Kababayan at UCI’s PACN XXXIV has been a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad to know that this has been one of our strongest performances in years.
I know that our guy-to-girl ratio was off and it was hard to incorporate a lot of the dances Chris and I had originally envisioned for the Maria Clara suite, it–in my opinion–ended up being an extremely authentic and beautiful representation of the Maria Clara Filipino culture. I’ve received such positive responses on the dances, as past UCI-coords loved it and my own brother felt it to be the most authentic suite. I was able to use one of my favorite dances of all-time, choreographed and created by my own Bayanihan-alum director in KARIKTAN, “Princesa ng Kumintang,” and the beautifully elegant ballroom dance with an impressive rhythm, “Lazos de Amor“. One thing that my involvement with KARIKTAN has taught me, and that I’ve been table to distinguish from other Philippine dance companies, is our emphasis on youth beauty, dramatics, and audience charisma. My director (Tita Polly Manalo-Herrara) has been known to make the authentic contemporary, staying true to the dance’s roots and origin but making it appealing, exciting, and beautiful–whether it be making the women’s movements more feminine, or making the men’s movements more agile, strong, and dramatic. We’re also known to have the most beautiful costumes in the Bay Area, as other groups envy and try to copy our costumes (she’s an eye for detail and costume/fashion). What can I say? We pride ourselves on stage presence, character, and looks!
Before I get more off-topic, I really tried to make my dancers fall in love with the dances the same way I did–through its music, movements, and the way it made your body feel, really getting into the movements and things you found yourself doing. Music was the key thing that tied everything together (and made myself fall in love with the dances), but having to break everything down into counts during the times we had no music made everything seem dull–it was something we had to do.
After a week of living in the Bren Events Center from 5pm-midnight (and for me, until 2am because of late Tinikling practices), the end-product was amazing as we were the first cultural dance suite up, and first performance suite period. We set off the show beautifully, strong, clean, and truly authentic.
Being my first time on board and my first time really organizing a group of 55 dancers, even handling the little things such as hosting fundraising events, attending weekly hourly practices, keeping in contact with dancers, arranging meetings, finding and holding props and costumes, etc., it really tested my leadership skills, being the soft-spoken girl I am finding myself struggling to yell over people in parking garages and being in front of so many people. I really have to thank my Co for helping me throughout this process, as he’s been doing this for 4 years now. Me being my lazy anti-early-bird sometimes spacey and emotional self, he helped keep me grounded and going throughout the weeks when I lost myself and struggled to stay motivated. There was a task and vision we wanted to accomplish, and I needed to be present at all times. Though the longevity of this all seems un-ideal for trained and learned dancers (as we mostly learn dances in 2 dance sessions tops), remembering that these practices are a time to foster and build those friendships we might’ve not found elsewhere was important. As we all may have moped around at one point, creating that fun, comfortable environment where we all take an hour out of our day to enjoy each others company was something I really wanted with our practices. As someone who finds herself a bit of a people-pleaser, I looked for the groups intentions the most–even when I may have needed to take the initiative.
Whatever the case, I know in my heart that this isn’t where my involvement in PACN ends. Maria Clara was my perfect breeding and training ground for future years and productions to come, as it is one of the suites that I am “known for” and “excel” at. This 1st year was a great learning year for me, and now, as I have already envisioned pieces and suites that I want to do in the coming years, it is time to take my further experience and really feel confident with my artistic choices, heading into the practices headstrong with specific things I want to do. I’m ready to make “legends” and “stories” happen with truly narrative, artistic dance and music pieces. As Maria Clara is something that “came easy” for me, I’m excited to produce what made me fall in love with Filipino cultural dancing period–the mysticism, allurement, and beautiful narratives that can be told from the Mindanao and tribal regions of the Philippines.
But, before I get ahead of myself… Let the rest of the year sink in for me, and let me find time to really enjoy the other things in my life. … ’til next year!