Reaching out from the US with dance

Reaching out from the US with dance
By Walter Ang
April 30, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Workshop done during Project Philippines 2008.
A group of dancers and artists from the US is coming to the Philippines in June to teach students in Northern Samar and Manila.

The group is led by dancers Kendra Samson, the first Filipina recipient of a full scholarship to the Juilliard School's dance program, and Chelsea Ainsworth, also an alumnus of Julliard.

"I initially organized 'Project Philippines' with my Filipino dance colleague from Juilliard, Norbert de la Cruz.  The project brought five Juilliard dancers to the Philippines in 2008 for an outreach," says Samson.

Samson hails from Angono, Rizal and is a grandniece of Carlos "Botong" Francisco and Lucio San Pedro, National Artists for Painting and Music, respectively.

She trained at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School and Philippine High School for the Arts.  She was accepted to Julliard in 2004 and received her permanent resident card for the US last year, however, she emphatically says, "The Philippines is still my home.  And so is New York. I love them both on different levels.  With this 'artreach' project, I feel as if I am having a different relationship with the Philippines where I lived in for 17 years. It's more than just a home this time."

Coming back
Kendra Samson
"I know that Filipinos feel passionately on the arts and it's culturally natural for us to want to dance to the beat, to sing, and to admire actresses and actors. One of our main goals is to make the arts relevant in the daily lives of the communities we encounter.

"The arts doesn't have to be a separate entity that only exists in the tube and theaters. It is around us and relevant to all our human experiences."

Naming this year's outreach effort as "Project Philippines 2012," the group will teach in the same places it visited in 2008: San Isidro and Bobon Central Elementary School in Northern Samar;  Philippine High School for the Arts in Laguna; and the Ayala Museum and Ballet Philippines in Manila.  The group will conduct workshops and hold recitals and performances.

"Project Philippines 2012 is inspired by our interest to teach and expand upon our art forms, specifically movement, music, and visual arts. We hope to learn from the Filipino culture as well as create meaningful exchange," says Ainsworth.

"The idea is to 'empower discipline and self-confidence' in Filipino children, to spread hope and a positive vision for our arts and our lives. After such a successful trip and in response to strong requests, [we were] inspired and excited to return in 2012."

Chelsea Ainsworth
"Most of the original group has already graduated from school and are individually pursuing their careers in different parts of the world," says Samson. "I've also been establishing my dance career in New York and became excited at the prospects of reviving the outreach and reinventing it as well to involve other art mediums."

"This year brings a broader scope of team members.  Not all are Juilliard-trained, but all are exceptional artists in their respective fields."

Samson recruited another Filipino dancer, Leonides Arpon, to join the group.  Born and raised in Israel and a former member of Bat-Dor Dance Company, he relocated to New York in 1999 and is currently a member of Armitage Gone! Dance Company.

"He has been like a brother to me throughout my stay in NY and his passion and determinations in life inspire me."

Music and visual arts will be added to the program, to be taught by visual artist Kyle Netzeband, and musicians Brian Gnojek and Midori Samson (currently a sophomore at Juilliard, major in bassoon).

Raising funds
Leonides Arpon
When the group came to the country in 2008, they worked under a grant from Julliard.  This time around, they've been raising funds on their own since last year through workshops, shows and, on April 30, a fundraising show supported by the Philippine Consulate in New York.

They also started an account on, a "crowd funding" website that allows the public to donate to the projects listed.

However, the website dictates that if the target minimum amount of funds to be raised is not met by the set deadline of May 16, 2012, all pledges are forfeited and no funds will be collected.  "This is why we chose a lesser amount of USD2,500 as our target in the website although our real goal is to raise USD5,000."

"Art for a Cause: Project Philippines 2012" fundraising show runs April 30 7:30 pm at Kalayaan Hall, Philippine Center, 556 Fifth Ave., New York City.  For details, email or visit

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We could have danced all week, Philippine National Dance Week 2012

We could have danced all week
By Walter Ang
April 23, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dance, dance and more dance will be celebrated during this year’s International Dance Day and Philippine National Dance Week.

