Sunday, April 02, 2006

2nd half of Spring Forward

The afternoon show from KulArts was a bit of a double feature with Alleluia Panis Dance Theater performing, "Mutya Project" and the Magui Moro Master Artists.

The show drew a good crowd, I'd say about 200 folks maybe a bit more.

Mutya Project -

It was a very intriguing opening. The Philippine Veteran's Rondalla playing, long strips of T'boli brown fabric layed tied on the ground extended in three directions, a video screen mounted on a small stage behind that, the three dancers dressed is loose white blouse and skirt with black head cover wound themselves in the cloth and joined at the center. Another woman enters with a bowl of incense burning and brings it to an altar area.

I watched flame, water and wind.

The dancers movements melded between folk dance and modern dance much like the music moving from traditional to jazzy improv. I have to say that in the 10 years I've been watching various Fil-Am modern dance groups (At one point there were three active groups: Pearl Ubungen, Labayen Dance Company and APDT), this show was probably the best meld of modern dance and folk dance movement thus far. This is probably helped by the fact that many of the dancers had had extensive years of folk dance training. They moved easily between the movements.

The music switched from Rondalla to improv played by Francis Wong on winds and Jimmy Biala on percussion. The rondalla music is very distinct and to a Filipino audience very recognizable. I started humming along to one of the Visayan love songs they were playing. To the ear, the improv not as distinct and patterned is not as familiar to the ear nor as memorable. The music contrasted to the point where it created a stop/start motion to the dance. This is traditional. This is improv. And didn't have the same fluidity between genres as the dancers did.

In the first and second segments there was also voice over of poetry by Jean Vengua, as well as various images on the screen. The voice over didn't quite work in the first part, perhaps I was simply overwhelmed with the scene, plus trying to figure out if there was anything on the screen that I should be focusing on, plus the sound level caused the voice to be muffled. The voice over hits the right note in the water segment as the dancers roll on the floor with cups of water balanced on their heads. I still remember, "ginger" and "turning". The voice over in that segment allowed me to extend beyond the motion of the dancers, see them outside of the moment. When the layers of a show work, they really help build on top of the other.

The video screen in the back proved to either be non-existent or a distraction. Images not in clear focus or washed out by the floor lighting. I couldn't tell if the screen was supposed to be foreground or simply background scene. The screen did help in compressing the stage a bit and bringing the dancers in a more intimate setting with the audience.

The third segment which I imagined to be "wind" brought about the image of a group of birds flying through the air. One of the dancers in a strapless white sequenced dress wearing a wide brimmed rattan hat, her entire body draped over in a large tulle cloth. Her arms in subtle undulating movements extending waves through the light cloth. I could have watched that forever. Gorgeous!

Overall the piece brings forth a kind of ritual to build to a fervor and healing. Unfortunately, the pace and the music doesn't quite hit that fervor even when one of the dancers goes into a spiritual fervor to the point of collapse while the others circle, swaying their heads in a soft trance state. Yet at the moment, the piece lacked a sense of urgency, the build up to the leap of faith. As part of the audience I wanted to be drawn into the fervor, join in on the spiritual awaking, but couldn't quite do it. To create that kind of moment, all the elements: movement, music, sound, light have to push to that moment. There seemed to be an asynchronicity somewhere that held it all back. At the end, I wanted/needed more. I expected that maybe there was a fourth section missing, that it ended in the middle somewhere.

Overall, the Mutya Project has some beautiful and stunning moments and alot of good elements to continue to build upon. It's a very good beginning to that blend of traditional and modern.

Magui Moro Master Artists -

This is the second go around for the Magui Moro Master Artists, so it's a delight to have them back again. This show focused on the musicianship of the group, from the agong to the kulintang. Teng Emba on the kulintang, not just playing the kulintang, but switching gongs around and still playing the same melody, twirling the sticks, and yes, even playing blindfold. Sata Abdullah on the agong won my votes for style, playing and using nearly every part of the agong and the stick, even blowing a kiss to the audience while holding and playing the large agong with one hand. The trio of chanting in the middle was enchanting with a hint that they were talking about their journey here when the one recognizable word to the audience was pronounced, "San Francisco". Karatuan 'Datuan' Kalanduyan palending/flute playing was another highlight, using a circular breathing technique to create phrasing that went on forever.

The closing gave the audience what they wanted a full 15 minutes of continuous gong music as the musicians tagged each other to play next by passing around one of the gongs. For some of the artists it didn't matter what direction, what position the gongs were, forwards, backwards, they never seemed to miss a beat. A true ensemble where each person can deftly switch between one instrument to another.


Okir said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review, Michelle -- you've made some good points here...


ver said...

Thanks for these last 3 posts, gura! I couldn't slip away from the house for any of these events, but you took me right there with your stellar reporting...