Dance we shall

Published approximately a year ago at the Manila Times opinion pages, this entry is being posted again since I have been remiss in updating this blog.

LIKE brewed coffee, slapstick comedy, and people who just turned thirty, poetry readings grow old quickly, especially during open mic night, when the half drunk, the broken hearted, and the functionally illiterate get together just to vent their every angst onstage.

Fortunately, even though some of the arts do not deserve the respect and
support that they get, not all cultural activities resemble mental torture.

Take contemporary dance and ballet, two similar yet distinct genres which I know absolutely nothing about.

However, thanks to my wife¹s extra-curricular activities, I was able to take a crash course of sorts in Philippine contemporary dance, with or without my consent.

To my good luck, it did not involve any back-breaking exercises that
threatened to damage my kneecaps, crack open my skull, or besmirch whatever is left of my reputation.

After all, just about the only thing I had to do was to wait and watch,
which were fairly easy, having been trained to do exactly the same thing at the office: I simply wait for work to arrive and I watch somebody do it.

Anyway, my wife was asked to read Order for Masks, a poem by Virginia Moreno for the dance production of Paul Morales, Myra Beltran, and others. (
Moreno
is the only female in the all-male post-World War II literary group, the Ravens, which includes Manila Times columnist Elmer Ordoñez. Morales is the artistic director of Airdance and Beltran is founder and artistic director of Dance Forum.)

Since my wife’s reading was supposed to be synchronized with the dancers’ movements and the music, she had to rehearse with the whole production, including the light and sound personnel (who, by the way, quietly took care of a wayward electric fan during the last day’s performance).

Thus, for two whole days, I was exposed to the world of Philippine dance and its practitioners, many of whom were patient enough to tolerate my
existence, keloids and all.

Despite the short time alloted for the rehearsals, the  production entitled
Ars Poetica: Poetry and Dance was a success.

Running for two days during the past weekend, the show was held in
cooperation with Dance Forum, Air Dance, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, and the NGO-GO National Network for the Feminists Centennial.

While the performances didn’t exactly draw a huge crowd, it nevertheless
managed to elicit interest, even from those who, like me, thought of dance primarily as a set of contortions performed during high school soireés to make a move on the babes.

As soon as the second number began, an interpretation of Merlinda Bobis’ poem Agta sa Sapa by dancers Vinia Pamplona, Nina Hayuma Habulan, and Proceso Gelladuga II, I was already taken, impressed that so much emotion could be expressed by graceful bodily movements.

And by the time the last number ended, I was swept away, previously unaware that non-verbal communication could be so rich in meaning.

When my wife and I went home after these performances, we expressed
amazement over the sheer simplicity and intensity of the genre; a genre that deserves a wider audience and more support, not just from the government but from the public as well. So next time you get the chance to see the likes of Beltran, Morales, et. al. onstage, grab it.

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