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Modern Living

Edna Vida & Nonoy Froilan: Dancing in the frame

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau - The Philippine Star
Edna Vida & Nonoy Froilan: Dancing in the frame
Nonoy Froilan and Edna Vida at Conrad Manila Gallery C: 25 pas de deux on canvas
STAR/ File

For the coming months, Conrad Manila has a special visual treat:  “Of Art and Wine:  Duets” is the latest edition of their art exhibition series in Gallery C, featuring a pairing of works by renowned artists and real-life partners Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan. Both have had long careers in the world of Filipino ballet, as principal dancers, stagers and choreographers.

Now — after a long, soul-searching pandemic lockdown — they’ve shifted to new movement in a new space: “Duets” pairs the canvases of Vida with the photographs of Froilan — something curator Nestor Jardin terms “25 pas de deux, each one with its own romantic origins and inspiration.”

Vida has “dabbled” in painting over the years, she says, starting with watercolor in 1989 (while working with Alice Reyes). But 2020 led to a deeper focus within: “During the lockdown, I painted every day,” she says.  “The lockdown changed me.”

She says her paintings took on a “deeper” tone. “The silence and solitude makes you recognize these feelings even more. This pandemic really brought this out of me. There’s something there that has surfaced because of this.”

Show curator Nestor Jardin, SM Hotels president Elizabeth Sy, Conrad Manila general manager Linda Pecoraro and Alice Reyes

Both pretty much trapped in their home together, the former ballet dancers looked to their surroundings and captured life as it was. Froilan took photos of clouds, every single day. Looking out his window, “I saw the clouds surrounding me, like a dancer performing.” He sifted through 9,000 images of clouds during the lengthy lockdown to develop and print the most striking images. The fleeting nature appealed to him: “Their movements were there, done and gone,” like a performance.

Vida’s paintings mainly focus on a central figure in movement: a dancer, surrounded by a sophisticated array of hues both moody and celebratory. Her abstract pieces celebrate colors of renewal, though tinged with the deeper colors of experience. As a painter, she feels “there’s a choreographer in me that moves my hand and I’ve learned to trust it.” While dance and ballet relied on strict discipline, painting for her offers a true realm of independent movement. “It rekindled the child within us,” Vida says.

“Duets” came as an idea from Jardin, whom they call an “adviser and brother.”

Dancer performs a piece choreographed by Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan.

The works are arranged like dance partners: Edna’s painting on top, the photos below.

Jardin titles the pairings aptly: “Contraction and Release” for a duet of black and white images, clouds seeming to cup the air as a dancer arches upward and outward; “Rapture” for images capturing an emerging sun force; “Breakout” for a play of fluffy clouds ascending over buildings, while a male dancer moves over a tilted violet space in Vida’s painting.

The two artists said they didn’t have to “discuss” their themes; they just emerged from the daily gathering and recording of images. All works are on sale, and they dedicated the show “to those who have left us, and played a part in our artistic journey.”

The ever-mentor Reyes says the exhibit “gives a lot of inspiration to those who seek inspiration after the dance life is over.”

The launch at Gallery C concluded with a wonderful 10-minute piece performed live, choreographed by Vida and Froilan — from one medium of movement, gracefully back to another.

DANCERS
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