Updated: Jan 10, 2020
(Brown Madonna, in 1SA Solo Arts Festival, 2018, photo by Erickson Dela Cruz)
How did you become engaged in contemporary dance?
“I was a professional classical ballerina for many years. From 7 years old to my early 20s I was doing ballet. I started dancing with Effie Nanaz School of Ballet then eventually with Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines and the other companies I worked for as a professional dancer they have contemporary repertoire so I was able to work with contemporary dance and modern dance choreographers. When I quit company dancing I was an independent dance artist. First in Manila then I was under Contemporary Dance Map, Dance Forum and did several projects as a freelancer. I was able to go abroad several times for workshops and festivals to supply training for myself, in contemporary dance, dance theatre, physical theater and performance art.”
May you please provide information about the company you are heading?
“I formed Daloy Dance Company in 2014. It is my brainchild. Daloy is the tagalog for ‘flow’. During that time I was in love with improvisation and I was very in love with the crossing and the fluidity of genres that I could for with my choreographies. So I invited a small group of friends, thespians, actors, dancers from different genres to collaborate with me so that they could also perform the pieces that I make and we are making co-collaborative works. Now, we are going towards our 6th year and we have 10 members. We have toured nationally and internationally, and have done performances in various sites and stages here in Manila and many festivals and collaborated with visual artists.”
How often do you or your company perform?
“We always have projects every month so it depends on the project. We perform on festivals locally and abroad. We put up our own shows and then we also get invited to do corporate or commercial events from time to time.”
I learned that you also conduct classes, is there a cross-section of your students in terms of a gender and social status?
“Yes. Since April 2019 we have started to do the Fluid Payment scheme which provides equitable classes that are of quality. People pay based on their monthly income and their perceived value of the class. The classes are open to all skill levels, all genders, and all socio-economic status.
Basically we wanted quality classes that are affordable. Quality classes that are movement as a healing practice that are affordable and we wanted to make the dance gathering a place for community that not only for ‘alta’ or those who can afford, but basically we figured out that what we wanted is, those who can give more, to actually give more to support the community, so those who make very little or less like middle class or lower middle class or lower class, who just really wanted to dance too, could also feel welcomed an relaxed in the space. We encourage self-reflexivity, so every participant can really think before they pay, how much is the value of this class for them. What value it added to them. We just want an inclusive space, where everyone can move freely without feeling that they’re being judge or that they don’t belong.”
What’s the best thing about being a contemporary dance artist, or being an artist in general?
“Being an artist,. I get to live out many of my questions. It helps me become more multidimensional and allows me to have more freedom. I think this will be an ongoing question for me as my identity as a woman, as a Filipina, as a dancer, as a choreographer, as a director and producer, as founder of Daloy Movement as this new paradigm of moving and being, is all evolving.
I guess the wonderful thing about what I do now is I get to wear many different hats that is very good for my fiery energy. I have many avenues for self-expression. I get to meet a lot of people and I get to see my work manifest in a choreographies that is not limited to the proscenium stage, but in many different sites. I get to explore many sides of me through the different hats that I wear. At the end of the day, I am also able to see the formation of budding young dance artists through mentorship and platform provision.
What problem does a contemporary dance artist experience in today’s art scene?
“We don’t have enough institutional funding or grant funding for individual artists. We don’t have enough philanthropists who are in genuine support of contemporary dance as an art-form that could push forward the envelope in terms of making new works. I think there could also be more initiatives from galleries, museums, spaces or venues to really support contemporary dance by providing free venues, marketing, open forums, and even splitting revenues— just basically for more people to be involved in contemporary dance, to realize the process, the complexity, the struggle and the value in making a contemporary dance piece which takes time and space for ideation, incubation, studio time, meetings, administrative and logistical support, experimentation, and collaboration. There could be more support in terms of producers, venues, presenters who hopefully would want to engage in and hone PH-based dance artists.“
Being an artist, how do you resolve these problems?
“Daloy had been heavily marketing in social media so that helps us gather more audience members and participants for our workshops. We also try to partner with bigger organizations and groups who can do venue grants for us or who can do sponsorship gathering, fund-raising and marketing for and with us. We’re working on collaborations much more and building our network so even though money is scarce, we are backed by social capital.”
What keeps you going in pursuing your love for the arts?
