Friday, November 09, 2012

Mabuhay ang blog!

Just a note to inform you that I'm streamlining my blogging adventures into one blog, now found at It still has all my dance-related asides, in its own category, aptly titled Dance. I mean, books, movies and TV are all under one category, Entertainments. Because, after all, Dance is more than an Entertainment, it is, to quote my brother Lucas, a way of life!

(He seriously said that, on national TV too).

I won't be updating this blog anymore, but still keeping this up because there is so much here that is worth the bandwidth. Thank you for your patronage all these years. Mabuhay ang Dance! Mabuhay ang Dance blog!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Dorian Gray painting is in my muscle tone

Being unable to blog usually means I'm too busy, but the good news is there's a lot of dance productivity in the busy-ness. It's only mid-February and all three shows that I've seen so far were all awesome. I'm still writing the review for Al Garcia's Sulog sa Kinabuhi, and have some thoughts down already for my review for Alden Lugnasin's Pusong Wagas, which I saw last night.

I also saw Myra Beltran's Itim Asu for the second time last Wednesday; I was not planning to write a review for this already because I had already reviewed it, and had just published a review for last year's staging by Regina Bautista, but I do want to say how it's even more impressive now because the UP Dance Company kids (who were really just kids a couple years ago when I first saw this) have matured so nicely in both performance and technique. I'm now thinking also if I want to write extensively about Itim Asu (you know, like for an academic paper or as part of my dissertation). But I will think about that first.

What I actually want to write about now is how I injured myself in ballet class early yesterday morning. I wake up at 6 to get ready for ballet class at 8am (meaning I should be warmed up by 8) and I guess it's how your muscles are when you're 37, but I seem to have the hardest time waking them up for that 8am class. I usually joke that they're only fully awake during grand allegro. Anyway, for whatever reason, during center adagio, I am resolved to complete the closing sequence flawlessly - developpe devant, bringing that leg to an a la seconde and attitude derriere as I promenade away from that leg, rising in attitude to balance, then extending the working leg as my supporting leg does a fondu, pas de bourree under and close fifth croise. Yup, it was flawless.

As I walked off the dance floor, a spasm started to crawl across my back. I stretch it out: go away ouchie! I silently laugh at myself. Then, when we go back to the floor to repeat the exercise, I can't even port de bras. My reaction is I laugh more audibly and tell my dad/ballet teacher that I'm in pain.

Why laughter? I'm laughing because I'm 37 years old. I know some 37 year olds who are still dancing at this level, but they do this class every day and make this peace with their bodies on a regular basis. I have a full-time job and only dance on the weekends and the lucky Tuesday or Thursday evening that I arrive at our Las Pinas studio in time. I try to do some limbering every morning, but not enough to strengthen my back for a promenade wherein your working leg is held up at a 100-110% angle.

So this is what it's like for your back to "give out." I am officially geriatric.

That night, in the CCP Little Theater lobby before Pusong Wagas, I was talking to Tita Bambi and Bea Perez; Tita Bambi went with PBT when we performed Darangen ni Bantugen in China to chaperone then underaged Bianca, and I've actually danced with Bea in PBT's Swan Lake. Tita Bambi asked me if I was still dancing (so long as I'm not in PBT, people assume I've stopped). I replied that I still was, and she basically said I was too young and had too much potential to stop.

It was really sweet, but I nearly broke into hysterical laughter right then, and actually tell her about how my back gave out that morning. But the irony is lost on them, not a lot of people know after all that I am 37, and that I'm only a precious few of my generation who are still dancing today.

When Madonna performed at the SuperBowl, I made a vow to myself to stop complaining about being too old to dance, because look at Lola Madge! Obviously maintenance is key! But I have to remind myself that I am prone to all sorts of body malfunctions if I still want to dance into my 40s.

This morning, at 8am ballet class, I took it easy and took special care of what I could do, stopping at moments that seemed out of my depth (hello, which is what I should be doing at this age). My back isn't hurting anymore, though with a couple sharp jabs every now and then (and at the weirdest poses too). Not looking my age is my burden, though I'm hoping it will also be a charm somehow. Pain is obviously not going to stop me from dancing, but people saying I don't look like I can still dance will probably do the trick.

And so I greet 2012 on my blog with this optimistic outlook for dance and dancing. I had a conversation just this year with an old ballet friend on FB where he says he's reinvented himself because "we can't dance forever." I didn't reply on FB but my instantaneous reaction was "Watch me." I know this kayabangan will haunt me each time a muscle or body part or three screams bloody murder, but I also know that I can't live without dance, pain and all. It seems a fair trade, all things considered.