Contemporary Dance Network Manila (CDNM) is staging Contemporary Dance Map Gala 2012 and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is hosting a dance competition and workshop-festival.

Philippine National Dance Week, celebrated on the last week of April, began in 1993 as per Presidential Proclamation 154 signed by President Fidel Ramos.

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of International Theater Institute (ITI) of Unesco and is celebrated every April 29—the date commemorates the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a French dancer and ballet master regarded as the creator of modern ballet.

Contemporary dance
Contemporary Dance Network Manila
performing in LRT2 station in 2010.
Contemporary Dance Map Gala 2012, featuring different contemporary dance groups, is directed by Ava Villanueva and Elena Laniog.

Participating groups include UP Dance Co., Airdance, Chameleon Dance Theater, Lyceum of the Philippines Dance Troupe and Myra Beltran’s Dance Forum, among others.

CDNM, chaired by Angel Lawenko-Baguilat, UP Dance Company artistic director, is an organization of contemporary dance companies, artists, school-based organizations, and institutions, whose goal is to promote contemporary dance in the Philippines.

The show is part of CDNM’s Contemporary Dance Map series, where the group “maps alternative spaces for dance in a performance tour of these spaces.” The series started in 2005 and has since continued annually.

The Contemporary Dance Map series has included performances in spaces such as the LRT2 line (2010) and the streets of Araneta Center in Cubao (2011).

“Contemporary Dance Map Gala 2012” runs April 28-29, 8 p.m., Dance Forum Space, 36E West Ave., QC. Student and senior citizen discounts available. Call 0917-8514732.

Contests and workshops
Contemporary Dance Network Manila
performing in Araneta Center in 2011.
The National Committee on Dance of the NCCA is holding Sayaw Pinoy: The NCCA National Dance Competition as part of its efforts to promote dance in its various forms.

Now on its fourth year, the competition will be held April 23-24 at Music Hall of SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City. Folkdance, neoclassical and ballroom will be the categories on the first day. Contemporary and hip-hop will be on the second day.

The dance committee, chaired by Shirley Halili-Cruz (Shirley Halili-Cruz School of Ballet artistic director), notes that the contest aims to highlight competition as a means of motivation for artistic excellence and encourage emotional fitness through teamwork.

The NCCA is also hosting Dance Xchange 2012: Philippine International Dance Festival April 27-30 at Cebu International Convention Center, Cebu City.

The festival’s theme is “Cultural Connectivity through Dance.” Dance Xchange, now on its fourth year, will have activities like dance performances; dance workshops to be conducted by dance directors and dancers from participating countries; master classes; artists forum and cultural tours.

To register for the workshop, contact 5272209, 5272214, 0917-5296946, 0920-9514911; e-mail; visit

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Bonus: here is a short video from Contemporary Dance Network Manila for this year's International Dance Day:

Another bonus: Every year, an eminent dance personality is chosen to give a message for International Dance Day:

Opera Haus now open for everyone; summer workshops offered

Opera Haus now open for everyone; summer workshops offered
By Walter Ang
April 16, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lobby of Opera Haus
"It has been our dream to put up an arts center and build a permanent home for classical singers," says Philippine Opera Company artistic director Karla Gutierrez. "But, of course, it is open to all artists!"

She's referring to Opera Haus, now home to the administrative offices of POC and to classrooms for students and rehearsal spaces for performing artists (music and otherwise).

Enrollment is ongoing for the center's lessons in instruments (piano, guitar, violin), and basic theory or master classes for music.

Voice students can choose from varied repertoires: classical, pop, Broadway/musical theater, jazz and standards.

There are also special classes in music and movement for babies and toddlers.

"We have a program called `Buddy Lessons,' which offers voice and instrument lessons designed for couples or friends who may want to study voice or the same instrument, together," she says.

Something for everyone
Music room for classes
The lobby features a three-story-high glass-curtain window fountain designed by set designer and contractor Jo Tecson.

Aside from the classrooms, there are studios and rooms throughout the second and third floors that can be rented for rehearsals, auditions, production meetings. "For bands, chamber orchestras, string quartets, singers, dancers, everyone!"

