Indak journeys through Filipino culture and history

Community News & Features Jul 13, 2018 at 5:38 pm
TINIKLING

TINIKLING (Photos: Althea Manasan)

Dance Concert

By Althea Manasan
The Philippine Reporter

Dozens of talented Filipino dancers and musicians from both Toronto and the Philippines came together last week for an evening of performances celebrating the vibrancy and richness of Philippine culture and history.

Indak, a one-night concert held at Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto, was presented by the Consulate General of the Philippines as part of both the 120th anniversary of Philippine Independence as well as the city’s first Filipino Heritage Month. The decision to designate June to recognize Philippine culture was announced last November by Toronto City Council.

“I’m so proud because it is a recognition of the richness of our cultural heritage and our contributions to the richness and dynamism of Toronto,” said Consul General Rosalita Prospero. Her office co-sponsored Indak, along with Philippine Airlines and the National Commission of Culture and Arts of the Philippines.

SINGKIL

SINGKIL

“I consider dance as a very good way of promoting Filipino culture,” Prospero said. “I’m just so proud that our dancers are world class.”

Five Toronto-based Filipino dance troupes — the Fiesta Filipina Dance Troupe, Folklorico Filipino Canada, Culture Philippines Ontario, Unknown Floor Force and Hataw — were recruited to perform the lively and high-energy show.

Indak was the brainchild of three brothers: artistic director Patrick Alcedo, choreographer Paulo Alcedo and musical director Peter Alcedo, Jr.
“All of us, we were trained by our mom,” said Peter, who flew in from from Philippines ten days before the show to oversee the music. “Our mom is a pianist, so we grew up in a house filled with music.”

Raised in Kalibo, Aklan, each of the brothers eventually made their way to Manila, where they began intensive dance training. All three of them are alumni of the University of the Philippines’ Filipiniana Dance Group, trained under artistic director Corazon Iñigo.

Patrick, who has a doctorate in dance history and theory, is now an associate professor at York University, where he explores the intersection between dance and culture. Paulo is currently the choreographer of Culture Philippines of Ontario and has studied under choreographers for Britney Spears and Sia. Peter, who now serves as director of Filipiniana, has won several awards for his work choreographing, writing and directing contemporary and folk dance concerts.

Although the Alcedos have established their careers independently, Patrick says they work well together when they do collaborate. “The three of us, the three brothers, really work harmoniously.”

Consul General Rosalita Prospero

Consul General Rosalita Prospero

Journey through Philippine culture and history

Indak was inspired by a dance concert Patrick produced last year at York University, also with his brothers. Its success drew the attention of Congen Prospero, and she approached them with the opportunity to produce another show — this time at the Fleck Theatre at Toronto’s Harbourfront — and the Alcedos agreed.

“As much as I honour community work, I also want to bring Filipino dance to professional spaces and say, ‘Hey, we can be here, too’ and give that kind of mainstream attention to Filipino dance,” Patrick said.

The show took the audience on a journey through Philippine culture and history, kicking off the two-hour evening with a dynamic opening number. Dressed in colourful hand-women fabrics, dancers stomped and pounded rhythmically to tribal-inspired drum beats and chants. (Peter composed the opening piece in just a few days, starting only when he arrived in Toronto.)

From there, performers showcased traditional dances from the Kalinga province as the rice terraces of Ifugao were projected behind the dancers. The Banga, or pot dance, saw dancers balancing pots on their heads, stacked as tall as the women themselves.

Patrick Alcedo

Patrick Alcedo

During the show’s Spanish suite, inspired by Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, dancers clad in intricately embellished Barong Tagalogs and Maria Clara dresses jauntily pranced along the stage to the romantic sound of Spanish guitars.

The Mindanao suite featured numbers inspired by the Lumad people of the area, such as the Bagobo, the T’boli and the sea-dwelling Bajao. During the “Vinta,” a traditional Moro dance, performers balanced precariously atop bamboo poles, representing sea vessels and the vinta sails.

The show also displayed well-known traditional Philippine folk dances, including the tinikling, with performers stepping rhythmically between clapping bamboo poles, and the binasuan, where dancers balanced glasses of liquid while performing acrobatic feats.

Along with traditional choreography, the show also incorporated urban and contemporary elements. The dance troupe Unknown Floor Force showed off their breakdancing skills, while choreographer Paulo took to the stage to perform an elegant solo jazz number to Martin Nieverra’s Nasaan Ka Man.

“Filipino culture is always evolving,” Patrick said of his decision to fuse folk and contemporary. He wanted to bring in new and mainstream elements of Filipino culture, but also “pay respect to the richness of our traditions.”

The dancers were joined by the Filipiniana Rondalla Musical Ensemble, a group of renowned musicians who flew in from the Philippines to be part of the show. Their musical interlude, which included Spanish-guitar renditions of modern hits like John Lennon’s Imagine and the Beatles’ Yesterday and Let It Be, had the audience joyfully and nostalgically singing along.

Audience member Robert Ramos said the evening’s performances made him reminisce about his days growing up in the Philippines. “The music, the dances, we danced some of them,” he said.

He also noted how the dances represented the Filipino spirit. “They injected something joyful that affects people. Filipinos are like that. Even when it’s something serious, we inject joy,” Ramos said. “I hope we can have more of this. I can bring non-Filipinos here and be proud.”

Kat Shermack, who wasn’t familiar with Filipino traditional dance before watching Indak, was also impressed by the show. “I enjoyed learning about the incredibly diverse culture of the Philippines through dance,” she said. “The performance was beautiful and inspiring, and I hope to see more shows like it.”