Wednesday, November 21, 2012

THE DAY THE DANCERS CAME OUT (Last part) (May 9, 2011)

VN: Who do you think should we emulate among Filipino and foreign dance artists?
MB:There are quite a few – what they have in common is they truly love the dance.

VN: Why did you produce the works of Enrico Labayen, Jojo Lucila, Christine Maranan, Paul Morales, Dwight Rodrigazo, and Denisa Reyes?
MB: Because I knew no one person, no matter how brilliant, can be responsible for the advancement of an art-form. Like it’s been said – “it takes a village.” I never saw myself as “THE” choreographer who would take the art-form to heights – as one would say – I just wanted to experience it in so many other ways, and producing other people’s work was an extension of this. In fact, it is only recently that I realized I have “produced” them – I just wanted to enjoy myself and enjoy the work with them, and did what I could to achieve that.

VN: What about producing others?
MB: The festival which I initiated, and led – Wifi Body Festival (2010 was the fifth) – and the other series that we do on International Dance Day – Contemporary Dance Map (this year is the seventh) precisely, produces the work of others. But I think of it as “artists helping artists.” It should also be an exchange.

VN: Could you share with us your experience collaborating with other artists:
MB: Alfonso Bolipata is wonderful! In many ways, I grew up with Coke as an artist and as a cultural worker. We share a certain sensibility or value for music, and we have shared so many magical moments in performance. My collaboration with Coke is ongoing. It’s something I keep coming back to.Ramon Bolipata is precious. When one sees Chino perform, it seems that this moment in time is the only important thing in the world – and that makes me cry. It makes me understand the meaning of a gift and that this is really all what matters in this worldCoke and Chino are two sides of me. Bencab believed in me very early and that was so important. He imbibed to me a very important thing about the visual. I can’t explain what it is – just that how lucky I am to have received it. Roberto Feleo is so simple, so grounded, and so true. Bob embarrasses me out of my excessiveness, and makes me drop any hint of ego. He was a true friend and mentor who took my hand at a crucial point in my career through his art. Karen Flores is Queen of Cool! Light to work with but very sophisticated. I like the way she expresses her feminism and this appeals to me in her art. Anton Juan is unafraid and spontaneous. Open to possibilities and so totally human. Anton is a big momma to his artists. Dr. Ramon Santos ?Frankly, I was a bit scared because of the stature and here I was, bungling in my attempts. Dr. Santos was very generous though and truly interested in young people’s work. He always seemed pleasantly surprised at what I came up with so I was always thankful for this. Carlitos Siguion-Reyna is very approachable person and so thorough and exacting in his work. Very patient too, and an unassuming person. There was great trust in the collaboration.

VN: What was it like studying under Vella Damian?
MB: I was very lucky that Ms. Damian and Eric V. Cruz had the semi professional company, Dance Concert Company. Ms. Damian is such a down-to-earth person and one sees her passion for dance. It is real for her – not as a way to get ahead in life socially, and this was lucky – ballet was not a set of rules, but it was a way to bring out what was human about you. How great!

VN: In what way did your affiliations with Ballet of Oldenburg (Germany), Ballet of Prishtina (Yugoslavia), Ballet Philippines and The Lab. Projekt-Philippines help you and your dancers?
MB: All that I am now is the result of all that experience. To summon it each time, and everyday in one’s work in the studio with the dancers is the supreme task for the teacher so that the tradition can be truly passed on.

VN: What was your most unforgettable experience in the World Dance Alliance Festival 2002 or in the Exposition’O Contemporary Dance Fiesta 2003?
MB: At the WDA Global Dance Fest, I realized that it was only me there who had the kind of questions I was asking and no one there could answer it for me but me. That realization was unforgettable.

VN: Why do you support the Pundaquit Arts Festival and the Baguio Arts Festival?
MB: Baguio Arts Festival grew me. If not for it, I would not be the artist that I am and would not have taken the path I did. BAG Fest was decentralization, a different way of working, doing and presenting art, a different engagement with the community and a most unique gathering of artists from other disciplines that I just soaked it all in. I was lucky to have had that support early on. The Pundaquit Arts Festival has such a noble aim – it is amazing that it is even being held yearly. It has had a tremendous influence in the community, and again for me, another way of working.

VN: What can you say about the role of, say, Ballet Philippines, and Philippine Ballet Theatre in the development of dance here?
MB: They all have their role to play but they best articulate that.

VN: What did you do after winning the Alab ng Haraya Award and the Aliw Award for the Dance Forum as Best Dance Group?
MB: Continued working even harder! That was just the first step.

VN: Why do you consider Quezon City an indie space for dance?
MB: Because of the kind of dance that has grown in this city. It has no infrastructure for the performing arts, yet, the artists create a way – both process and the artists themselves are “indie” as a result.

VN: What is your role in forming the Quezon City Culture and Arts Council?
MB: I am supposed to be the Dance Cluster coordinator. Actually, I am interested in the fact that QC has the most artist-run spaces in the entire country and if we could only be visible for the city and the city recognizes this comparative advantage, then it make this focus a kind of “creative industry” for the city, then through this, the sustainability of artists’ work could better be addressed.

VN: What are the proposals in the Dance Cluster?
MB: Actually, it was for IDD and a smaller event / series of shows at the end of the year. IDD project has a workshop component with grant from the NCCA.

VN: How would you promote dance among the less fortunate?
MB: If we had the infrastructure to do it, dance should be empowerment for the less fortunate. Even if one imagines one’s self traversing through space, this is already the start of the empowerment because it transfers from thought to action then hopefully, aspiration.

VN: What is your opinion about streetdance in almost every town?
MB: Streetdance festivals all over the country are the main crowd-drawer of these festivals – it brings in the tourists, the community, the businessmen and the politicians. I am not that versed in the “authenticity” of some of the dance forms currently evolving – that is another discourse – but my point is that this tourism and economic development is centered on the human body, on the dance, yet, we do so little to preserve our dances or acknowledge our dance artists who remain marginal. Yet so much is built on that art-form. Why are we so invisible to everyone when it is so apparent? Why are we so marginal when the credibility, the success, the financial gain from all of this is centered on the dance, the dancers, the dance-makers and the dance community. Still other people think we are “just” dancers. This is a puzzle to me.

VN: What is your stand on the 6-year old Jan-jan Suan macho-dancing on the March 12 episode of TV5's Willing-Willie?
MB:That was a lamentable episode. Dance is not there for empowerment, it has been distorted there. How have our children lost their INNOCENCE for dance? Dance is being defined by those who DO NOT love the dance. I want to challenge those stereotypes of dance. For instance, the notion of dance as spectacle. So, we thought of going to a public space and painting ourselves gold and wearing a tutu. In fact, we are entering the realm of spectacle but in a way that reflects its “excess” and by this, we hope we sublty critique that notion, and proceed to let those around us experience the true power of dance through our dancing. I want to hijack that definition of dance and bring back the defining of dance to those who truly love it. That's why, last April 29, our public performance was called “HIJACK DANCE... DEFINE DANCE.” That is, to engage the idea of dance as spectacle but in an excessive, hilarious or extraordinary way in the hopes of challenging some stereotype ideas about dance. 

The first Labor Day in the Philippines was celebrated on May 1, 1913 during the first National Labor Congress in Manila. 
True strength of character is not calculated by how well we manage to carry sizable loads under challenging conditions. It is best measured by our ability to remain kind, light-spirited, and compassionate, even when we are loaded with a lot of weight that life brings.

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