The Philippines struggling dance industry, An opportunity to change?

“When ‘politics’ impinges on ‘art’, ‘Art is always the victim.”  
Norman Walker 

I have been reading articles everyday popping up on the Ballet Philippines issue. Now I probably don’t have much involvement and I’ve heard some people say It’s not my problem or I don’t want to get involved but as a part of this dance community although not a very big or as integral part I feel as though all our opinions matter big or small. Also, most of our teachers have learned from people from this company, we are all a part of this whether you like it or not or choose to ignore the issues. Your education came from them, you owe them nothing but you owe your art its voice.

To summarize what happened, you may read them in a few articles. I’ll leave the links for you below. I felt as though these articles summed it up best.

Inquirer: Lifestyle, What went wrong in Ballet Philippines?
The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

I don’t completely agree with all the statements of course we all have our opinions. Dance is universal and not just yours or ours. Europeans, Asians, Americans and etc etc. Some things leave and some things just move on as in life. Especially at a time like this when so many things are changing, we welcome some changes that work and remove some that don’t. Nothing is really purely original anymore and we borrow some things take out some, we make it our own and we work towards that.

I made something of my own as well because of this same issue of how politics is in dance, I wanted to make my own version or work . Business and Art they just don’t mix well and that’s what urged me to make an environment of my own where I feel like my work will be able to speak for itself through its students. Each of my students are my works of art and each class is the same way.

So what can we learn from this?

Besides the fact that they are removing Alice Reyes and the soul of the Filipino works. I believe people are angry more so that it just all sounds so dubious that there isn’t just any clear and straight to the point explanation of how they came up with this decision. It reminds me so of the government here and the times now of where we are.

It’s the same everywhere, we’ve seen it happen and read about these things, we’ve seen it happen in history. If something is wrong then I know the system is wrong, we need some type of change. Let it open your eyes dancers, respect your art, and take pride in your work. I think things just move in a different way now, even selling, I think being a millenial myself, I’ve seen things go from dancing and having no internet to having the internet. There are good and bad points to both, but there could be good points if we used them for the right reasons.

Well I’m just speaking here from my side of town. We are not just trying to preserve culture but we are trying to preserve years of history, years of work that helped the company and the country to grow in terms of dancing.

Although, as much as these worked in the past, not all things work now unless we install some upgrades. Yes install, you want your art to work or to sell you need to also keep up with what the people or the times demand, we upgrade the music, we upgrade the sets. It doesn’t mean bigger is better, or that new is better, it just means different will give you good challenges too, welcome change and open yourself to the possibility that your work can still evolve and mature like a human it is also alive and it connects to people and speaks to its time, after all this is what art is, it is supposed to evolve.

The ballet is not accessible, to outside factors or influences that might bring Philippine ballet into a more contemporary era.

As someone who also came or worked in this industry here, and someone who can see what is happening and also someone who goes outside to attend talks, to go through training, observe work outside of the country. It’s evident that nothing has changed since I started dancing; it’s the same leaders, it’s the same people who direct the ballet industry. There isn’t any chance to contribute for us or to even try for the matter to help or maybe bring something into the ballet.

It can be me, it can be someone else who understands, but even just putting up a school was a struggle for myself. I was accused of having no respect for territoriality of someone who could not put up a school because I was too young. They judged me for all of this, I did not even know who these people were and as naive as I think I really was during that time, I feel like producing my school into what it is now, I have no regrets really. I think my students know the value of the discipline the art entails and they work hard as I teach them everyday and I am proud of that.

So what now? Are we just going to be stuck in the past? What can we learn going into the present and changing dance industry?

While I also do not agree that a Russian director will change much especially one that has no idea as to what rich history the country and the company has. We are trying to preserve what it stood for and why it has been there, the center was made and housed there for years already for artists to showcase their works. What about these talented artists?

I’m not saying that we can’t hire whoever, I mean if this person is the best then maybe we could but to lose what we have is also a big risk for you to take don’t you think. Unless this was really your main objective, to really hire a foreigner and to change the entire company and start all over again.

So I urge you leaders to think of what you are doing to these artists. Think of why also and if you are reading this please think it through. You speak of needing change when you yourself do not know what you are selling to the public. I even heard from a dancer that some from this board had never even stepped into their rehearsal hall until last week. All of these issues, personal issues, need to be put aside to protect this institution.

Think long term and if you are smart enough, speak the truth and if you really love the art as we do, give it to someone who can nourish it and will feed it something new. We need change yes but not in the ways that you think of, I am not purely Filipino in fact I am less Filipino than you are all but I see so much talent in this country and its artists and its people and it is also why I continue to stay and nourish talent.

The Filipino talent suffers once again. Is it worth it to have this Russian director and to lose all of your dancers?

I would think twice about this as the industry has lost so many talented dancers already because of the system and I can name more than a handful. Who are we really trying to protect here? Are we really protecting the company or are we really willing to hire outside dancers and make this company open to these people? Because again the Filipino is not good enough?

I feel again, we are underestimating the talent that we have here, and so many of them doing good abroad or doing well in their other jobs now. I get it, but must the Filipino dancer suffer again for most often than not financial reasons once again?

Look “Even monkeys fall from trees” don’t be afraid to make mistakes and admit them. It’s not too late, I feel we can do better than what has happened. I hope we can work something out, if not have someone be a director with him, someone who knows the company or has worked with them let alone can speak English.

So speak up dancers, speak up about your art, reputation aside, we are all part of this broken up system. I myself once a victim and after many years of therapy and growing up I realized, I forgot to use my voice as an artist. Let us do our part in making this arts reputation respected and supported once again.

The world is more connected now than you think. My point is, there are people who are your own people within and outside this country who want to and are just waiting to work with you. Invite these people, if they do not stand with your vision then don’t work with them, but the reason why we have this community is to gather hardworking and talented people and use them to your advantage too! Just as they will also use you to their advantage to become something and represent you. We can grow by lifting each other up.

Don’t let that opportunity go to waste to make something. Be a part of that change, and let’s show people that dance is ever growing and changing and a beautiful part of life. Now let’s start thinking rationally, by changing ourselves too. If we want change, work towards protecting our art and know your rights and don’t be afraid to let your work speak for you.