Seven pairs of eyes were glued to the 7″ screen. Music blared through the speakers plugged to the laptop. Onscreen professional dancers did moves we mere mortals cannot comprehend. But off screen, six teenagers and one Pasali staff sat on the floor of the great hall of the second floor of Pasali’s Childrens Desk building. I swear – and I never swear – one kid’s eyeballs almost popped out.
This week I was asked by Pasali Children’s Desk Staff Dudez to help the theater group choreograph an interpretive dance. They were ages 15 to 18 and they had never done this kind of dance before. He knew I my love for dance and sharing. And he knew, this was an offer I could not resist.
For three mornings we had intense sessions – split between teaching them how to choreograph and working with them to choreograph The Prayer. I expected to surprise them with new material, but in the end, they surprised me. They were not beginners. And they were certainly not shy of complicated choreography. When the boys lifted a comrad high on their shoulders in the beginning of the song, it was my turn to sit tong-tied. My simple contribution in their choreography is the moments they sit, stand, and sit or stand still.
It was trainer’s heaven. They were disciplined. Followed intructions well. The things I explained they absorbed with such audacity. When their choreography mirrored the vigor of the examples I shared, I can only conclude the teaching did something. But to what end? Simply developing their creative talents is not enough. In the Philippines the arts as profession is only taken seriously by a small rich elite, far away in Manila. Television showcases amateur talent. Dance as art, high art is not a concept here. If only we could come up with a vision for the arts that exceeds existing lines. But where would we start?
In a 1-on-1 coaching moment, dancer Mik says,
I didn’t expect we’d be able to express what is inside as we did. And I didn’t expect that so much unity would grow between us. And this week we did contemporary dance, which is the dance I dreamt of learning since highschool.
(Ed: contemporary/lyrical jazz is the style we worked with)