Philippine Daily Inquirer
Is the future of PH dance on film?
The shutdown of theaters worldwide has driven dance communities to cyberspace. As an antidote to anxiety due to the pandemic, hundreds of thousands took to dancing on TikTok. Professional dancers posted on their social media accounts personal choreographies depicting loneliness in captivity. Dance companies trained their sights on YouTube, premiering cell phone pastiches of the artists in their homes and gardens.
“They were my definition of ‘quarantine films’— dancers documenting themselves,” says independent dancer, choreographer, producer and director Margarita “Madge” Reyes.
“Now big companies are streaming full productions,” Reyes adds. “You could watch a show from the Lincoln Center for free.”
A former soloist of Ballet Philippines, she understands that the initial output of videos was made in less than ideal conditions. “Nobody anticipated COVID. The only dance film content that companies had on hand were documentations of past shows. But things are looking up.”
Local dance scene stalwarts have been exploring choreography made for the camera. Ballet Manila collaborated with actor-videographer Jojit Lorenzo for Gerardo Francisco’s “Walang Hanggang Paalam” and Martin Lawrence’s “Home.”
The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Dance Workshop, currently working with award-winning filmmakers, is coming out with the world premiere of “Ituloy Ang Pasko,” set to the music of National Artist Ryan Cayabyab and directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna. Dancer-choreographer Ronnelson Yadao is collaborating with Jerrold Tarog (“Heneral Luna”) in “Gunaw ng Kabaliktaran,” a short film about the CCP during quarantine.
It is exciting to watch choreographers, among them Davao-based Agnes Locsin, become dance film creators. With the help of choreographer Alden Lugnasin and dancer-video editor Biag Baongen, Locsin employed camera and cinematic editing to highlight the intensity of “Dasal Ni Padre Pio,” a solo about the Italian saint.
Reyes, who was awarded a fellowship grant on dance film by Asian Cultural Council, is advocating this art form as an expressive medium. She concedes that nothing compares with the excitement of a live performance. She points out, however, that in this global emergency, it is only through film and video that dance has sustained its attraction for audiences.
She feels privileged to have choreographed contemporary movements for actress Nadine Lustre’s visual album, “Wildest Dreams.” She says that seeing the pop star perform a theatrical dance was a welcome relief from all the hip grinding exhibited online. Lustre’s considerable following could help introduce dance to a mass audience, says Reyes.
Still, the Philippines has a lot of catching up to do, she says, citing Dance Films Association in New York, which produces a yearly festival promoting the genre since 1971. “Dance film is already being explored in VR (virtual reality) and animation,” she points out.
To give Filipinos a global perspective, she mounted Fifth Wall Festival, a five-day international film festival meant to showcase the potentials of dance on camera. “Fifth wall” is trade jargon for the invisible barrier between the audience and a theater or film experience. The event, held from Oct. 7 to Oct. 11, presented an array of short dance films using camera and editing techniques to their best advantage, full-length features, documentaries and panel discussions with prominent personalities in the dance world.
Mother of MTV
“Dance films have been around since the days of silent movies and have in fact evolved into musicals, MTVs and visual albums—like Nadine Lustre’s,” says Reyes. “Dance films have been celebrated around the world. I organized Fifth Wall to raise awareness of the genre and attract a new audience.”
The festival website yielded 4,900 views. Reyes’ short film, “Elementos,” an atmospheric interpretation of Jun Saagundo’s choreography about spirits in the forest, registered the highest number. Her aim was to demonstrate how film techniques could enhance powerful choreography, Reyes explains. Shot in Batangas, “Elementos” was performed by students of her alma mater, Steps Dance Studio.
A predictably popular festival choice was Star Cinema’s “Hataw Na!,” a 1995 musical about an underground high school dance group, directed by Jose Javier Reyes. The French Embassy facilitated Chantal Akerman’s “One Day Pina Asked,” a documentary about German dance theater legend Pina Bausch, which was also one of the most viewed entries.
Fifth Wall presented stimulating conversations about thinking outside of the box with Belgian choreographer/filmmaker Wim Vandekeybus and choreographers Dominique Mercy and daughter Thusnelda (who both worked at Tanztheater Wuppertal with founder Bausch). It also tackled the importance of preserving the cultural heritage through film archiving, which is notably lacking in the Philippines.
“There is much room for improvement,” Reyes stresses. “That is why Fifth Wall also showed how dance films are made. They are not just about dancing and editing. A lot of thought goes into every production.”
She looks forward to restrictions easing up, and people being delivered from all apprehension about going out. “Fortunately, this pandemic engendered courage to adapt to change and to try new things. I expect we will soon see a robust hybrid of live shows and digital works.”
‘Rhythm and Waves’ by Amado Hidalgo at Galleria Nicolas Manila Bay
The works for “Rhythm and Waves” took the artist back to nostalgic times with the sounds of the waves and the smell of sea air—from the peace and tranquility of calm waters to the fear one feels in ferocious waves and hurricane seas. Hidalgo is a visual artist from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. He has painted the coast of Northern and Central Luzon, and the breathtaking subterranean caves of Palawan. (“Rhythm and Waves” will be on view until Dec. 5. Galleria Nicolas is at 2/F, Filipino Village, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Diosdado Macapagal Blvd., Parañaque; tel. 0917-5343942; email email@example.com.)
Gerry Joquico at Art Anton
Gerry Joquico presents his eighth solo exhibition titled “Viajeros de la Vida (Travelers’ Tales)” at Art Anton. The artist channels the lives of traveling Filipino expatriates, such as Dr. Jose Rizal, M.H. del Pilar and Graciano Lopez Jaena, who stayed in Madrid and Paris in the late 19th century to instigate change and reform in their home country. They proselytized for the acknowledgment of the Philippines as a province of Spain and the secularization of the clergy. Joquico’s objective is to go beyond what is visible to delve into social consciousness, expressing concepts that cannot be explained with words. (Art Anton is at G/L, S
Maison, Conrad Manila, Marina Way, SM Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.; tel. 85513086.)
Manchados in ‘Recurere’ at Art Elaan
University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts graduates Ricky Ambagan, Malyn Bonayog, Joseph de Juras and Josue Mangrobang have been
quietly working on their art. The four artists, who have labeled themselves Manchados, have an ongoing show at Art Elaan titled “Recurere,” which is Latin for recurrent, occurring often or repeatedly. (Art Elaan is at 2/F, Filipino Village, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Diosdado Macapagal Ave., cor. Aseana Ave., Paranaque City; tel. 77286577.)