Transnationalism and Philippine Dance

Right now, I’m in Bangkok, attending the South East Asian Performing Arts World Symposium (that conference I’ve been mentioning before). I present tomorrow, but already I’m quite impressed with the interest in Philippine performing arts. Going in, I didn’t know any of the other scholars, so I was quite surprised to find 3 other scholars talking about Philippine performing arts who are not Filipino. Most of their topics are about transnationalism, and of course Philippine art is so transnational. The only other Filipino speaking at this symposium is studying Micronesian performing arts.

I’m used to being the “expert” on Philippine dance/ballet history but it doesn’t have the same impact it’s having now and I’m all worried that they’ll ask me something I don’t know and some expert I turned out to be.

These conferences remind me how much I love the art forms of Southeast Asia. Back in the day, I was so impressed by it that I felt it had to play a part in my own research, but I’ve since gotten over that. Now, I’m appreciating others’ research as they are, which is quite important in itself.

What I miss about dance conferences is the performances are dance performances, which I’m more interested in. At this performing arts symposium, there are a lot of performance art, and “drop in performance installations,” which are set up in small rooms which the audience can “drop in” and leave when they wish. My favorite at this symposium is Sarah Rubidge’s Thai Tracings, which projects moving images of Thai classical dancing interspersed with images of contemporary Bangkok, and has the audience interacting with the installation.

Just now, I listened to a presentation about how Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is transformed into the Malaysian Mak Yong and again transformed when placed in a digital video archive. Which again reminds me how my sidestep into digital publishing has its value, because I don’t think I would have leveled up in that department otherwise.

So yeah, everything happens for a reason. My being transnational here included.


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