Stirring up contemporary dance
By Walter Ang
June 9, 2008
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It is befitting that Wifi Body Festival 3, an independent contemporary dance festival to be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, will take place during the week of Independence Day. This year's main showcase performance revolves around the theme "dance in revolution, revolution in dance," and is a wink and nudge at (but also a respectful bow and salute to) the state of contemporary dance in the country.
Festival director Myra Beltran talks of how, about a decade ago, "independent dance practice in the Philippines necessarily had to be contemporary in approach and aesthetic," and how it "broke away from the regular conceptions and conventions of `formal' dance, that is, classical ballet."
"This growing movement of independent dance, this `revolution' is what this festival celebrates," she says. "This movement has grown through different solo artists and dance groups scattered all over the country. The name of the festival signifies our unity, how we are all connected `wirelessly.'"
Presented by the World Dance Alliance-Philippine Choreographers' Network, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts with support from the Ayala Corporation, the name of the festival also aims to engage the public, especially younger audiences weaned in a digital age. "In this increasingly virtual world, the human body is becoming negated," she says. "Wifi Body will allow everyone to `access' contemporary dance."
As if to truly immerse audiences in the realm of rebellion, two major performances will be situated away from the "traditional" proscenium stage. The "Blackbox Intiative" will feature pieces created for the CCP's intimate studio theater while "Dance-on-site" serves as a venue for choreographers to create pieces specifically for unique spaces in and around the cultural center.
Beltran points out that "Dance changes according to the space or environment you're in. These alternative spaces allow performers to concentrate on the essence of what their piece aims to convey, it allows the audience to share in this experience, and ultimately, it forces everyone to concentrate on the essence of humanity. Both dancers and audiences are enabled to share more of themselves."
UP Dance Company, Chameleon Dance Theatre, Kahayag Community Dance and Theater Company (of South Cotabato) and Dance=Pull (of Bacolod) are the groups who will present in Blackbox while Dance-on-site will showcase pieces to be performed at the main theater's loading dock, main theater lobby and the gift shop at the little theater lobby.
"These places are really `not practical,' out-of-the way and dimly lit. But these are where little stories and transformative experiences can occur," says Beltran.
Meanwhile, the festival's themes are distilled into its main showcase aptly titled, "IndepenDance." It will feature the piece "Indios Bravos" choreographed by Dwight Rodrigazo and performed by Airdance.
"Indios Bravos is a commentary on turn-of-the-century Filipino expatriates who fought for Philippine independence and their connection to present day Filipinos working abroad. Both are united in their struggle, hardships and the glory they bring to the country," explains Beltran. Also featured in IndepenDance will be the work of Ava Villanueva, first prize winner of last year's New Choreographers Competiton.
Further pushing the notion of connectivity between dancers sans borders, the festival will also play host to international dance artists. "They're here to celebrate our independence with us," says Beltran. "For IndepenDance, we'll have Japanese dancer Shigemi Kitamura and Madrid dance group Provisional Danza led by artistic director Carmen Werner and Alejandro Morata."
In addition, Rosita Boisseau, French journalist and dance critic for Le Monde and Telerama, will conduct a seminar on Dance Journalism, touching on topics such as history and evolution of roles and genres in contemporary dance as well as music as an integral part of dance.
Supporting the festival are foreign cultural entities such as the Japan Foundation Manila, Instituto Cervantes Manila, Embajada de España en Filipinas, Ministerio de Cultura-Gobierno de España, and Alliance Française de Manille. "Dance is a universal language," says Beltran. "It really has no barriers."
Even with the foreign participation, the festival is fully aware of its role as the breeding ground of up-and-coming regional choreographers and dancers through its New Choreographers Competition. "The competition has fourteen finalists with contestants from Bacolod, Koronadal City, South Cotabato and General Santos City," says Beltran. "The winner will be recommended to compete at the Yokohama Competition with the support and endorsement of the Japan Foundation Manila."
The competition is exclusively for the solo and duet form. "The solo or duet form most conveys a choreographer's artistic vision, in compact form. The solo can be a channel for engagement, and the duet can inspire us to see how intimately we connect with each other," says Beltran.
"We also want to give opportunities to young talents from various independent groups and school-based groups, so there will be an Emerging Talent Showcase for them," says Beltran. Contemporary Dance Workshops will also be conducted where "anyone of any age, size or shape can join."
To provide a voice for contemporary dance artists, students and teachers, a forum titled "Plenary: Towards a Philippine Contemporary Dance Network" will be held where "Everyone is invited to exchange ideas and map out the next steps in truly creating a national contemporary dance network for a new generation of artists."
For schedules and details, visit www.geocities.com/wifibody. Tickets available at CCP Box Office (832-3704) and all Ticketworld outlets (891-9999).
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