THE BODY DOES NOT LIE

Bal­let Philip­pines’ for­mer artis­tic di­rec­tor Paul Alexan­der Mo­rales wears this sea­son’s loose and easy shapes.

Esquire (Philippines) - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - Pho­to­graphs by ARTU NE­PO­MU­CENO Styling by CLIF­FORD OLANDAY Art di­rec­tion PAUL VILLARIBA

PERCHED ATOP A BARRE in­side the near-empty Bal­let Philip­pines prac­tice room, Paul Mo­rales ap­pears light as a feather. He’s telling a story—the for­mer artis­tic di­rec­tor of the coun­try’s flag­ship dance com­pany ex­plains the path he chose with a smile: “I thought I could es­cape pol­i­tics.”

Mo­rales is that prover­bial prodi­gal son. He hails from a Davaoeño clan known for their po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence, be­gin­ning with his great-grand­fa­ther Anasta­cio Campo, the city’s pro­vin­cial com­man­der dur­ing World War II, up to his mother, Maria Vir­ginia Mo­rales, who au­thored a book about th­ese wartime ex­ploits, among other rel­e­vant his­tor­i­cal texts. His fa­ther, Ho­ra­cio “Boy” Mo­rales, was a young tech­no­crat of the Mar­cos regime, but went un­der­ground and joined the Na­tional Democratic Front. He was ar­rested and tor­tured while un­der mil­i­tary de­ten­tion, freed af­ter the EDSA rev­o­lu­tion, and then ap­pointed as Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Agrar­ian Re­form in 1998.

The younger Mo­rales, in the mean­time, found his call­ing by way of Old Hol­ly­wood: Bob Fosse’s semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal All That Jazz; The Red Shoes, a drama about an as­pir­ing bal­le­rina torn be­tween two loves; and Sin­gin’ in the Rain with Deb­bie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Don­ald O’Con­nor. Old Filipino movies, no­tably those that star Nida Blanca, who spoke body lan­guage with a na­tive pro­fi­ciency. He points out,

“It was a time when film had more chore­og­ra­phy, when all move­ment is re­lated and ad­van­ta­geous for an artis­tic pur­pose.”

He en­tered the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines to earn a po­lit­i­cal science de­gree, but he al­ready loved dance

in its en­tirety: the body, the mas­tery of tech­nique, rhyth­mi­cally mov­ing to mu­sic, us­ing any given space. “When I first saw a big open space, my mom said I jumped around as if it was a stage,” he re­calls. “Dur­ing the most dif­fi­cult parts of my life, I al­ways found dance to be a so­lace.”

Two years later, he shifted to the­ater. In a class pro­duc­tion of

Hair, he was un­able to fight the urge to move his body. It led to his first in­volve­ment with Bal­let Philip­pines as a scholar. With their help, he be­came a scholar in Ad­vanced Dance The­ater Per­for­mance at the Laban The­ater in Lon­don. Back­stage work led him to es­tab­lish Du­laang Ta­lyer upon his re­turn home in 1994. In 2008, he directed and in­de­pen­dently re­leased Con­creto, a film based on his fam­ily’s wartime sto­ries where their love of mu­sic blos­somed. It was in 2009 that he went full cir­cle.

Mo­rales’ Bal­let Philip­pines was a com­bi­na­tion of his in­ter­ests. By jux­ta­pos­ing chore­og­ra­phy (wherein he en­cour­aged artistry among dancers through col­lab­o­ra­tion) with videog­ra­phy, from its modernist set to pro­mo­tions, he added dy­namism. In Swan Lake, un­ob­tru­sive mov­ing scenery sim­ply im­bued a sense of place and time, while some were more in­trin­sic to the pro­duc­tion.

But pol­i­tics was in­escapable; in the art world, it was a sneakier crea­ture. It was there among the coun­try’s bal­let com­pa­nies, but no longer, as the top three— Bal­let Philip­pines, Philip­pine Bal­let Theatre, and Bal­let Manila—united for a dance fes­ti­val, com­plete with Mo­rales’ selfie with Bal­let Manila’s Lisa Macuja El­izalde. So­cial me­dia, which Mo­rales used to draw a di­verse au­di­ence, was his sec­ondary source of frus­tra­tion, the free-for-all space over­taken by key­board preda­tors hun­gry for morsels of half-truths.

Where does dance stand amid all this? “Ev­ery piece of art is ei­ther for or against the sta­tus quo,” he says. Bal­let Philip­pines’ di­rect con­tri­bu­tions last year were a gala des­tig­ma­tiz­ing HIV and a twin bill of Si­moun and Crisostomo Ibarra. Then there was Swan Lake, a clas­sic fairy­tale bal­let in ev­ery sense of the word that sat­is­fied the un­re­lent­ing human search for love and pu­rity. “Even that has its pur­pose,” he muses.

“We can hope to in­spire. Af­ter the shows, kids jump about be­cause it gives them a dif­fer­ent sense of the pos­si­bil­ity of the body,” he adds. “We try to show­case diversity on the stage. I’ve been chided for hav­ing dancers with dif­fer­ent sizes but dance com­pa­nies are re­ally com­mu­ni­ties. Here, we prac­tice tol­er­ance, re­spect, diversity.”

“The thing about the body,” he says, “is it doesn’t lie. Have you ever seen a fake dance? In a post truth world, dance is a bas­tion of that truth.”

Now, the prac­tice room is silent save for the hum of am­bi­ent elec­tron­ica. The smoke ma­chine cre­ates a cloud that dis­si­pates mo­ments later into a fog, ren­der­ing Mo­rales’ lithe body as no more than a sil­hou­ette to the naked eye, a tongue that flicks and twists, speak­ing the the­sis of his non­lit­er­ary art where the chore­og­ra­phy of words are not. What is he try­ing to say? He holds onto the barre, supine, tak­ing his time, and dis­mounts into a pirou­ette.

DANCERS

DENISE PARUNGAO SARAH ALEJANDRO KATRENE SAN MIGUEL MON­ICA GANA

HAIR AND MAKEUP

MURIEL VEGA PEREZ

HAIR AN D MAKEUP AS­SIS­TANT

JIM JOSEPH

STYLING AS­SIS­TANT

MIGUEL ES­CO­BAR

PRO­DUC­TION AS­SIS­TANT

EDNALYN MAGNAYE

PHOTO AS­SIS­TANT

IG­NA­CIO GADOR Pocket square (around neck) by Her­mès, Green­belt 3

The new shape be­gins below: As trousers loosen up, jack­ets be­come fuller. Suit by Givenchy, Green­belt 4

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