"The space is very flexible. We want to have different kinds of workshops, like for acting, dance, painting or literature. It can be an art gallery. We can have film showings."

The center has a conference room and library "with a good number of music books and scores for reference."

"We have a small Opera Shop where we sell music-related merchandise," she says.  "All proceeds of the merchandise go to Friends of the Philippine Opera Foundation's Artistic Development Program. It's a program that provides free workshops and master classes for artists."

Proceeds from POCs different productions go to the ongoing construction of Opera Haus.

Upcoming productions this year include a restaging of its "Ang Bagong Harana," (June 6-10, 2012) a concert featuring classical Filipino songs.

POC also co-manages with Sony Music the "Operabelles," an all-female classical-crossover group that can be booked for corporate or private functions.

"We're building our patron system. The arts really needs patrons since the government is not helping us. We depend so much on personal and corporate sponsorships."

Rehearsal Hall at Opera Haus
The fourth floor is intended to be a mini recital area in the future. "We can't afford to finish constructing it yet, so for now, it serves as an open roof deck for parties."

There is the small Opera CafĂ© at the lobby. "We also have a small garden at the back for barbecue or potluck parties. Artists like to eat!" she laughs. "Here, teachers, students and artists can bond before or after classes or rehearsals.

"There is also an audio-visual room where we will hold weekly free viewing of opera films and audiences can discuss the movie among themselves afterward.

"We have so many plans for Opera Haus because we want the other 'arts' to be part of it, it's not just for opera artists."

Opera Haus is at 3657 Bautista St., Makati City; tel. 881-7168 or 0917-527-2880.

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Flipreads, Filipino e-bookstore now online

Filipino e-bookstore now online
By Walter Ang
April 2, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Andrea Pasion-Flores, Nat'l Book Dev't Board member;
Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, UST Press director.

Flipreads, an online bookstore that sells electronic books (e-books) by Filipino authors and publishers, is now online (

Writers and publishers attended Flipread's launch, where CEO Anthony de Luna said, "Flipreads is a source of e-books from and about the Philippines and Asia."

The site has an inaugural offering of 70 e-books available for buyers anywhere in the world.

Titles include: "Man Overboard: Essays By, For and Of The Smart Filipino Male" by Butch Dalisay, "Tabi Po" by Merwin Malonzo, "Wealth Within Your Reach" by Francisco Colayco, "The King of Nothing To Do: Essays on Nothing and Everything" by Luis Katigbak, "A Song For My Brother and Other Stories" by Antonio Hidalgo, and "Geek Tragedies" by Carljoe Javier.

E-books sold in Flipreads are in a format that can be read on Apple devices (iPad, iPod and iPod Touch); on desktop computers, laptops, and devices (tablets and smartphones) that run on Android, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS; and on Barnes & Noble's Nook tablet.

Buyers need to download (one time only) a free reader program/app compatible to the operating system in their computer or device: Bluefire for Apple iOS, Aldiko for Android, and Adobe Digital Editions for Windows and Mac OS.

Flipreads e-books can't be read on Blackberry phones, Apple's iBooks app, and Amazon's Kindle app. "However, Amazon's new Kindle Fire handheld reader runs the Android operating system, so you will be able to download and install the Aldiko app and read Flipreads e-books on it," said de Luna.

Flipreads' system uses Adobe Content Server and this allows each buyer to authorize a maximum of six devices to store copies of every Flipreads e-book purchased.

"While international ebookstores offer some Filipino-authored e-books, there are usually additional costs of up to US$2 per book," says de Luna. "Also, most online bookstores accept only credit cards."

Flipreads allows payments using CashSense, where users pay cash at 7-Eleven and MLhuillier branches. The site will eventually allow payments using Globe GCash and Smart Money.

Flipside also plans to offer magazines. It plans to work with schools and colleges in making e-books available for students.

For Filipino authors and publishers
Filipino publishers, authors, and other content providers can use Flipreads as a secure distribution platform.

"Publishers can sell their ebooks through instead of putting up their own online bookstores. Authors can independently publish their e-books through the site," he said.