“If you could live without it, don’t do it.— is something I asnwered to anothed interview early last year regarding a question about advice for younger artists. That sounds a little pessimistic but what I meant with that is, it is that hard to go against the status quo, to go against a very general societal definition of success which is loads of money and/or prestige. It is a climb. I think one has to have heart, tenacity, and stamina to keep going, to keep wanting to pursue the arts and I think that’s for any field.”
Besides your passion for dancing, do you have a day job?
“I used to call teaching dance or teaching other movement practices as my day job. But now, I see everything that I do as part of my on-going practice and investigation as a dance artist so I teach dance and I teach different forms of dance from technique classes to Daloy Movement which is an original Daloy Dance co-produced improv-movement syllabus. To contact improv, to physical theatre, to dance as a healing practice. Then I choreograph corporate shows or I dance for corporate shows sometimes. These are all bring food to the table. But I now see everything as an integral part of me and my growth. So I don’t really have a ‘day job’.
I do many things and all these many things involve dance in one way or another and I do them for they are fun and they keep me alive in the matrix. I choose to no longer call them work and job, I just call them things that are dance-related, fun and make money for me. This way of seeing it is shifting the way I approach my ‘multi-dimensional’ art practice.”
I know for a fact that you have a roster of artists, how are they doing and to which direction are they headed?
“Yes, I have a roster of artists. I have company members, under that are apprentices and then under that are scholars. They are in very different directions. The company’s project-based, the company operates on a lot of agency so the dancers could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a project and all of us are in this, for a lack of better term, ‘open relationship’ in terms of our relationship with Daloy and our projects. Apart from Daloy-work, we are free to do our own projects, do our own thing and pursue other ambitions.
That being said, the scholars and apprentices are geared towards this mentoring program that we have in Daloy Dance Company where basically my goal as a director is for them to have opportunities to grow from pre-professional dancers to full-blown dance artists through commercial events, corporate events, performance interventions, improvisation as performance, discussions about all of these things, them learning on how to negotiate their contracts, their fees, them learning how to navigate their performative bodies in multiples situations and contexts, and of course them upping their game and evolving as thinking dancers through their work with me and my choreographies, or our guest choreographers and teachers from here in the local art scene and also from abroad.
Especially this 2020, we have guest choreographers from Canada, Hong Kong and Germany, and we will be having teachers from all over Asia. We have really exciting projects for this year that I think will help in this mentoring program for my scholars and apprentices. As for my company members, they have each their personal direction as to where they are going to take their careers. Usually, my company members are hired after 2 or 3 years under this mentoring program or we have met and I invited them after seeing them in another choreographer’s performance. But basically, they have more freedom and are definitely included in Daloy’s main productions.”
Do you think that today’s generation is just as involved in various forms of art compared to a generation ago?
“Yes. Because all of us, from across cultures have more access to information now more than ever. Digital Age. Everything is available in written materials through PDF files, and e-books, through videos, photos, they are all online and they are all across various platforms. If there is anything we are actually bombarded with information. But the more open-access from all of this, is also what’s keeping us informed, interested and also engaged. Now we have crowd-source funding. We have new forms of art that emanating from augmented reality and virtual technology. And our avatars online in our virtual worlds, forming virtual communities are now available to actually give all kinds of support for the arts.”
Where is art headed in 2020?
“I still think that art is a very very very big topic. Music is art, painting is art, dance is art, and etc; those are big things already with subgenres that are big things on their own. It still depends on where you are, what your affiliations as an artist are, where your art practice is situated in, but I could only say a little something about my context as a Filipina dance artist with a continuing dance practice here in the Philippines.
I think in 2020 there will be more workshops and festivals that are related to movement. I’m hopeful that the younger generation of dance artists will have more confidence in putting out work. There will be continuous rise in the cross-genre between dance and visual arts, or sculpture and architecture, or that there will be more artworks that are interesting, innovative, and could not be easily boxed or categorised. Fluid in their categorization or form. I think is a very exciting time. There will be more art forms (and approaches) that are interested in healing, as mental health issues are rising, suicide cases are rising. I think there would be more focused on art as a healing practice.”
Interviewer: Ley Iverson B. Halos
Date of Interview: December 18, 2019
Photos by Erickson Dela Cruz, Jojo Mamangun, Micth Conzon, Adele Raya.