Taipei, Taiwan Nov 30 – Dec 3, 2006
by Trinita Evangelista-Derbesse
â€œ This dance should be shown all over the world ! â€, insisted an elderly Taiwanese. â€œ How do you manage to achieve that light, springing up-and-down movement of your dance ? â€, queried another. â€œThose downcast eyes, do they signify anything ? â€, â€œ How is the sawwal ( ) worn and what are the uses of the siyag ? â€ ( ), AlunAlun (big waves) really befits your troupe ! â€. Another admirer butted in, â€œ Ligaya, you have been dancing for some decades now, look how fantastic a dancer you continue to be ! â€ Awed by the very subtle and slow movements of Pangalay, these were some of the questions and comments raised by an enthralled audience in the open forum that concluded the Pangalay performance of the Alun-Alun Dance Circle at the recent 4th Asian Performing Arts Festival, held in Taipei from 29 November to 3 December.
It was in the spirit of promoting mutual understanding through city-to-city exchanges that the Asian Network of Major Cities 21 (ANMC21) was founded in Tokyo in 2001. Under the auspices of the ANMC21, whose aim is to transcend differences and bring together the energies of Asiaâ€™s major cities to address urban problems and economic and cultural issues, the Festival featured exhibition booths for each participating city at the Main Lobby of the very state-of-the-art Metropolitan Hall, Taipeiâ€™s cultural centre for the performing arts. Its major cultural event this year was the 4th edition of the Asian Performing Arts Festival, hosted this year by Taipei which brought together artists and dance performers from New Delhi, Manila, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo. Marikina City, the shoe-manufacturing capital of the Philippines was featured in the Manila booth. Diverse magazines, pamphlets, brochures and other valuable information on present and future projects of the City were distributed to enthusiastic visitors. The AlunAlun Dance Circle was invited to represent Manila in the above Festival.
At this occasion, Marikina City, representing Manila, invited t
Led by its artistic director and choreographer, Pangalay guru Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa the AlunAlun Dance Circle arrived in a post-stormy Taipei (winds were heading for the Philippines as we arrived) on 29 November 2006. ADCâ€™s first show at the Metropolitan Hall, Offering opened with an annotated introduction on â€œ What is pangalay ? â€, which transported the audience into the realm and spirit of Tawitawi (Sulu Archipelago) in dramatic vignettes of mundane pursuits at home, at work and at play in basic pangalay movements. Eliciting sighs of awe and wonder from the audience, Stillness in Motion, (Part II), is an innovative choreography with emphasis on style and expression. It recalls the spirit of zen in its minimalist and tranquil manner on the one hand and on the other, abstract and surrealist in the use of masks and hand puppets. In the recurrent mystico-lyrical melodic pattern of its music composed by Pearlsha Abubakar, one is mesmerized by the perfect complementarity of music and dance evoking â€˜ motion in stillness, stillness in motionâ€™.
Shoeperb-Superb ! Pangalay ng Bayan : Dance of the People, a show conceived on a different register was ADCâ€™s performance on closing day showcasing traditional pangalay variations, followed by a series of ballet, jazz, tap, ballroom music & dance interspersed with pangalay movements and performed with appropriate Marikina-made footwear. The finale was a celebration of Filipino kundimans and the Philippine spirit of Christmas. Presented on a Sunday matinee, it entertained families and children that filled the theatre.
The interaction between the different Asian cultural groups in performance and workshops seems to have come at an opportune time, thus paving the way for future cultural exchanges. It should be noted that the AlunAlun Dance Circle will hold an International Conference on the Conservation and Popularization of Pangalay and Related Asian Dance Cultures, to be held in Marikina City from 7-11 February 2007 . This recent trip offered a learning experience as well as new-found Asian colleagues in the field of the performing arts.
As the Festival came to a successful close, the ritual of parting seemed as abrupt as the December chill that slowly crept in – a storm was in the news ! As a token of gratitude and in a very oriental manner, AlunAlun celebrated the birthday of their kind and able British-educated guide Baiyi (in Chinese â€œ 100 manners â€ that is, you are expected to play every role you have to play in life very well) with a Chinese lauriat at a trendy restaurant in downtown Taipei, close to our hotel. It was also a farewell tribute to our host country which we had begun to admire for its friendly people, sense of respect, order, and punctuality in the conduct of its daily affairs. Surprisingly, the City had managed to retain a distinctive Chinese ambience amidst modernity and prosperity. As they boarded the â€˜pink peoneyedâ€™ China Airlines (emblem of Taiwan) on December 4, the thoughts of the Philippine dance troupe was filled with fresh memories that ranged from the mystical Lungshan Temple in its multi-layered architectural splendor to the National Palace Museum , niched on the slopes of a mountain, which, at the slightest hint of mist or fog recalls a Chinese landscape painting. Some magic, fun moments of a performing group on tour was not exempted. Imagine how a tall glass of fresh durian juice is shared eagerly by four distinguished-ladies-of- the- troupe-turned-tourists at the Shilin Open Night Market., or coming home late at night with tons of new stage costumes and accessories ransacked from the remotest corners of an oriental clothes bazar by our impassioned and committed ADC mentors. The initial intention was, of course, just to see how a typical Chinese open market looked like ! Back at the theatre, one unforgettable incident backstage during the ADC performance was the stage technicians mimicking the curled wrists and hands in the inward-outward unfolding movement of Pangalay. The difficult mincing footwork amused everyone but it looked more difficult to imitate ! With this successful maiden trip outside the country there is no doubt that AlunAlun Dance Circle emerged reinvigorated. It left Taipei with several invitations for future collaboration from the different participants, enchanted not only with the beautiful indigenous dance but all the more intrigued by the solemn and spiritual meaning of Pangalay, which in Sanskrit is temple of dance.