Contemporary dance has a long way to go before it gains full-blown recognition from Filipino audience, art practitioners said, noting that government and institutional support also have a role to play in disseminating awareness on new art forms.
In a dance production presented by the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts (CSB-SDA), which featured the challenges in the lives of artists, SDA Associate Dean for the Arts and Culture Cluster Sunita Mukhi said small art groups in the Philippines continue to thrive and enhance their craft. However, she said the community needs government’s support in spreading awareness and raising the level of discourse.
“In awareness for the arts, I think the Filipino is very talented and artistic. They are very aware of art. They are always involved. They can sing, dance, they can do theater, but I think what is lacking is support from big institutions and the government. We have Benilde, which is a school of design and arts, which I am so blessed to be part of,” Mukhi said.
She added: “What is beautiful is that there are these different groups that are doing dance like Ballet Manila. There is Seven, Air Dance and so many little theater groups that are all trying to do art which I think is great. I think the visual arts is doing well and theater. Dance has a special place, but I think people are not grasping contemporary dance so much because it is a very unusual abstract.”
Mukhi, who is the director of the production titled, “Quartered”, said that academic programs focusing on arts and culture help professionalize those creative studies and increase the number of artistic leaders.
Meanwhile, Quartered choreographer and chair of SDA’s dance program Christine Crame said contemporary dance is an acquired taste that still has not caught up to Filipinos’ preferences. She adds that hip-hop continues to dominate the dance scene here in the country along with the masses’ leaning toward pop and celebrity culture.
“In terms of being contemporary, we really have a long way to go. There is really a chosen audience for contemporary dance. Not everybody appreciates it. It is more hip hop that is flourishing. Contemporary is a bit not yet there. We are trying. It is not going to be easy because I think for you to appreciate that, you need to know the history of the theater. It takes a certain kind of taste,” Crame said.
Crame added that people who have grown up watching theater will be more likely to have an appreciation for contemporary dance.
The production takes the audience to the life of Mark as he struggles to find and connect with his passion for dance.
The eight-scene dance play opens with Mark coming to terms with his passion for dance and getting taunted for it. He is called names and told that what he wants to do is not a source of living. He fights through it and practices hard to perfect his craft.
In the fourth scene, he has broken “free from structures” and is enjoying the art he has chosen. However, he must understand that there must also be some compromise in order to feed. In the scene, titled “Mamon without the Muse”, Mark takes on demeaning performances.
Mark soon rediscovers the beauty and grace of dance and its lesson of not giving up on passion despite some compromises.
The production is interactive with some of the actors seated with the crowd complete with a jam session at the end of the performance. The viral trend “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” also makes a cameo.
According to its writer, Eric de la Cruz, the play aims to show the journey in an artist’s life and give the audience an idea of what it takes to be one.
“There’s the prevalence of pop culture and wanting to be a celebrity. The thing is most people confuse the idea of being an artist and being on TV or being in popular media. We want to start the conversation of what it really means to become an artist because there is a point in our lives or in our career when we begin to ask what really is an artist? How do we become and how do we stay? Because it is a daily decision that it is who you want to be” de la Cruz said.