Saturday, August 27, 2016

MANILA TIMES:, The Diamond Emerges


Published August 27 2016

Since its birth in 2006, the Wi-Fi Body Festival has always represented the concept of developing independence among dance artists, and driven by this initiative, to reintroduce contemporary dance as a liberating genre to explore and develop. A decade since, and contemporary dance no longer needs an introduction. Much of this has to do with the compounded success and persistence of festivals in the past, gathering artists from different genres and creating a strong cult following.

Wi-Fi in particular has assumed the role of being teacher to dancers. After generating interest in contemporary dance, it encouraged dancers to have a voice. After finding a voice, the dancers were encouraged to evolve. Now, dancers and choreographers are expected to be willing and able to innovate.

The question is this: will Wi-Fi’s progress the past 10 years be enough to sustain momentum?

This year the Wi-Fi festival, now called, was reduced to a simpler platform retaining only its choreography competition. Stripped to the bare minimum, the competition has – consciously or not – made the strongest statement about survival and victory.

On August 20, 14 choreographers presented their points of view at the CCP Studio Theatre, delivering what might be called a rallying cry for contemporary dance. Collectively they answered the call for evolution by showing a much more developed dance vocabulary. Yet what might be ultimately more laudable was the diversity of concepts that were here. Gone are the days when contemporary dance was a mere rehash of ideas. This year, each piece was a distinct story that was allowed to unfold in movement.

Michael Barry Que emerged as the top prize winner for his choreography “Negatives to Positives,” which used technology to allow the audience to experience the choreographer’s creative process. Two dancers holding flashlights had cameras attached to their bodies, revealing on a projected screen what the performance was like from the perspective of the dancers. It was a novel idea that excited the crowd especially because as it progressed, the aesthetics of their movement gained momentum, and the combination of light, shadow, and music became poetry at its finest.

But the conversation Que sought to have did not stop there. The sequence stopped and the dancers started an interactive dialogue with the audience, revealing their personas as dancers collaborating on choreography. The two were comic geniuses as they echoed what goes on inside the four walls of a studio, eliciting laughter from the audience as they poked fun at collaboration and the rudiments of rehearsals. The piece was relatable, well thought of, and entertaining. It was no surprise that it also won the Audience Choice Award.

Second prize went to “Time” choreographed and performed by Christopher Chan, an abstract interpretation of the reality of vulnerability, that played with the idea of nothing amounting to something. It was a very personal performance that was restricted to the center of the stage. With his hair covering his face, Chan transitioned quite catatonically to a myriad of held poses, the performance intensifying in physicality and drama, in the end leaving everyone breathless and disturbed. Based on this work, Chan also received the French Embassy Prize, which is a valuable study grant in France happening in 2017.

Byuti Balaga won third prize for “Man’s Best Friend,” which depicted the blurring of gender roles through a visual parody of sorts, where couple dancers take turns taming each other, alternating as masters. As the title implies, their movement would often be a caricature of the nature of the dog.

Other than the top prize winners, there were several other noteworthy pieces at this year’s, namely, the relatable “Alas Tres” by Gebbvelle Ray Selga, the socially relevant “Kasag” by Kenney Kent Garcia, and the stirring “Kamalayan” by Minette Caryl Maza.

Overall, the participants of this year’s festival delivered work that reflects the growing vitality of contemporary dance, and while in the end three people came home with a physical prize, the bigger prize might be that their efforts were received delightfully by this niche audience. I went home relieved that given this year’s festival, will live to see another year, as it has proven that every cut, bruise, and friction from the rough ten-year journey has finally allowed the diamond to emerge.

Myra Beltran, Festival Director said it best: “We had an audience who understood that each twitch of the nose, each movement in the dark, each silent moment was part of the whole. They waited for each idea to unfold, not expecting when the ‘dancing will start’ or when the action will happen. Each moment is the action. Each moment is the dance. This much we have achieved.”

Photography By Erica Marquez Jacinto

(LATE POST) Ballet Philippines' Firebird and Other Ballets

This post might be deemed irrelevant because of how late it is but I realized my purpose was to immortalize dance moments in cyberworld so here am I archiving my favorite photographs ....... reconstructing thoughts that were left in draft mode :) 

Firebird and other ballets was a basket of different delicacies. It was a bundle of something exotic, something gourmet,  something familiar, and an all time favorite. 

 Firebird was that exotic flavor  provided by George Birkdaze. Previously promoted as a Russian tale  repackaged with Filipino flavor, I instantly connected it  to the Sarimanok. Well, I was wrong, while it felt like nothing was Filipino enough, it did satisfy the senses with a strong eclectice asian vibe.  This aesthetic value of the this ballet was deserving of praise as the set of Ohm David was simply magnificent  perfectly complemented by the intricate costumes by Mark Lewis Higgins.  The well thought of picturesque quality draws you in. The choreography was dynamic allowing the music of Igor Stravinsky to shine. However, I felt as an audience member that there was somehow a lack of emotional commitment to the story. I can't say for sure if it was the lack of investment of the dancers or the lack of understanding of the story but I felt that the story telling lacked a bit of magic. I didn't see the fire in Firebird. 

