BIHAG Works in Progress showing at Highways featuring Jill Parago and Dulce Capadocia, Photo Credit: Rudy Samonte
Time ticking loudly as numbered days pass in preparation for the anticipated premiere and performance in San Francisco.
My costumes and sound design were finished weeks ago (a feat for me; usually these production elements come together at the last minute) yet I wish I had another month to just run. Run this complicated demanding work where timing and every Body matters. I finished BIHAG before November, my deadline. Dancers have been missing at rehearsals and I am exhausted in trying to keep things together. When rehearsals are incomplete, the work is extremely affected. For the past months, I feel like I am Jack and I have planted this crazy beanstalk… to find out that my seed grew on its own to monstrous proportions. I worry that BIHAG isn’t polished. I worry that it needs rehearsals for clarity. I worry about the safety issues of these bamboos. I worry that rhythms aren’t crisp. I worry that my replacement dancers don’t have the movement in their bodies. I worry about people missing rehearsals…….. AGAIN. I just worry.
Birthing new work is like that old Smokey Robinson song from the late 70’s – definitely the agony and the ecstacy happening all at once. When something works at rehearsals, I laugh out loud. When it doesn’t, I cringe and silently bury my tired eyes in my palms. Rhythm, precision and timing is everything here. When I perform the traditional Tinikling, these elements are crucial too. And the same goes for the BIHAG monster.
The choreography is finished. Now, I wish I could just sit back and enjoy my rehearsals.
Last night, really good friends stopped by to see us practice: a fellow Silayan member Roger Fojas and Licea Perea, a COLA colleague who came with her director husband, Jose. Artists themselves, they offered some generous comments, especially to the performers. I have been looking at this piece for awhile and welcomed someone else’s point of view. It was wonderful to sit back and take in their fresh insight. Roger really stressed the importance of creating characterization, of finding the contrasts within the character and making this matter. Licea and Jose talked about the importance of staying in character, finding quality differences in the movement (traditional vs. hip hop, gentle vs. violent, circular vs. angular) and giving more to the work. I know the dancers are still figuring out their place and space. My work is demanding this way. I am really a choreographer who acts and expects dancers to do the same. Some dancers have a tough time with my strange process. I know this. But this is the way I work, the way I have always worked, and I have to trust that it works out for everyone in the end.
Time. I just wish I had more of it.
I have enjoyed the artistic process of sharing BIHAG in its developmental stage with an audience. In the 90’s, this type of investigation was available to Los Angeles choreographers. Nowadays, this process is totally non-existent; there are no avenues here in the city for critical feedback. Initially, I was hesitant to have a public works in progress showing at Highways and worried that my work wouldn’t be ready. Now, I am grateful for the opportunity. In hindsight, it created excitement for the people who came to our WIP. They couldn’t wait to see the rest of the work. This is the very reason I decided to let our last rehearsal be an open dress rehearsal. It will be held at the Brewery where we have been gathering for the past 6 months. In my family, it is custom to have the blessing of an elder before undertaking an important venture. As a young artist, whenever I taught a workshop at a new school or university, I always sought the hand of my grandmother, my Lola. I would place it on my forehead in a “bisa”, a sign of reverence and she would bestow good wishes for my impending class presentation. Most of my immediate family is gone now but I thought it would be a great idea to use this as an opportunity for a “public blessing”, and as our group’s send-off party to the big premiere up North. The Brewery has been our creative home and I thank the graciousness of fellow choreographer and dear friend Deborah Brockus who has been so supportive of our work. Jilly Canizares, the Executive Director of Fil-Am Arts will host the event. In general, I think this might plunge my dancers into performance mode and give me the opportunity to experience the piece in its entirety. Unsure if this work will have a life after Counterpulse, this will be the perfect opportunity for close friends and family to come and see BIHAG. We have posted an invite on Facebook and are looking forward to the showing!
The 18th of November is next week. This is when we leave Los Angeles to drive to San Francisco. I have this one critical rehearsal on Sunday; I hope it will matter. I am exhausted. I am nervous. I am thrilled. It will come to life on a stage soon. Gobos, lights, and the great bird wings with feathers handpicked at the beach and handcut to perfection – filled with vibrant shades of red and major bling! Soon I will pick up the rest of my costumes – my baybayin leotards and my urban art sweatshirts, the artwork of runaway youth at Covenant House. I live for this moment of truth when things come together for me as a creator and look forward to sharing my work with an audience. A labor of love, passion and dedication, I have created BIHAG to send an important social message about the world we live in today, its condition and its need for mending, care and love.
L-O-V-E…the very reason that makes us do what we do.
I hope it will be well-received and I look forward to a well-deserved respite…………. somewhere up in the mountains where I find perspective and take stock of what I have done.