My body doesn’t like getting old. Or giving in to old age.

Two weeks ago, I let myself go. it was a deliberate thing. My dance partner was leaving KL. I spent two weeks in the Philippines eating and hardly exercising. I was suffering from a knee injury that I acquired while forcing my turn out, dancing with Jack. A 20- something was flirting with me in a way that was so real, I became so ashamed of my dirty, old self. It was unlikely that I was dancing anything important in January. Time to retire? Time to let the fat creep onto the bones and, oh horrors, stay? Time for my body to let age catch up? Time to be 41?

Body says no. In the most painful way possible.

After a week of just eating, a week of letting the belly fat creep over the abs until there are no abs to speak of, a week of no physical exercise whatsoever (except for the mandatory walk in and out of campus, which I do because it calms me, rather than it counts as physical exercise), a week of no dancing, I spend 4 hours sitting in a car on the way to Penang, the rest of that day sitting in several restaurants, the next day sitting in an arts conference. And my back started to hurt. SO BAD that I could barely walk.

I googled my symptoms and the resulting pages all said, you sit down too much. Or I sat down so much after a lifetime of refusing to sit down (even when I was working in an office, I was hardly ever sitting at my desk; also, I drove officemates crazy with my sit-stand desk). At first I thought, oh no, my body is succumbing to its old age. I lay sadly prone in my hotel bed, in pain and unable to move, thinking, this is probably what 41 feels like, and sighed as I accepted the rest of my life.

Today, I was coerced into dancing in the closing improv jam at the arts conference I attended (one does not simply say no to Joseph Gonzales), and we joked that nobody could lift me and I should just do stately walking around with my arms, and my body upright. But the energy was such that walking around upright was out of place and, next thing you know, I’m rolling on the floor, and doing grand allegro around the ballroom.

And then… my back was fine. Not 100% okay again, but better than before I started dancing. As if dancing was the solution. I did try to stretch the day before and continued to try the next day, and simply bending forward was just death. But when I got up to dance, it’s like the God of Death said, Not today.

So now, I’m thinking, maybe my body hasn’t given in to old age. Maybe it’s angry at me because I considered it. Okay, okay.

Oh. It’s a kiss.

@markolich ・・・ #ballet #art #theatre #sketches #drawing #markolich #LeParc #DianaVishneva #KonstantinZverev

A photo posted by Diana Vishneva (@dianavishnevaofficial) on

I am on #missioninspiration again, and I was looking at these dancing shots on IG, and found an image of Diana Vishneva in the weirdest partnering-configuration I’ve seen. So I looked up her hashtags and discovered Anjelin Preljocaj’s Le Parc, a contemporary (because of the choreographic style) period (because it seems to be set in the powder wigs period) ballet about society, intrigue and love, in the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet. Most of it is set in courtyards where everyone’s in lush ballgowns, but the most popular part is this duet with the two leads wearing only their night shirts. I was like, ehhh at first, because they were just rubbing their heads into each others’ bodies, like my dog rubs his forehead on my lap when he feels I’ve been away for too long. This video I was watching was of Aurelie Dupont and Manuel Legris, and he wasn’t extending his beautiful legs in a fancy jumping turning trick. I was getting antsy. And then she grabs him by the shoulders and kisses him. And he is so overwhelmed, he spins around. So they spin with their lips locked together and wow, that’s what that picture is about. This below is a clearer one of Aurelie Dupont and Nicholas le Riche for your appreciation.

du 07-12 au 31-12-2013

(I just love how the guy’s arms are just on the side like that. But you only notice that in pictures, because in the video, you only see them spinning.)

I understood then where the duet was coming from because apparently, he had been desperately in love with her all throughout the ballet, and finally, she gives in to him, and yet, she is still in control. I’m still not impressed with the choreography before she grabs his shoulders for the kiss, and I’ve always been divided on the onstage kiss thing, I mean, do you absolutely need it?, but this one, well, wow.

Problem is, I was looking for ensemble dance inspiration, not romantic duets. Come on, brain, cooperate.


Just realised that I’ve actually done this move before, in But You Didn’t. Except it’s fewer spins, and I’m not kissing my partner, and he’s holding me because my hands are on his arms, not his shoulders. Wow, that took me a while to realise. It’s the kiss! It’s distracting!

Here’s the video if you have the patience.

There’s a reason why it’s called “a loss”


Last night, I saw a collection of 4 plays at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) entitled Sisa Sisa (Jack doesn’t know what it means, I will ask another Malaysian friend soon). I loved ALL 4 plays, and marvelled at the brilliance of everyone in the cast. Three Doors (about a new widow sharing the loss of her three sons and facing a life alone; a monologue by Faridah Merican interrupted by almost genius commentary and prompts from Douglas Wong as dead husband and all 3 missing sons, and Ho Lee Ching as imaginary daughter-in-law wannabe, nursing home attendant, and dreadlocked homeless man) was just perfect, the rapport between the three actors was so spot on, and I felt this blow to the heart when Faridah as Mama said her last line, “I will be alone, and I will do just fine.” Another blow when Hanif from Blind Spot shared the moment he realised he had to sacrifice being with his son so that he won’t turn into the thing he feared the most about himself (and another blow while he demanded from Daniel why the latter knew there was such a blind spot in the KLCC parking lots). Not a blow this time, but a chuckle when I realised who the two actors were portraying in The Joy of Solitude (didn’t read the synopsis before coming in is why).