Monica Gana with Jean Marc Cordero

Moving Two  choreographed by Dwight Rodrigazo has been part of the Ballet Philippines reportoire for a while now and it always just delivers.  This piece somehow just brings happiness as it sways your thoughts with their quirky  slides here and there. Victor Maguad and Jemima Reyes seemed to enjoy every bit of the this quirky contemporary piece extending  their limbs  comfortably.   It's  a refreshing piece that allows you to take a breather in between all the other quite serious themes. 

Ne Ne Ledeg by David Campos is a neo-classical piece that resembles a fleet of swans fluttering by. I have much appreciation for  this piece just because it showed a global tastelevel (in my humble opinion). Concept was simple but solid. Lines were interesting and showcased the length of the dancers. 


Shifting Weight by Carlo Pacis is a revised version of an  original work. The theme of this piece is quite heavy. Months after having seen it I still remember how I felt watching the piece. Talking about the choreography, it was inventive with the use of the costumes  as  the means to shift weight. (Of course I have seen this piece performed before so the impact might not have been the same) . The stitiching of the steps seemed a good fit for the dancers.  I just felt that it was too heavy for the eyes and perhaps the heart, my heart in particular 

Gary Corpuz and Denise Parungao 

As I said the this Ballet Philippines offering for me was  like a carefully selected sampling of different things. With the variety, an audience like me is bound to like some more than the other  but just to be given the options was  a thrilling experience. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ballet Philippines Firing up the Asian Flavor

Allow me to do a mini throwback. Ballet Philippines started the year right by ending their 46th season with the remarkable production "Gabriel Barredo's Opera". The production in my humble opinion was a celebration of cultural liberty. It felt like artists were given  freedom to create with no restrictions. As a result, the dancing was so rich. Both Gabriel Barredo's artwork (which was massively intricate) and choreographer Redha's choreography were glorified. It really did leave an imprint on me. It was as if Ballet Philippines wanted to send out a revolutionary message in red paint. Innovation is going to be their weapon against anonymity. Creation of new works will be what will define the Company. To an audience member like me, this message is quite exciting. After all, new works created for a company help freeze a moment in time. It reintroduces their dancers to their audience in a different way. And so I am happy that Ballet Philippines has chosen to open their 47th Season "Wings" with an equally ambitious production. They will open this August 19, 2016 with "Firebird and Other Ballets".

Their first production will feature  four new works by able choreographers. On the front line is the classical ballet Firebird created by George Birkadze an international choreographer. This is Ballet Philippine's third time to present Firebird. It should be noted however that each version they have presented is completely different in approach. The choreographer has chosen to pepper the ballet with the Asian flavor rather than the ballet's Russian roots. I am curious to find out if I can see some Sarimanok feels, Asian or even Filipino traditionalism in this version. Mark Higgins in cooperation with SLIMS's Fashion and Art School has created intricately made costumes to dress up this ballet. Newly promoted Principal Dancer Rita Winder is casted for the title role of Firebird alternating with Jemima Reyes.


Adding to the international flavor, Spanish Choreographer David Campos is also sharing his piece entitled "Nenelehdej" with the company. David Campos is famous for his versions of full length ballets and his very eclectic neo-classical vocabulary.

"Nenelehdej" Choreography by  David Campos
Photography by Justin Bella Alonte  

Hong Kong Based Filipino choreographer Carlo Pacis  has revisited his award winning choreography from 2010. Ballet Philippines is set to perform  a fresh and extended  version of " Shifting Wait".

"Shifting Wait" Choreography by  Carlo Pacis
Photography by Justin Bella Alonte 

One of my personal favorites, Dwight Rodrigazo has created a new piece called "Moving Two". For me his pieces always have a sense of breath and rhythmic play whether the  theme is serious or not. I can't wait  to see what his new creation is about.

"Moving Two" Choreography by Dwight Rodrigazo
Photograph by Justin Bella Alonte 

The statement is big and bold. INNOVATION AND CREATION. Let's all come watch Ballet Philippines and see if their message is sustained in their season opener.  Be part of their creative journey. See you at the theater.

For inquiries and details. Pls see below.
Poster Images courtesy of Ballet Philippines  

Ballet Philippines’ The Firebird runs at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) on Friday, Aug. 19 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, Aug. 20 (2 p.m. and 6 p.m.) and Sunday, Aug. 21 (2 p.m. and 6 p.m.). Please call (02) 551-1003, email, or send a person message on for more information.