When Dancer/Daughter Are Inseparable

In the middle of July, I went home to the Philippines, the same week that Glenda hit, to attend the very last Wifi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival. Festival director Myra Beltran put my dad in IndepenDance Lab C: Tono – Voice of the Regions. We presented three of my dads works, two of which he reworked to fit the theme of the festival – Engage with history. Morphemes was a work he did in 1980, which National Artist Leonor Orosa Goquingco had called, “unusual, startling to a marked degree…” Abaniko at Manton was originally a quartet in 1992, with my brothers before they became famous. Imagine Lucas’ chagrin to be told he wouldn’t be in the new version. And then, of course In The Sisterhood. The three works were each a decade apart, and I spoke at the performance, a short essay to explain my father’s process, and to tie the three together. This is the text that I recited before and in between the dances.

Rehearsal shot of In The Sisterhood by Eli Jacinto

Rehearsal shot of In The Sisterhood by Eli Jacinto

When Dancer and Daughter are Inseparable 

Choreography by Eli Jacinto

Dramaturgy by Joelle Jacinto

What is contemporary dance? I am applying for a PhD and my proposal is stuck with trying to answer that question. I can go on and on as a scholar, displaced as a Filipino living in Malaysia, but today, I ask myself, what do you really know about contemporary dance? Are you a contemporary dancer? Am I? I’m here now, and I dance. I mostly dance works that my father has choreographed. Does that make him a contemporary choreographer?

When I was four, my father decided to leave the more metropolitan city of Mandaluyong for a piece of land and a nice house in suburban Las Piñas. In that moment, he became regional, despite the fact that Las Piñas was still part of Metro Manila. Still, it was far. And far removed from what the city was doing. But even before that, he never looked at what other choreographers were doing. He only looked at himself.

Today, he refuses to leave the house for further than our dance studio.

In 1980, he choreographed Morphemes. I watched this curious work as a child and I still remember how it looked. During that time, people were saying how different it was from what everyone was doing, ahead of its time. But actually, Dad was just giving his dancers movements that they could do, as they weren’t very technical back then. The old one had a lot of crawling and, falling. It was difficult because the music was difficult. But that was then. His dancers are different this time. I’m different. By thirty years or so.

The new Morphemes is not technical, not really. The music is still difficult, but I’ve known this music by heart for almost 40 years. While Dad’s first dancers wouldn’t be able to do the new movements in Morphemes, what remains is that elasticity needed to do them, that hagod, and a syncopation that counterpoints against it.

So how is this contemporary? Is it really still stuck in 1980? Is walking too Judson Street? Is counterpoint too 1990? Is the obsession with form too 2000? Is my speaking to you now so last year?


Music: “El Cor Piu Non Mi Sento variations” by Nicolo Paganini
Choreography by Eli Jacinto

Performed by Joelle Jacinto, Jacqui Jacinto and Sol Ogatis

Dad’s aesthetics are different now. There was a time he did a lot of neo-classical movement en pointe, but that was what people wanted to see. He also did a lot of work that was “national,” partly because that was what people were doing, but also because he was very nationalistic himself.

Before the neo-ethnic boom, he was doing a lot of balletified folk dance and ethnic dance. Not very nationalistic, in that 1990s definition of nationalism, but Dad didn’t care and created Abaniko at Manton, which he argued was very Filipino. Spanish? Yes. Filipino? Maybe. Contemporary? Well, again, what is contemporary?

Abaniko at Manton

Music: “36” by Alex de Grassi
Choreography by Eli Jacinto

Performed by Jacqui Jacinto, Erica Marquez-Jacinto and Nina Sayoc

Thirty four years of dancing for my father has made me very physically aware of the kind of movement he wants, even if mentally, I cannot grasp it. The body responds, it gives. The mind says, it cannot. The body scoffs.

My father draws movement from our bodies, from the histories that had been embedded on our bodies from learning dance from him, and from constant practice of executing movement in the exact same way, as required by our profession.

Much of who I am is informed by the work that my father has done, individually and in relation to the dance world at large. Most especially the dancer I am. I am 40 years old. There is a survivor instinct that insists on my contemporaneity, on my being present in the now. The only reason why I am still dancing is my father says I can. I’ll be like, dancers my age should be taking it easy. Very true to form, he would say, “But why look at other dancers? Look only at yourself.”

In The Sisterhood
Music: “What Goes Around Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake and “Chi Mai” by Ennio Morricone
Music collage and choreography by Eli Jacinto

Performed by Joelle Jacinto and Jacqui Jacinto

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