A little something from home
Monica A. Gana (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Performing is the lifeblood of a dancer. We spend so much time in the studio keeping fit and honing our craft that free time and overseas travel are rare luxuries. So, when Ballet Philippines embarked on a tour of the US West Coast and Canada, it was with great excitement that we performed in six cities, namely Los Angeles, San Jose, Portland, Olympia and Seattle in the US and Vancouver in Canada.

In this tour, the dancers were given the mission to not only represent the Philippines but to reach out to these Filipino-American communities. We wanted to be able to connect with them and make them feel proud of their Filipino roots. 

There were some challenges along the way, such as being away from home, dealing with the change in our body clocks due to jet lag, and dealing with North America’s chilly autumn climate. We had to be more careful in warming up each part of our body and keep our blood pumping. It was a struggle to be disciplined as we were faced with sumptuous and enormously portioned food.

The experience of performing in front of the Fil-Am communities was such a joyful one. We could feel how touched they were to see pieces such as Alice Reyes’ Bungkos Suite, which reminded them of home as we danced to timeless Filipino songs. We could also feel how their heartstrings were tugged with Paul Morales’ Halik and their exuberance in seeing daring and difficult pieces such as Redha Benteifour’s Je Tu Elle as well as classical ballet pieces like the grand pas de deux from Diana and Acteon and Esmeralda

They also appreciated the more artistic dances, such as Carlo Pacis’ Nocturne and Alden Lugnasin’s Lahat Ng Araw. We felt very humbled whenever someone from the audience would tell us how amazed they were by the dances or how proud they were to be Filipino after seeing the show. 

Our audience was not restricted to ethnic Filipinos. It was a celebratory occasion for us in being able to build bridges across the seas and share our culture with American dancers, some of whom welcomed us into their homes. Our ballet master Victor Ursabia and principal dancers Katherine Sanchez-Trofeo and Carissa Adea got to teach master classes in dance schools in San Francisco, Portland and Olympia. 

In our show in Portland, Oregon, we got to work with the dancers of Portland Ballet Festival. To see them let themselves go and enjoy dancing with us in Tony Fabella’s playful Tambol at Padyak made us smile from ear to ear. I was amazed at how, in just a short amount of time, we were able to create bridges that will hopefully last a lifetime.    

It was in our stay in San Francisco and Olympia where the hospitality and generosity the Filipinos are known for were most apparent. They opened their homes to us and treated us as if we were their own children, like giving us baon as well as personally driving us to our rehearsals. Our host families also took time off from their jobs to take us sightseeing. They even bought us gifts and we, in turn, gifted them with products from home like our famous dried mangoes.

Their support contributed a lot to the success of the tour. The fact that they welcomed us into their homes and took the time to get to know us really shows how warm and loving Filipinos are. It made me feel proud of my Filipino upbringing and the value system of our nation.

In the times we would sit down and chat with our host families, we could see how wistful they were as we exchanged stories about home. We would compare memories of how things have changed, grown or have remained the same over the years – even the simplest of things such as the traffic in Manila. 

In San Francisco, we were hosted by Tina Fargas, a former member of Ballet Philippines, making our stay with her even more memorable. It was amazing to hear stories of Ballet Philippines in the old days as well as what our teachers were like during the peak of their dancing careers. I felt extremely grateful to our host for she would give me tips on dance techniques. Her generosity even extended to her lending her work-out equipment that you can only find in the US.  I was highly appreciative that, being a former dancer, she knew what to feed us, making the meals not only delicious but healthy. 

We also had opportunities to meet and work with other Filipino dancers such as the Westlake School of Performing Arts and Dance Theater International. It was such moments that made me proud of the capabilities and perseverance of Filipinos, just seeing how these Filipino artists have been able to establish themselves in another culture and share their knowledge of dance on an international scale. 

This experience was like a working vacation. The preparations and challenges we had to go through were little struggles that had to be conquered, but I would go through it all again. We got to bond as a company as we spent time with each other practically 24/7. Together, we were able to represent the Philippines and demonstrate to foreign audiences that Philippine artists have at least as much to offer as our foreign counterparts.

More importantly, we were able to drum up Filipino pride, allowing us to represent our country with a great feeling of our mission being accomplished in bringing a little something from home.

 

Ballet Philippines’ North American Tour was made possible through the generous support of San Miguel Corp., the Department of Tourism, Duty Free and PAGCOR. The author is a junior company member of Ballet Philippines.

ALDEN LUGNASIN ALICE REYES BALLET BALLET PHILIPPINES BUNGKOS SUITE CARLO PACIS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM DIANA AND ACTEON FILIPINO
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