And then there’s Reservations, about a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s. I wouldn’t say it was the best one (I think Three Doors‘ material was much wittier and better realised), but it was the one that touched me the most. I guess because my grandmother died last year, and I’m still making sense of my grandfather’s grief, but also because I was thinking how I jumped over that hurdle of dealing with old age and all its deteriorations and went straight to loss. I loved how May (the wife, played by Amelia Tan) was so patient with her husband Edgar (played by Joe Hasham). I forgot that they were actors and believed that this is their everyday: breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast cooked in a suspicious pan, egg sandwich lor for lunch, and a choice of chicken, lamb or pork for dinner. Patience is not my strong point, but I believe in the power of love, and could see that when she took Edgar’s jacket from him to put away in the next room, although tinged with a hint of despair, you knew that she would go back to the kitchen and patiently defrost the chicken for him.

And it’s not as if she’s just submitting to this life without complaint; her real anxieties are revealed when she calls up the Malacca Grill to make dinner reservations and bewails that it’s been “closed for 20 years oredi.” But she sees how affected he is, remembers the man he used to be, and because she is still the woman who fell in love with that man and because she does still remember all that he has probably forgotten, she stays.

And that’s why it’s called a loss. It meant something to you. Edgar was weeping at the end of the play because he knows that whatever it is he can’t remember was valuable to him. Mama lost her husband but is grieving more over the loss of her sons and her own sense of self. Hanif sacrificed true love and his true self to save face for his conservative family, and then sacrificed his family to save them from himself, because having rejected his true self, it is only the possible monstrous version of it that he sees. If you don’t really care about something when you lose it, it’s not a loss. It is not grieved over, it is quickly replaced by other more important, more profoundly moving people, experiences.

As someone who has experienced such a loss, Sisa Sisa is gold. But I want another play to help me not be so afraid of losing again, and not be so afraid of caring so much about something I could lose. Maybe I should just be more patient.

Shining Again

I found this in my Notes, written a few days before M’s death anniversary. I share it now, because the reason why I was going through my Notes is I am writing again. Or at least, it isn’t as difficult as it was the last year. Now, encyclopedia entries are much easier to write, and I’ve already published an essay on what’s happening in the contemporary dance scene in the Philippines, and a review of a site specific festival featuring some of the most exciting choreographers in Malaysia.

Also, I’m starting to shine again. Life is good.

April 27, 2015, 1:22 AM

I don’t seem to be writing these days.

Mikah calls the year when I was writing my MA thesis the worst year of his life. He was always depressed, it seemed and I was never there for him, I was writing. He only told me this after I graduated, and I felt so horrible because I had no idea. The song he wrote for me has this lyric:

With you, I’m shining

Without you, I’m fine

I realise because it was very clear to both of us that I could live without him. But now that I am living without him, I am not always sure how fine I really am.

I started writing in my journal again after he died because there are too many thoughts running riot in my brain that I’m sure none of my family and friends should be burdened with. Aside from that, I have been pushing to finish my commitments to the encyclopedia of Philippine art project that I’ve been working on since 2013. After that, I don’t feel compelled to write about anything, like my brain wants a rest from thinking. Well, no not from thinking, it kinda does that on overdrive. My brain wants a rest from working. Once I have to organise thoughts on paper, the brain goes, “too tired, lah. Oh look, your floor needs sweeping…”

When Mikah broke up with me in 2010, I threw myself into dancing to get over my heartbreak. This year, I have done more dancing than any year of my life, of course besides the years I was professionally employed as a dancer and that’s all I did all day and night. Dancing again to get over my heartbreak. Hey, it works.

He has been dead for 363 days. This was definitely the worst year of my life. And yet, I have to say it was also a pretty good year. I am moulding the minds of future dance makers, I am dancing my heart out. But I have to start writing again.

Part of the Process

I was thinking of changing the music of my upcoming choreography for the UMa Dance Showcase, because it was so big and overwhelming and I didn’t know if I could challenge my dancers enough to embrace it. Song in question is the Infernal Dance of the King Kaschei from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird. Yikes, right?

While looking for new possible replacements, I stumbled onto a demo of a song Mikah was writing in 2009. The song was at the time called “Telex.” It was just keys and drums, in a very somber drum n’ bass way. I listened to it over and over the next two days, became somewhat enamoured with the thought of finally “working together,” and thought, let’s see how this goes.

So, I had a rehearsal with one of my dancers tonight and though we changed the counting, the steps actually fit the music. I was also able to elaborate on some of the sequences. I think one of the problems with Firebird was the music was so demanding and I had to fill it up somehow, as if someone was rushing me. Without that pressure, I was able to clarify things, improve things. It felt good.

Interestingly, though, while thinking of a “next step,” Sim, my dancer, said why was I so tense? What? I asked, because I actually felt so relaxed. He said I shouldn’t worry so much, just be happy, because dancing makes us happy. I laughed at that, partly because he said it to make me laugh but also partly because, um, this dance is about anger, and how it is perfectly okay to be angry. I think Sim missed the briefing.

But that made me think. Was it the music? That was written by a boy I loved with all my heart, who is now in the ether, and cannot advise me about my choreographic choices? Was the aura heavy because of that?

Watching back the video I took of our last run, while pleased that I had generated so much material, there was just something off. The feel of the work was heavy, yes, but I wasn’t achieving the part about being okay with your anger. I decided, ehh. Stop being such a coward and rise to the challenge that is Igor Stravinsky.

But thank you, Bliebie, for the clarity, for allowing me to breathe while I compose this dance. And maybe I will use “Telex” someday. Maybe when the dance is not about losing you.

Two sides to every story

The start of “Ang Sabi Ko Sa Iyo” (What I Said To You) from Eli Jacinto’s Mga Sayaw Mula Sa Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (Dances from The Dance of Two Left Feet), his ballet suite of the choreography he did for the film Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. Performed at the Pasinaya Open House Festival at the CCP in February 2012.


The same moment, from a different angle (and slightly different cast). Performed at the Asian Translation Traditions Conference last October 2014, at the UP Theatre.


The best work is work that never gets old.