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Queer as Folk Dance

Taken the first day Andrei and Gabbi met with Jared and I regarding this project.

To be honest, my first knee-jerk reaction was to decline. It had been years since I created work around dance & even longer since I myself had performed. But I trusted Gabbi & Andrei and moreso was excited to collaborate with Jared (we had worked together in the past & I respect him as an Artist, peer and Academe).

Around the same time Connect with SEA came up, I had come across a post on social media about a folk dance intensive with Bayanihan - The National Dance Company. The universe was clearly giving me a sign to jump back into folkdance, something that has been with me since I was young. Growing up in Canada, folkdance was my way of connecting to my Filipino identity while finding a sense of belonging within a diasporic community. We would study videos of Bayanihan performing so it was surreal to actually be learning from them - face to face.

Being a student again in a dance class felt refreshing. I didn't have to make any decisions. I didn't really have to think. All I really had to do was show up, do my best & hope that I don't hurt my old back. Basic movements that were programmed into my body had to be reformatted "the Bayanihan way" while comments like "Don't eat rice this week, you will have to wear a bahag (g-string) for the show!" or "Boys dance like boys. Girls dance like girls." triggered so many memories. The comments don't really affect me the same way, this time around. There's a strange sense of comfort within the friction of those terms. Something I am not compelled to change or disrupt but to live with and through.

It felt like a home-coming of sorts, to a body that was no longer the one I thought was mine. I'm much older now. My body is much more lived in and filled with so many more perspectives than when I was in my teens and doing international dance tours. To me, this finally felt folkdance. The body of the people, telling stories through movement. That no matter what was dictated to me on how to "move like a man", each movement I do, by virtue of my experience, self & identity - would inherently be a Queer movement.

The week dance bootcamp was intense on my aging bones. We rehearsed 9AM-3PM Monday thru Friday. It culminated in a final recital & by that time I had to wrap to braces around each ankle. I had forgotten what the thrill of being backstage was like. Or waiting in the wings before your entrance. Where the only thing in the world that seemed to matter was what happened on that stage for those fleeting moments. I had already began to mentally prepare myself for the crash that would follow the high of performing on stage again.

I took parts of this experience into my collaboration with Jared. The most magical parts of our meetings and rehearsals were the moments in between the actual dancing. The conversations we would have prior to going into the studio, the links related to our pieces we would pass back and forth and to what has now grown to what I consider a true kinship beyond this project. Understanding that we come from different backgrounds but share so much common ground through our perspectives and experiences. I suppose the the pleasant surprise wasn't the fact that we shared similarities - but perhaps how our differences could coexist, creating something else entirely.

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