"Flipreads also hopes to be a venue for publishers and authors to bring previously out-of-print titles back into circulation. Since everything is online, these titles will also be available to an international market."

Flipreads also provides services for Filipino authors and publishers seeking to distribute e-books internationally through Amazon and Apple iBookstore. "We can set up your account on Apple and Amazon, file for U.S. tax treaty exemptions, and convert your book or content to the needed formats (which can include designing the lay-out) accepted by these online e-bookstores."

UST Publishing House, UP Press and Milflores Publishing have already started working with Flipreads for their titles published on Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble.

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Peta and Rep do crossover staging of cross-dressing hit

Peta and Rep do crossover staging of cross-dressing hit
By Walter Ang
April 9, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (Peta) musical “Care Divas” will feature Repertory Philippines actress Joy Virata and will be staged at Onstage Theater, Makati (known as Rep’s current “home” theater) for one weekend this April.

This “crossover” staging is part of both theater companies’ celebrations of their 45th anniversaries.

Peta was founded by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez and Rep by Zeneida “Bibot” Amador, Carmen “Baby” Barredo, Leo Martinez, and Tony and Monina Mercado.

With Peta’s Filipino productions and Rep’s English productions, both companies have staged season after season of shows and have established reputations for excellence.

Peta has been staging original works alongside Filipino translations and adaptations of foreign works.

Rep, while staging mostly American and European works (usually Broadway and West End shows),  once staged August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” using Roland Tinio’s Filipino translation (in its inaugural season). It also staged an original English musical, “Miong” (written by Virata and Ramon Santos, 1998), about the life of Emilio Aguinaldo.

Amador died in 2004, leaving Barredo as artistic director for Rep. Guidote-Alvarez left Peta in 1972. Peta is headed by president Cecilia Garrucho and artistic director Maribel Legarda.

Joy Virata in the mix
This musical, about a group of Filipino caregivers working in Israel who moonlight as drag queens in a club, premiered last year and has had several run extensions. The characters, despite the glitter and glam involved in their drag-queen personas and performances, struggle with cultural differences, alienation and loneliness.

Virata takes over the roles (Adara/Sara) originated by Garrucho. Aside from having been an actress and former associate artistic director for Rep, Virata is also Rep’s Children’s Theater founding artistic director.

Legarda had always wanted Virata to alternate with Garrucho. With Garrucho unable to perform in this run, Legarda sent word to the Rep camp inquiring if Virata might want to take on the role.

Virata said yes instantly, not even knowing what the show was about, expressing excitement for the chance to work with Peta. With this, the Rep camp suggested that the show be mounted in Onstage Theater instead of Peta’s Theater Center, and the crossover was born.

Now commonplace
Up until the ’80s, actors did not perform for other groups. The idea of actors crossing over to other groups started becoming acceptable in the ’90s and has now become commonplace.

Virata is not the first Rep actor to tread Peta boards.  Audie Gemora (“Ang Paglalakbay ni Radiya Managandiri,” 1993 ); Dido de la Paz (“Romulus D’Grayt,” 2007); and Rem Zamora (“Skin Deep,” 2008) have been part of Peta productions.

Peta was initially located in Fort Santiago, Manila, staging productions in the open-air Dulaang Rajah Sulayman.  Rep initially staged productions at Insular Life Theater, Makati, moving over to the defunct William Shaw Theater in Mandaluyong in the ’90s.

Peta now has its own building and theater in New Manila, Quezon City. Rep stages shows at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati.

Both companies have been spreading their respective styles and contributions to theater arts.

Rep is known for training Filipino actors in the modes of Western theater, enabling them to join foreign productions in the West End, Germany and Broadway, represented by its most famous alumna: Lea Salonga.

Its alumni have also gone on to found their own English theater companies: Audie Gemora (Trumpets); Bart Guingona (Actors’ Actors); Monique Wilson (New Voice Company); Michael Williams (Theater Down South); and Robbie Guevarra (9 Works Theatrical).

