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Wings of soul |

Arts and Culture

Wings of soul

COSMIC RHYTHM - Impy Pilapil - The Philippine Star

Not everyone is blessed with a strong spiritual connection that acts as ballast for living life. Many continuously search for meaning and never find it. Others are simply content with rules laid out by established institutions without further introspection. Therefore, being part of an individual’s non-proselytizing exaltation and joyful sharing of a personal path to inner peace is a welcome experience. Such an experience is Marge Enriquez’s Wings of Soul.

Wings of Soul has been ongoing for the last “XX” years. It is both didactic and probing in its honest exploration of spirituality and morality through the medium of dance. Although everyone has their own personal beliefs, this performance has become collaboration with other individuals who share the view of imparting a positive, intangible message in this otherwise material and physical existence. Wings of Soul has grown into a multi-media experience that inspires the viewers to reflect on their inner selves.

Marge Enriquez has always been fascinated with dance as a tool to spiritually awaken people and invariably make them feel that God is not just a concept but a higher being to experience. She explains that she cannot classify her performance as praise-dance or worship-dance although there are similarities of using movement and gestures to interpret spiritual or philosophical profundities. “The main difference is that worship is choreographed to be an integral part of service.”

When Enriquez was taking graduate studies in San Francisco, she was profoundly fascinated by films of modern dance pioneer, Ruth St. Denis.

“Denis explored dance as a medium for spiritual expression. I was blown away by Incence, her interpretation of a Hindu ritual in which the incense was used as a metaphor for meditation. Her supple arm movement exuded a certain transcendence. Followers of Indian classical dancing may have been appalled by her appropriation of their tradition for the Western audiences who were nonetheless enthralled and delighted.”

She explained in detail how, by today’s standard, the choreography would seem like a “non-event” since it was just a lot of rippling arm movement and gestures of emoting.  “Back then, I was taken by the fact that Denis’ dance was not about technical skills but about the expression of the spirit.”

Enriquez fondly narrated that in the mid’90s, Basilio Esteban Villaruz, then the head of the UP Dance Department ,invited her to take classes with Ligaya Amilbangsa, who at the time was teaching Pangalay, the dance style from Sulu. “The meeting seemed serendipitous as they hit it off very well. Thus, Enriquez started classes with her in a studio in Marikina. “I discovered that the Pangalay was about the power of grace through passionate and concentrated movement.  In time, I learned a lot of pieces that were sufficient to put up a mini concert.  For my first show at CCP Huseng Batute in 1997, I had Virgilio ‘Katsch’ Catoy as the lighting and technical director. He was the one who suggested and encouraged me to try combining acting, recitation and gestures.” 

Since then, the Brahma Kumaris, an international non-governmental organization with spiritual headquarters in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, India, would regularly invite Enriquez to perform meditation commentaries with dance.

To further polish her performances, she also started taking acting lessons with actor-director Bart Guingona.  “It was a case of feeling empty with using my left brain most of the time in my writing job — dealing with cold hard facts rather than whatever people really say. I was yearning to use more of my right brain to express the creative, non-verbal part of me.”

In 2000, at the CCP lobby, I began reciting longer text to The Tao followed by The Traveler in 2001 at the newly opened RCBC Plaza. Australia-based author Barbara Ramsey wrote both. In both performances, I ventured to show an alternative dance expression that was not into the spectacle of the event. My purpose was to impart the best of the spirit.  These dance-concerts focused on the theme of the soul’s journey, as well as the return to the essence of the Self. The collaboration with well-established artists who share this good purpose became the beginning of a kind of offering once a year.

 â€œThe turning point came in 2002, when producer-director Joey Espino pushed me to go for a larger venue like Onstage. I came across Wings of Soul, a book based on the lectures of Dadi Janki, now the head of the Brahma Kumaris.  Her lectures on Humility vs. Ego, Forgetting and Forgiving, Illusion vs. True Spiritual Love sounded like poetry.  I was fortunate to collaborate with choreographer, Douglas Nierras, who was a speech and drama major. Compared to others, he always pushed me beyond my limits. Nierras said that he looked at potential and not whether the dancer had the ideal body. Wings of Soul was so powerful that it touched a lot of people, especially such lines as ‘If you have dislike, hatred or jealousy for anyone/You cannot have humility… If you desire to receive respect from others, then you cannot be humble.’ ‘First you have to forget, then your forgiveness will be real. You will never forget an incident if your heart and your head are still holding on to it.’”

Through the years, Dadi Janki’s books have been interpreted through music, dance, video and sculpture. Nierras and Guingona shared the same philosophy that in the theater, the audience should experience some kind of transformation.

In 2003, Enriquez performed “Dancing in the Light,” based on Dadi Janki’s Companion of God. The narration involved the virtues as courage, self-respect, tolerance and patience. A teacher had brought a group of children with ADHD. After the show, they were said to have been pacified.

People would ask Nierras why he was choreographing Enriquez: “Is she a professional dancer?” His quick retort would be, “She is a dancer.” For many years, there would be detractors who believed she had no right to be onstage since she did not conform to what are probably institutionalized ideals. However, Nierras was iconoclastic in his approach to dance. He believed in dancing from the heart and soul from which the dynamics of dancing would follow. He would often point out that nobody else in the dance scene would have the persistence to get cooperation from companies to help produce a show that espoused universal truths through Dance Theater. The shows have been free of charge as a means to make this medium and the message accessible to more people.

Enriquez has been going against the tide, so to speak, for more than a decade. “I would tell the author and life coach Dadi Janki about my insecurities. Janki’s advice was direct and simple: ‘It is your courage and faith that has helped you reveal God through dance and drama, and so do not worry about lack of technique. Instead, increase your faith and love and this in itself will manifest and do service.’”

Some people who have never seen Enriquez in concert have misconstrued it as self-promotion. There is a nugget of wisdom from Wings of Soul that refutes this: If your service is based on ego, then you will not be able to take help from God. “I do not think sponsors and artists would give and cooperate with me all these years if I was just to indulge myself. The power of Truth is such that you need never be concerned about proving it.”  

I see the message of Wings of Soul to be very simple: You need only be concerned with being and living Yourself.

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