Trey McIntyre Project's First Stop: The Philippines

posted by Ashley Werhun on Monday, May 21, 2012
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After a 24-hour travel day, I stepped off the plane with the rest of Trey McIntyre Project’s touring company in Manila, Philippines. Closing my eyes and breathing in the humid air, I prepared to embrace the experience of a lifetime. Opening my eyes, I saw billboards in English. English? Having never been to Asia before, discovering that English is the language of instruction, I was surprised. Communication would not to be an issue, making the Philippines a seamless first stop on a month-long tour.  

On our first day in the Philippines, the welcoming from the Roman Obusan Folkloric group made a vivid impression. Through the windows of our bus, I saw formations of colorful costumes swirling about. Young dancers used delicate hand gestures, mimicking birds. My eyes welled up with tears of gratitude, knowing that this was going to be the start of an extraordinary adventure.

The next two days were spent learning traditional Filipino dances—they ranged from virtuosic back bends to calm shuffling movements, and hands were adorned with 5-inch fingernails. Each dance was a new challenge.

 

Chanel DaSilva, Annali Rose, and Ashley Werhun don five-inch fingernails.

 

 

In return, TMP shared an excerpt. Sneakers on, we bounced about the tile floor, dancing a section of A Day in the Life. Our flexibility to dance in any circumstance always amazes me. As much as we plan outreach, we never know what is appropriate until we are actually there. With a quick suggestion of repertoire and head nods from the dancers, the plan is set. I think it requires an adaptability in order to know that your art has an impact when presented in these humble circumstances.

In the southern city of Iloilo, one elderly woman from the Panay Bukidnon group left an invaluable and lasting impression. She was more than 80 years old and no more than 4-feet tall. Dancing around the studio, eyes to the sky, her size was no reflection of her strength. For certain, she stomped louder than any of us. She was dressed beautifully in layers of heavy fabric covered in hand-sewn embroidery, her arms in sheer, pale-yellow sleeves that wafted like wings when she moved, her arms leading their flight. The elders said that her high focus stance was a way of connecting to the greater powers above. This is why dance is such a strong tradition in their culture. Dance is obviously one key to her longevity.

The cultural outreach was a major part of the week but we also performed!

We often shared the stage with our new friends, like the Panay Bukidnon tribe who performed on a mixed bill with us. It is always interesting, performing in a foreign country, especially since Trey's choreography is inherently American. I have found that the messages in our work are universally clear, affecting people far and wide. The Philippines was no exception. During Leatherwing Bat, the audience mouthed the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon" and enthusiastically applauded mid-song.

For our show at Market! Market!, in Manila, they constructed a full stage in the middle of a five-story mall. The balconies were lined with hundreds of people and post-show, we posed for hours of photos with an appreciative audience and dancers, capturing the collaborative joy.

 

TMP and Roman Obusan Folkloric Group at Market! Market! in Manila

 

 

For more on our time in the Philippines, Vietnam, China, and (next week) South Korea, check out the photos at treymcintyre.com/blog and read our posts at dancemotionusa.org.