Disco dancing by the lonesome

A year-ender post for a not so deserving year to post a year-ender for. This post is a sort of regrettable apology for not seeing enough performances during the year and for purposely missing  those that promised the contemporary. In short to write a year-ender on Manila’s dance scene without even the benefit of empirical evidence to substantiate my claim that there is not even a hint of interesting in Philippine dance is surely asking for trouble and perhaps another reason to further alienate myself from peers who toiled and worked hard in their respective studios for the past year. But who said criticism and spectatorship is no hard work.

And yet if an inventory of the invitations, press releases and email invitations were to be made, here is what 2011 amounts to: (1) the routinely  season performances of Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Rome & Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, ad naseaum; (2) staging of neo-classical pieces including the premiere of Filipino neo-classical/modern ballets based on narratives of nationhood, womanhood and identity; (3) “contemporary” rendition of Le Sacre du Printemps, which was not at all publicized save for a few insiders who don’t seem enthusiastic about promoting it; (4) yearly fragmented celebrations of International Dance Day care of National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ (NCCA) Committee on Dance — who seem to either be working from another country what with their negligence in connecting with the dance country’s dance community or working from another era where ballet and Filipinized versions of it are thought interesting and valuable (come on really?!) — and the Contemporary Dance Network Philippines whose preoccupation for site-specific performances in lieu of bringing dance to the public as in this year’s Hijack Dance and Underground Dance are but haphazard excuses to mount well-made indoor performances; (5) Congresswoman Lucy Torres being appointed as NCCA Ambassador for Dance; (6) and yes, who can miss the overly emotional debate on the Dance Bill (House Bill 4260 and Senate Bill 2679). I’ve just recently heard through the grapevine that the only three major dance companies in the country — who, mind you, have no stake at all in contributing anything phenomenal to the field by way of disturbing the status quo aside from for their almost obscure persistence to restage classics over and over again — are now equally vying for the privileged spot of national recognition. A silly request really, given that there are only but three companies in the country which means declaring all of them as national dance companies, well, misses the point. Prestige fail. Democracy sucks.

Billed as the country's first ever international dance festival organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts' Committee on Dance. One did not need to see the actual festival to feel embarrassed at how incredibly amateurish this festival was.

And still there were some that sounded interesting and important and yet largely ignored by the dance community, perhaps even by organizers themselves who failed to disseminate information in their activities to key stakeholders of the community such as (1) Sayaw Salita: A Forum on Dance at UP Diliman, (2) and a forum on contemporary dance and independent practice organized by Goethe Institut in Manila to celebrate their 50 years of work in the Philippines which was again sadly not disseminated among key stakeholders and attended by a few if not mostly by people who have not a clue about contemporary dance practices in the country.

And the performances I wished I’ve seen were: (1) Airdance’s anniversary show Adarna — I know — a lot of flying perhaps — but, now that the company is being run and managed by the promising generation of the emergent, the show pretty much approximates a picture of what there is to look forward to; and (2) Agnes Locsin’s Encantada, because while I’m not personally a fan of neo-ethnic ballet, Locsin is still the one among the current crop of established Filipino choreographers who has demonstrated a true singularity of vision.

2011 will pass as another uneventful year in Philippine dance.


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