For more on the dance scene in the Philippines (and less about me), please check out

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 11 for 2011

This year ender Top 2011 list goes on my blog for this simple reason: It's very personal. It's about what was important to me, and not what was important to the rest of the dance community. Despite last year's resolution to see more dance this year, and I did see more dancing than I did in 2010, there wasn't a lot of dance to go around, and in general the dance that I saw - while not entirely bad - didn't move me.

So, you could say this is a cop-out, but my justification for this list comes from Mahatma Gandhi's most famous line: Be the change you want to see in the world. These events affected me personally, but in a way that what I need to do on a bigger scale is much, much clearer now.

1. The Company of Dance Artists
January 2011
This is the company my father launched this year. We didn't/don't perform aggressively, but I like that Dad had a lot of creative output nevertheless. And I like that we didn't pander to commercialism - the company doesn't do corporate gigs, though we were engaged for a good governance conference (all these military soldiers were our audience) and we still performed our repertoire according to the theme given us, and not some commissioned entertainment.

Also, for a bunch of people who have work outside the dance scene, that we were able to have any performances at all, and still build repertoire, is extraordinary to me. *pat on the back*

2. New York City Ballet in Hong Kong
March 2011
My birthday gift to my dad (and a gift for myself too) was to watch the New York City Ballet at the Hong Kong International Festival. It was a culminating activity that I never had since my days as a dance major in college, and it gave me so much. You can read the review I wrote in Runthru here.

3. Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa
April - July, and December 2011
Early this year, my friend Alem Ang told me he was excited to apply for Cinemalaya with a film that incorporated feminist poetry and dance, and could I tell him if we offered packages on studio rentals so that they may shoot there? Later on, he and director Alvin Yapan asked if my dad could choreograph the dance sequences, and again later on, I was learning the movements to teach their actors. Later on, I was shooting the epic sequence at the end of the film, awake till 2 in the morning, and feeling very "So this is what showbiz is like."

Seeing the film in its entirety made me tear, because I was part of this wonderful movie that said so much about art and love and life. I don't think it made any significant insight into dance, per se, but that didn't matter to me (I know it mattered to some people).

Dad asked Alvin if he could mount the sequences as proper dances for stage performance, some of which we premiered in our annual recital on the 22nd of this month. Since I was cast in a lot of dances, I actually suggested that I could be taken out of "Litanya," then immediately taking it back because Litanya was soooo wonderful to perform. I'm hoping Alvin and Alem can get to watch these Mga Sayaw Mula sa Sayaw ng Daliwang Kaliwang Paa soon.

4. The National issue
May 2011 and beyond
I'm so over this issue, so read about it here and here. Why it is a Top 2011 event for me is not that it stirred people into fighting for equal opportunity, but it cemented my resolve that I need to be more aggressive about my stand for forming a platform for dance that will benefit more than one sector of people. I know I'm not going to achieve this right away, but I've been taking baby steps. Some of my plans are underway, and I'm really looking forward to 2012.

5. Encantada and The Nutcracker
August and November 2011
Putting these two productions together does not mean that they are similar in any way; the only thing they have in common is they were put on by resident ballet companies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines main stage. But they're in one item to me because I feel they are the best effort that I saw each company produce this year. (Of course, I did not see Ballet Philippines' Inamorata and Sleeping Beauty, nor Philippine Ballet Theatre's Romeo and Juliet, but I also could have easily not mentioned any production at all. No, I don't know what I'm arguing here, exactly.)

Encantada - While I was glad for the revival, and I applaud Judell de Guzman and company's hard work in recreating the Agnes Locsin piece d'resistance, I couldn't shake off the feeling that the older restagings were better. I realize though that it's easy to romanticize something, especially something you've been part of once upon a time, so much that new attempts to rework it will inevitably fall short. I MUST STOP DOING THAT. That said, I wish I had seen the perfectly cast Adea sisters, and would like to give the Best Performance of the Year award to Richardson Yadao for his brilliant portrayal of the lead fraile.

The Nutcracker - I have a weird relationship with Gelsey Kirkland's version for PBT. There are parts that I adore, and parts that I just find, what? Whenever we performed just the divertissement in outreach shows (back in my PBT days), I felt that we were the coolest company in the world. But when I see the entire thing, I'm always, Oh well. I guess I don't agree with some of the restaged bits, like the part of the dolls, and the mice and soldiers. This year, I wasn't too keen on there being a different Clara and Sugar Plum Fairy, as Clara's blossoming into Sugar Plum was integral to the story. But may I say, it leveled-up several notches from the 2007 staging and made me proud of how far PBT had come. This year's Nutcracker definitely deserves a Top 2011 spot.

