C-MAP Choreographers Festival
Dwight Rodrigazo, Festival Director
August 14-15, 2015
University of St. La Salle Coliseum, Bacolod City
Review by Joelle Jacinto
The C-MAP International Choreographers Festival was initially a culmination of the Composition and Movement Analysis Program, which Dwight Rodrigazo devised as a progressive workshop for choreographers in the Visayas and Mindanao. It grew in scope when initial plans were laid out and financial backers were enthusiastic. The reality of funding an international festival away from the city centre proved to be too challenging, however, and many of those who pledged support conveniently disappeared as August rolled around. Still, Rodrigazo pushed through with as open a mind and heart as he could.
While he initially planned for three programs, he ended up with two jampacked evenings of dance at the University of St. La Salle coliseum. One evening was obviously the original reason for the festival – to present applications of what the participating choreographers learned in the workshops held in 2014 and early 2015.
A second evening was planned to include international groups (because funders will always find an international festival more appealing than a national one), and Rodrigazo invited several of his friends with whom he had worked with in the past, who were now based in other countries. Of the initial 6 that were invited, only 4 were able to confirm attendance – Ernest Mandap-Candice Behlert Project, France; Northwest Classical Ballet, USA; UMa Dance Company, Malaysia; and Airdance, Philippines. Ernest Mandap of the EC Project had been Rodrigazo’s co-dancer in Ballet Philippines before Mandap left for France in 1992, and they remain good friends. Maricar Drilon of NCB had been a principal at BP and a strong inspiration for Rodrigazo. He was also fortunate to have been selected by former artistic director Denisa Reyes for an Asian Cultural Council project collaborating with Ramli Ibrahim and his artists, which is where Rodrigazo met Malaysian dancer and choreographer Rathimalar Govindarajoo. When he saw on Facebook that Rathi was creating work for UMa Dance Company, managed by another former BP co-dancer, Joelle Jacinto (this author), Rodrigazo quickly gave the latter a call. And of course, Rodrigazo was one of the co-founders of Manila-based contemporary dance company, Airdance. To complete this program, he included his own Dance Pull Project.
As Mandap and Behlert were willing to choreograph for local schools while in the Philippines, a third evening was inevitable – and enriched the representation of the Visayan region at the festival. Behlert choreographed Nowhere Else for Cebu Centre for Dance (CCD), Cebu City; Mannequins for Colegio San Agustin Kagayon Dance Troupe, Bacolod City; and The Hand for Sol Fernandez School of Dance, Iloilo City. Mandap choreographed Hommes for School for Theatre Arts N Dance (STAND), Cagayan de Oro; Les Sentiments for Garcia-Sanchez School of Dance, Bacolod City; and Tribu for Annie Divinagracia-Sartorio School of Performing Arts, Iloilo City. Three rich evenings of dance would have been ideal, but the producers had to cut corners so that the festival would at least push through, and the EC Project France-Philippines Collaboration lab was distributed between the first two programs.
My personal favourite was Mandap’s Hommes, but also partly because given these older, more experienced male dancers, Mandap was able to really unleash his creativity. Not to say that he was not creative with his other work, my favourite sections of movement actually come from his Les Sentimentsfor Garcia-Sanchez School of Dance, whose students all seem to move like their director, former BP principal dancer, Georgette Sanchez-Vargas. Mandap shares in conversation that he tries to give movement that fits the dancers’ personalities, and you do see the distinction between the works (Tribu’s youthful energy vs Les Sentiments’ hipster cool vs Hommes’ foreboding sense urgency), but at the same time, note that Mandap requires a high level of intensity from all his dancers, regardless of piece.
As prodigy and associate artistic director of Dance Pull Project, Mitchao has the luxury of being constantly under Rodrigazo’s watchful eye. But the mentor cannot take all the credit, as Mitchao is clearly fluent in her dance vocabulary, playing with rhythms, isolations and weight shifts, creating intricate call-and-response sequences between the dancers but through their bodies. From this, and a teaser hip hop number performed at the SM Mall show earlier in the week to help promote the festival, it is obvious that Mitchao has a wealth of moves in her pocket, and she not only has so much material but she knows how to use it.
Comparing Transit to La Elle S’en Va, I would say Mitchao learned this much from C-MAP, how to use all her material and arrange them into a complete and satisfying work. And if this is what everyone learned from the C-MAP workshops, then Rodrigazo has clearly achieved what he set out to do. Most of the choreographies were quite well-composed, particularly Transit, Jed Amihan’s Via-Mien, Johanna Mangubat’s Bohemian, and Faith Javellana’s One Size Fits All. I was particularly charmed by One Size Fits All, defying any possible clichés that threatened the choice of prop, and was very lucid, intricate and intelligent. Javellana could still develop the work further, perhaps change the cloth (the patterns on the cloth were too distracting), and choose a better title to match the profundity of concept and content.
Penelop Ong’s Quiet was a fun conceptual work and Ong made the most of theatre actor Marco Malait’s physical capacities and comedic timing. While the three girls were important to the beginning of the work, and kudos to their professionalism as they repeated the work from the top after an unfortunate power outage, I did feel that they need not enter again at the end. Still, it was one of the strongest from the program.
Less realised conceptually were Rean Tirol’s Moshiach, Isaiah Joel Villamater’s Pure Fountain, and Marius Centino’s A Slice of Life, though I must commend all their dancers for their technical skills. I suppose what these three works had in common was the emphasis on technical skill over substantial completeness of the work, and they probably could have done with some mentoring during the choreographic process. This may have been overlooked in the preparation for the festival, but hopefully Rodrigazo can include a mentoring program for the next C-MAP choreographers. I did enjoy Centino’s A Slice of Life, and commend his explorations of marrying hip hop and contemporary dance, and it only makes me want him to push more and explore more.
Amihan’s Via-Mien has the upper hand over everyone in the program because this is the third version of his work; version 1 was for Airdance, of which he is a company member and associate artistic director, and version 2 was recently mounted on Taiwanese dancers at the 2015 International Young Choreographers Project in Taiwan. So he has actually improved upon version 3 several times, although this one uses a smaller cast and he is forced to insert feelings. “I didn’t want the relationship element to come out, but I had no choice,” he shares backstage during downtime. Still, I think it is the relationship element that ties the work together, although the movement, which is all that the first 2 versions had going for it, is already gorgeous and fulsome on its own. But the added depth of the emotional baggage thrown around between Prudenciado, Hernandez and Anna Agawa Senase made this version of Via-Mien breathtaking and difficult to forget.
Ready for what’s next
Accompanying my Malaysian team to Manila before heading back to Kuala Lumpur, they share that the Philippines is so lucky to have such an active dance scene, and were excited to learn that some of the choreographers they met at the festival, including Ernest Mandap, Xiao Mitchao and Rhosam Prudenciado Jr, were eager to work with them in the future. They asked if there was any chance that we would be back for the next C-MAP and I said, yes, in 2017, but most of them would have graduated by then. To which they replied, “If we take Masters, maybe still can?”
Meanwhile, I wish to visit the Philippines more regularly in the next year, and not just Manila, to see where the C-MAP choreographers will take their work, what they can come up with next. And of course, to actually be at the next C-MAP sessions. Rodrigazo is brilliant, and this first festival was outstanding, but if we want more C-MAP festivals in the future, he will need all the help he can get.