one who told her to pose with just one arm placed on the crook of her back at the end of the runway.
Catriona’s only been Miss Universe for three days but already, her lava walk has garnered positive reactions from supermodel Tyra Banks and fashion magazine Vogue. Of course, Caloy couldn’t help but smile when we brought it up. “We’ve watched numerous Victoria’s Secret [Fashion Show] tapes and when you think of Tyra, she’s always [associated with runway walks,]” he said. “I’m very happy and humbled. It was also a challenge to be able to step up the game for the Philippines. Pageantry is growing and we need to revolutionize it, and continue the streak for Filipinas.”
If Catriona does gets the chance to walk the runways of Milan and Paris, as predicted by Vogue, Caloy is fully on-board to accompany and coach her. “But right now, I’m going back to my drawing board because I’m an architect by profession. [Laughs]”
There you have it: The origin story of Catriona Gray’s lava walk.
Art by Marian Hukom
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