6. Sayaw Salita, University of the Philippines
August 2011
This dance lectures series (because it seemed more a lecture series to me than a forum) deserved more attendance than it received, but it excites me because those who did attend seemed earnestly interested in the research and not just there because their professors required it. The series will continue in 2012, and there's so much potential here for the development of dance research, something that has been dying/dead in our country.

I also love that one of my mentors, Steve (Basilio Esteban Villaruz) has new insight into what needs attention in dance scholarship. His paper on the rice cycle in dance and its place in education is very informative and engaging. He had an entire hour and a half to discuss this in detail, which I am glad I was able to catch, because when he read the same paper in Malaysia the next month was only given 20 minutes, and missed discussion of a lot of important points. But then, lucky us, and hopefully there will be more chances for dissemination in the near future.

7. Asia Pacific International Dance Conference in Malaysia
September 2011

I attended this conference to inform myself of what people were looking at in dance research all over the world, with the goal of coming back to my own dance scholarship. Steve and Ruth Pison read papers here, as well as my friend Wayland Quintero, who is now based in Kuala Lumpur to pursue his own PhD. I wasn't able to send in a proposal in time to also have something to read for this conference, and subsequently also failed to send in any proposals for upcoming conferences next year. However, I'm slowly getting to what I really want to study, and that is more important to me than sending in a half-baked research topic just to be able to speak at a conference. Like I said earlier, baby steps.

8. Donna Miranda on Real Time Arts Magazine
September - October 2011
I did say it was a personal list, so while I'm happy that Donna was able to go to these laboratories in Berlin and Australia this year, I'm also happy that I was able to document the latter for an international audience. I'm very proud of this article and had a grand time interviewing Donna for it. I hope she liked it as much as I and my editor did.

Read the article here.

9. New work at UP
October 2011
There were two recitals at the UP dance program last October - Al Bernard Garcia's Sulog sa Kinabuhi and Chaya Joyce Baris and Sarah Maria Samaniego's Past Forward. The latter was also a good opportunity to pay tribute to the recitalists' teachers, Vella Damian and Lisa Macuja respectively, and was interesting to see how future generations of dance makers are working with the different genres they're studying as students and later, dance majors. I have yet to post up my review of their recital in Runthru, but will alert you soon as I do.

I was not able to skip work to see Al's Sulog sa Kinabuhi, but I'm very excited that he's trying to restage it in Quezon City in early 2012. Although a preview trailer is never an easy indication of what the whole work will look like, there is a lot here that will make you share the excitement too.

10. Investigating Cross Borders Collaborative Works in Bundanon Artists Center, Australia
November 2011
I don't know why the original writer couldn't make it, but I'm really glad that they asked me to replace him. And very, very glad that they were happy with the resulting blog. It was a very interesting two weeks and the it's some of the best work I've done so far in my life (some lang, of course hehe). You can check it out here.

11. Swan Lake
December 2011
When I was little, right before each annual dance recital, I would announce, "This is my last recital." What I meant was, I don't want to dance anymore, you can't make me, it's so stressful, I never want to do this again. This year, I've been hinting around that "This is my last recital," but for a more practical reason: I'm 37 and nothing in my body works as well as it used to. Of course, this year, I'm not as in shape as I was last year due to the fact that I spent two weeks in November observing a bunch of contemporary dance choreographers and couldn't properly get my groove back after because of work craziness.

I have to concede that what I restaged was quite awesome, according to the audience members who would say so tearfully to my mom outside the theater. I had an understandably unfortunate variation but a pretty good pas de deux and an amazing show, overall. Despite what I may think, it's never really my last recital and even when I'm in a wheelchair, I believe I will continue making dance. That is who I am, and what I want to be.

So, it wasn't a very exciting year for dance in 2011, but it was a very good year for me, and I'm looking forward to so many things in 2012.

I wrote a separate year ender for Runthru, which you can read here. Happy new year, everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Digitizing my scholarship

These are files from my academic research. Or some of them, most of the most recent ones or the ones I feel are most important. They are so NOT ORGANIZED the way I want them to be. They are also collecting dust in that corner of my room and each time I have to look for a reference, I have to do a little spring cleaning first.

Since the new year is upon us and people are making resolutions and projects, my 2012 project is to digitize all my reference materials. I have my work cut out for me, as you will see below:

These are the books by my bed that I've been attempting to read. Haven't picked them up recently because I got a Kindle for Christmas.

I like being digital, but there are things I know I will keep physical copies of (the books beside my bed). The rest of my room, though? Digital, here we come.

Have a happy new year, everyone :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eve of the Show

By this time tomorrow night, I would be taking my bows. Kinda excited. More than kinda.