June 26, 2010
This is the 3rd and final event of PETA's East West Danse event which spanned the whole month of June. Of the three shows, it is "Sayaw, Sabel" which had generated the most hype and excitement. Many big names in various fields of Filipino arts are involved. The huge turnout tonight proved its popularity. Tonight was a full house.
This dance showcase is a product of director and choreographer Ms. Agnes Locsin. She was once artistic director and chief choreographer of Ballet Philippines in the 90s, now based in Davao City. She is known for merging Western classical dance technique with Philippine neo-ethnic movements. I beleive she does a lot of this in "Sayaw, Sabel".
The inspiration behind "Sayaw, Sabel" is the painting called "Sabel" by National Artist Mr. Benedicto Cabrera. This painting "Sabel" was described by its creator Bencab to be "a melancholic symbol of dislocation, despair and isolation--the personification of human dignity threatened by life's vicissitudes, and the vast inequities of Philippine society." "Sayaw Sabel" on the otherhand, is described in its synopsis as "a collection of dances depicting how Filipinos go through life in the midst of all their troubles and tribulations with shining resilience."
The unique feature of "Sayaw Sabel" is that the lead role of Sabel will be performed by a different featured theater actor each night, making each show different from the others. Also, Each show will have seven dance artists and a featured theater artist portraying the title role. In an article in Malaya, Locsin said that the seven dancers of each show will also depend on who is available at the time.
In 2 pm show today, Sabel was played by PETA Artistic Director Ms. Maribel Legarda. For the show I watched tonight, Sabel was played by a theater actor and director named Melvin Lee. I honestly have not heard of him before, but he seemed to have a lot of fans in the audience, as he was always very warmly applauded. Other actors set to play Sabel in future stagings are Nonie Buencamino and his wife Shamaine Centenera.
The music of "Sayaw, Sabel" comes from Louie Ocampo and Joey Ayala. Additional sound design and music was by Jakob Rodriguez with selected OPM songs of Celeste Legazpi, Basil Valdez, Parokya ni Edgar, Noel Cabangon, and Aegis. Poetry by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera was also used. Mr. Lumbera was in the audience last night.
The seven dances performed in "Sayaw Sabel" last night were (there would be several other dancers with other dance pieces on other nights):
1. "Kayod" by Judell de Guzman-Sicam. Ms. Sicam was dancing with an office chair with wheels. Based on the title, I take it this represents people so tied up with their respective jobs in order to make ends meet.
2. "Batak" by Dwight Rodrigazo. Mr. Rodrigazo was dancing with a piece of cloth, like a security blanket. I honestly cannot guess what this dance was about. Not even the title gives me a clue. It could be about drugs. But despite this, I found this performance to be strong, riveting and interesting. (VIDEO)
3. "Abandonada" by Christine Crame. Ms. Crame was dancing with what looked like a very big piece of white paper. I do not know what the paper was about, but the title suggests she had been abandoned by her husband. The first part of her dance was to the Visayan song "Usahay", while the second part was to the Aegis song "Halik." Very innovative. (VIDEO)
4. "Sugat" by Annette Cruz-Mariano. Ms. Mariano was dancing with a huge black fishing net. Based on the title, and the voiceover, this dance represented being trapped by scars inflicted by abuses in the past. The net provided Ms. Mariano the means to deliver a haunting and meaningful dance performance. This was truly memorable.
5. "Bagong Bayani" by Monique Uy. Ms. Uy was dancing with a Balikbayan Box. But actually she gets help from three other girls in this number. Ms. Uy does not really get a substantial solo. Based on the title, this dance was obviously about Overseas Filipino Workers. The number was rather straightforward with familiar and easier to access modern dance steps. (VIDEO)
6. "Sino Ka?" by Perry Sevidal. Ms. Sevidal started by dancing with a piece of newspaper, but danced the rest of it by herself. Again this is a number which I do not really know what it means, by the dance nor by the title. In fact I do not really remember much about it now. She did dance to "HIndi Kita Malimot" as sung live by Sabel. Maybe that is why I remember the song more than the dance.
7. "Ako Una" by Camille Ordinante-Joson. Ms. Joson started by dancing solo, but the more remarkable part of her dance involved her interaction with other dancers. We see her getting in conflict with other people. There was literal pushing onstage! This was the one moment in the show that was actually funny. From the title, I take this dance to represent either pushy people in society or crab mentality.
And of course, there is the character of Sabel. Sabel is dressed in layers of rags. Her face had thick ghostly make-up. Her head was covered by a stocking with pieces of hair sticking out. The seven solo dances of this whole piece was held together and transitioned by this Sabel character. After each dance, Sabel would come out and interact a bit with each of the other dancers. (VIDEO)
In this show tonight, Sabel is a he. Melvin Lee with his bulk and height certainly gave a this Sabel a very different look and presence, compared to what would be expected from a woman. His solo dance steps during Sabel's highlight which came midway (after the 4th number "Sugat") were a bit shaky, but he was very good in conveying sadness, desolation and confusion in his solo. His acapella rendition of "Hindi Kita Malimot" for Dance #6 was actually very moving.
Overall, this modern dance piece was thought-provoking and dramatic. Though it could also easily be interpreted as indulgent and pointless. I think the whole show could be polarizing, people will either like it or they won't. The dancing here isn't exactly ballet, nor jazz, nor ballroom, nor hiphop, nor any of the more recongizable dance forms. I liked certain numbers more than others. I also liked that it was short (only one hour) with no intermission.
Based on the audience reaction, last night's staging of "Sayaw, Sabel" was a big success. And with other theater actors lined up to play Sabel, next stagings promise to be similarly well-received. Congratulations to the cast and crew of "Sayaw, Sabel" and PETA!