Peta is known for touring their productions nationwide and giving workshops for theater education and theater-in-education, helping communities found their own theater groups.

They also forge collaborations with Asean and Asian neighbors such as Black Tent Theater (Japan) and the Mekong Partnership Project (Great Mekong Subregion).

Both companies are exploring future partnerships, with performances to be staged at Peta’s Theater Center, and possibly the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Peta artistic director Maribel Legarda directs. The musical is written by Liza Magtoto; with music and lyrics by Vince de Jesus (also musical director). Costume design is by John Abul; lighting design, Jon Jon Villareal; set design, Leo Abaya; and choreography, Carlon Matobato.

Purchase of Peta’s “Care Divas” tickets for April 28, 8 p.m. show, will entitle buyer to a 10-percent discount on ticket purchase for any of the April 20-22 shows of Rep’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” and vice-versa.

“Care Divas” runs April 27-29 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. Call 7256244, 4100821 or 0917-5183654; e-mail

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Filipinos selected for Kyoto contemporary dance residency

Filipinos selected for Kyoto contemporary dance residency
By Walter Ang
April 9, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mia Cabalfin
Filipino dancers Mia Cabalfin and Rhosam Prudenciado have been chosen for the Artist-in-Residence program of Kyoto Art Center in 2012.

The center will provide accommodations and studio space for six months for the artists to organize projects with Kyoto citizens, including performances, lectures or workshops.

The pair plan to do a “dance-on-site” production, a performance of contemporary dance in an alternative “non-theater” space.

“Specifically, in a machiya house, since this is a part of Kyoto culture and history that is fast disappearing,” says Cabalfin. “It will be interesting to explore using a traditional home in a nontraditional way.”

“Machiya houses are being demolished to give way to new concrete buildings,” says Prudenciado. “We want to pay homage to the tradition and culture symbolized by the machiya while incorporating something new and current, in this case, contemporary dance.”

The grant does not include living expenses and the two dancers are exploring fundraising efforts.

Both are members of contemporary-dance group Airdance. Cabalfin has been a company member, faculty and choreographer since 2006. Prudenciado is associate artistic director of the company. He choreographs and teaches contemporary, hiphop and jazz.

“We are excited, grateful and honored to have been chosen, since this is a prestigious residency program open to dance artists from all over the globe,” says Cabalfin. “I am excited to create new work, to perform abroad, and to collaborate with new artists together with Sam! I’m sure it’ll be an amazing yet challenging experience. I can’t wait!”

“I feel so happy and blessed that Filipinos were chosen amongst all applicants worldwide to impart our art as contemporary choreographers/performers,” says Prudenciado. “It’s not every day that artists are given the chance to cross borders for creative exchanges. This will definitely be a venue to carry our pride as Filipinos in terms of art, as well.”

Both competed in the New Choreographers Competition of the 3rd Wi-Fi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival (2008), a festival of contemporary dance organized by Contemporary Dance Network Philippines (CDNP). Cabalfin was a finalist while Prudenciado took second place.

CDNP president Angel Lawenko Baguilat says: “We congratulate both artists and wish them well as they represent the Philippines in this cultural exchange in the field of contemporary dance.”

Rhosam Prudenciado
Cabalfin was a recipient of a Danceweb Scholarship Programme in 2008 in Vienna, Austria, as part of the Impulstanz International Dance Festival. She is also a part-time instructor at Plana Forma and television host/sportscaster and executive producer for Studio 23 and Balls Channel.

Prudenciado won the French Embassy Prize for Young Choreographers of the Yokohama Dance Collection R 2009, which allowed him to study contemporary dance in Micadanses and Menagerie de Verre in Paris. He is a frequent guest artist of UP Dance Company and House of Dance.

“Contemporary dance is a very stretchy form of art,” says Prudenciado. “Its definition depends on the artist, the subject he focuses on, and the venue. It does not have a strict form like ballet. It does not mainly seek to entertain an audience but to express. Contemporary dance is very different, depending on perspective. It is an opportunity for the implied and the abstract. It’s a movement transcending technology for the art of dance.”

To donate or assist the grantees with their living expenses, contact or

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