THE DAY THE DANCERS CAME OUT (First of two parts) (May 2, 2011)
MYRA BELTRAN'S POETRY IN MOTION
Cubao seemed to recover its lost glory last 29 April.
All because of the International Dance Day!
And the moving spirit behind this Paradise Regained was Myra Beltran.
“For the past seven years, through our Contemporary Dance Map series,” she recalled, “I did a kind of template for it in 2002, celebrating IDD on my own with two dancers – we performed in Intramuros (that old restaurant where they had poetry reading?), in Big Sky Mind, at – the LRT Line 2 and performed in the Legarda, Katipunan and Cubao Stations and inside the train which was LRT Authority called the LRT Dance Express for that day. It was a special train.”
For this year, they worked hard like an oldtimer, as if belatedly celebrating Bienvenido Santos' 100th birthday last 22 March on one hand and honoring Labor Day in advance, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Not inside, as usual, but outside.
Since they prefer open spaces: streets, squares, parks, stadiums, beaches, parking lots, clearings – anywhere under the sky!
On the street fronting Shopwise -- along Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Avenue to be exact -- they did another public performance, a kind of project, a collaborative ensemble who did the choreography.
She conceptualized with the help of a colleague to find a frame.
Then this was developed further by her other colleagues with their dancers.
And in turn, the dancers explored, or was it exploded?
Explained Belgian choreographer, Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker: ”I think dance celebrates what makes us human. When we dance we use, in a very natural way, the mechanics of our body and all our senses to express joy, sadness, the things we care about. People have always danced to celebrate the crucial moments of life and our bodies carry the memory of all the possible human experiences.We can dance alone and we can dance together. We can share what makes us the same, what makes us different from each other. For me dancing is a way of thinking. Through dance we can embody the most abstract ideas and thus reveal what we cannot see, what we cannot name. Dance is a link between people, connecting heaven and earth.We carry the world in our bodies. I think that ultimately each dance is part of a larger whole, a dance that has no beginning, and no end.”
As in the past, what one sees in such performances is a structured improvisation that can never be repeated.
Is it also true with her interview?
Vim Nadera: Why do you subscribe to this belief: "On a lonely path where no Filipino dancer has treaded"?
Myra Beltran: Someone described me that way in 1995 (Marge Enriquez, in a review at the PDI, that was the title “On a lonely path”). She did not really like my concert but recognized that I was treading a path no one else was on. I, in effect, was challenging the norm of that time. At that time, you could only belong in a main ballet company and have a corporate setup. Being an artist, who trained herself alone, produced herself and trained the artists she danced with, was not common then. Being “indie” was not common then for a dancer. In fact, to introduce the notion of “indie” in dance at that point was like a --- whhaaat?! So, it was a “lonely path.” I performed in alternative spaces alone, and when I had the chance and some money, I would produce a concert. But basically, I wanted to create and all I really had was only my mind, my body and spirit – and a space to work with. I was the one who started using the term “dance artist” and dancer-choreographer, and it was not the norm then.
VN: What was the dance scene like in the Philippines before you formed Dance Forum?
MB: As I said, it was hierarchical, and less or only minimally collaborative. No one really heard your thoughts about something, or how something current could enter one’s work.
VN: What made you decide to put it up in 1995?
MB: I had a concert in late 1994, and got a venue grant at the CCP to repeat it. I was asked to have a company since the grant could not be given to an individual. So I chose Dance Forum. It’s that simple. I never meant it to be a brand, or another structure. I wanted to create and I wanted to create an environment to enable that creation – and if it took me to giving up some of my notions about dance, beauty, work, I just did and dropped it as if no one was looking (no one was anyway). It also took me to another way of working, of training and relating to other artists.
VN: How did you lead a generation of committed dance artists into new terrain in Philippine dance?
MB: I showed the way, I think. I opened a studio as an alternative performing space, and created work that justified the use of that space. In the process, I discovered a different aesthetic, a different notion of space. Then I began to train dancers in my particular way of working. Later, I produced their actual choreographies too. So we were all together in this new terrain, and they are now an entire generation of contemporary dance artists.
VN: What is the Myra Beltran's dance philosophy?
MB: That’s hard to say! It is like a prism seen from different points of view at different times. Dance has a history but each dance creates its own history as well. So we always dialogue with past and future in our work. So dance is not a rarefied thing that’s “beautiful” and should be left alone. Dance is engagement, passion, current. Dance can be a barometer / signpost to how we live.
VN: How and why did you start dancing?
MB: I created my own world when I was young and when asked to dance in school performances and the like, everyone thought I was “graceful.” I did not really know what that meant. I started fairly late in ballet (age 12) since my parents could not afford to send me to ballet lessons. My godmother was the one who subsidized my lessons because she used to teach Hawaiian at Goldcrest Dance Studio where the famed Hariraya Ballet Company was working. She led me to my first ballet teacher, Vella Damian, who was then member of that company.
VN: Who influenced you?
MB: To dance or love dance? No one really. I loved my first ballet lesson from the beginning. I remember repeating the lesson (what I could remember) alone everyday by myself. I was so excited to go to the next lesson.
VN: Are good dancers born?
MB:Dance takes a lot of hard work so no one is really born a dancer in that sense or can be a good dancer. All of us have the facility for dance. What I think is inborn is a certain facility or intuition or trust, that when the going gets rough (and there will be many times), one, in fact, is granted that facility, that intelligence to sort it all out in terms of dance, to fold life in terms of dance and thus, grow to love it more. True love for dance is a kind of gift, I think.
VN: Can you make a dancer?
MB: I still believe everyone has the facility for dance but to “make” a dancer – what kind of dance are you speaking of here? Some might say that a truly difficult body for ballet will only go so far as a dancer, and thus, can’t be “made” in that sense. But I think this is the gift / advantage of contemporary dance, is that it has enabled different body types that normally did not conform to the notion of the “dancer” at one point, to be, in fact, become and be accepted as a dancer – the “imperfections” constitute the beauty. So, there you have it – one can only make one’s self a dancer, no other really can because it is one’s unique qualities that one gifts the dance and then through this, becomes a dancer.
VICTOR EMMANUEL CARMELO D. NADERA JR.
A Manila Bulletin columnist, Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera Jr. was the youngest director of Likhaan: U.P. Institute of Creative Writing that won the Francisco Balagtas Award (2006) from the National Language Commission. Some of his projects include the text-a-poem contests such as Textanaga (2003), Dalitext (2003), Dionatext (2004), and Textsawikain (2005).He also initiated the first student literary conference called Panitikabataan. Every Tuesday he host the Conspiwriters’ Tuesdays for three years at the Conspiracy Garden Café and O.M.G.: Open Mic Gig every last Monday at Mag:net Gallery (Katipunan). The portal to Philippine literature panitikan.com.ph was his brainchild too like Pistang Panitik or Literary Fiesta which coincides with the annual Manila International Book Fair since 2006. Elected Chairman of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) during its Congress on 25 August 2007, Vim is also the incumbent president of Kapisanan ng May K sa Pilipinas, an umbrella organization of cancer support groups.