Renowned choreographers and performance studies scholars shared their expertise and experiences in thriving amid the pandemic through Ateneo de Davao Culture and Arts Cluster’s (ACAC) Alegre: A Webinar Series on Re/Setting Performance Studies in the New Normal last October 26-27 via Zoom.
Acknowledging that the pandemic posed challenges in migrating live performances to virtual experiences, Alegre showcased the ways the arts still communicated with their audiences through digital platforms.
Performing arts on digital platforms
Project manager for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Choreographer Series Regina Bautista emphasized that the pandemic fostered more collaboration with other experts in other fields based on her experience in CCP’s choreographer competition Wifi Body: Virtual Body 2020.
“Each department also had to work together especially in the digital landscape which relied heavily in digital marketing strategies to engage the audience,” she said as her group worked with digital marketing consultants to maximize the digital space.
Peter Perez Alcedo Jr., artistic director of De La Salle Dance Company-Folk and Contemporary, also highlighted that the current situation made him relearn his film-editing skills for 14 Days: A Digital Performance Art Production, a dance film by De La Salle Dance Company Contemporary.
Aside from film editing, 14 Days also included movement improvisation and area specific choreography to portray stories in available spaces.
Ateneo de Manila University Company of Ateneo Dancers coach Jesse Gilliam Gotangco also relayed the importance of comprehensive instructions by communicating procedures properly and tackling things one step at a time.
“As teachers, I believe that we also need to help them (students) learn how to adapt,” he said, adding that instilling healthy practice habits also involve teaching students to learn in various ways and how to teach themselves.
Meanwhile, Herbert Espanola Alvarez and Ma. Elena Laniog-Alvarez, artistic director of the University of the Philippines-Diliman Dance Company and renowned choreographer and teacher-performer, respectively, embarked Soup of Grace: No Touch Touch Choreography and the Practice of Distance.
“As artists, our sense of creation and collaboration has drastically been transformed – from a fellowship of bodies to the restriction of the digital box,” Herbert said, inspiring the project to aim at relating with one another through digital means.
This choreographic series premiered its first episode entitled Hakus last October 3.
Culture and performing arts
“Translation is always a political act,” faculty of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology Amado Guinto Jr. said pertaining on the reflected biases of creators, choreographers, and directors when translating a written art into a dance. He presented his study on how Lanao del Norte’s Sagayan Festival appropriated Darangen, a Maranao epic.
He said that the variations and interpretations of Darangen from different dance companies made it difficult to determine which version is the original and a derivation because each of them are valid.
Guinto Jr. also said that the interpretations in the Sagayan Festival “rewrites the Darangen” as it also aims to encourage tourism and tell a story, “exposing how literature, and how the resulting dance performance can reflect an analysis of the society that inspired it.”
“We cannot avoid appropriating culture in this manner. What we need to avoid is misappropriating culture,” he said.
As an artist from the province, independent dance artist and associate professor of Guang Ming College Al Bernard Garcia admittedly knew the risks in creating contemporary works that are inspired by a certain culture which is why his Tau-Luwa for Ballet Philippines incorporated an imagined community.
“As an artist from the province, I envision to introduce Philippine traditional creative practices, cultures, and sensibilities through my works,” he said.
Alegre: A Webinar Series on Re/Setting Performance Studies, inspired by the Cebuano term Alegre meaning alive, is one of ACAC’s virtual engagements to keep performing arts alive amid the pandemic. The webinar was participated by different schools and universities including Chulalongkorn University, Nanhua University, and New York University.