Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dance, Like No One's Watching

Nearly a decade since the founding members of Parangal Dance Company assembled to establish the mission of inspiring the preservation of Philippine culture in the Bay Area, our family of artists has significantly broadened its reach and resources to continue that mission along. We have set a standard for presentation, research methodology and dissemination of the cultural artifacts of music, attire, dance, and ritual practices. Our endeavors are encouraging audiences to hear the echo of the archipelago's past and heed its present struggle to remain relevant and unhindered by global forces that threaten the health of its multitude of sub-cultures. We strive to honor what has been and is already there, setting aside unnecessary and extraneous invention that comes easily to creatives in efforts at true preservation.

I still feel so new to it all even now, often reminiscing the day I first witnessed the company's performance under the dome in City Hall, excitedly emailing an inquiry regarding my eligibility to join almost immediately afterwards, too nervous to ask in person. I recall the palpable anxiety of standing in the back of a packed workshop on my first night, not knowing a single soul. We were thrown immediately into the sequence of moves (we all now recognize as the Maguindanao Kuntaw choreography), with me fully cognizant of the long decade between that moment and the last time I stood barefoot on a cultural performance floor, during my time with the Penn State Filipino Association. I remember the warmth and passion of the leaders that commanded that room. I remember the welcome that resonated with the members who stepped forward and made themselves available. I shuddered in fear of my inevitable debut performance at Pistahan (I had to carry the flags). But mostly, I recall the relief and elation that there was this home-base, this available source, for the practice of Filipino dance and music by a committed group of talented and experienced individuals who may or may not have ever known what the absence of that in the life of a Filipino-American like myself can do to our sense of identity, lost in the great melting pot.

I really only craved a new social scene and a place for consistent exercise when I signed on.

But that's just not how the company operates. The family aspect demolishes any pretense or misconception that this endeavor can be just simply 'something to do.' Little did I know that my involvement would then pervade other departments of my life that I didn't know needed bolstering: artistry and creative license, time management, social engagement, community activism, and the honoring of our heritage. Inspiration flowed freely from an adopted commitment to artistic excellence. Education about our culture came, not only from the company's repertoire, but from its involvement in the greater global dialogue, especially with the indigenous communities from which Eric derives and adapts our vocabulary and choreography. Preservation results from the continued passion and integrity of our leaders and artists, in practice and performance. Discovery is felt even in the moments right before we hit any stage; the revelation that we can echo the voices of those far away who are ignored or forgotten, to create and be a part of something greater than ourselves.

And now, the company is enjoying an inevitable phase of growth through its series of tours that have crossed numerous borders, both physically and figuratively, establishing a profile in the global scene as a formidable source of cultural education. We have to recognize, in the shock of stepping foot on major and prestigious stages the world over, that it doesn't only call for our continuation of that mission, but also signals us that the mission is, in fact, working.

And so is laid the foundation for the sophomore decade of Parangal we are preparing for. It will be an investigation into the generations that will follow strong footsteps, a true reflection on the longevity and perseverance of this important mission, and a rewarding effort to continue being an important and resounding voice, in a world filled with noise. Happy 9th Anniversary to The Parangal Dance Company, and a special thanks to Eric Solano, the founding members and the executive board for giving us an avenue for our creativity and the space through which we can explore our people's rich heritage and share equally in their struggles and celebrations.

Earth Shattering Revelation #35: Get lost in your heritage.

Current Music: Lupa Sug