‘Dance Xchange on Air’ in full swing

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Halili-Cruz Laiya Ballet School

Just before the world ended due to the pandemic, Shirley Halili-Cruz gathered 10,000 dancers to perform “Unity Dance” with the goal of winning the Guinness World Record’s Largest Dance Contingent category.

The choreography reflected her vision as chairperson of the National Commission for Culture and the National Committee for the Arts on Dance (NCCA-NCD) to embrace and promote dance groups from various regions and their diverse styles.

Participants studied a video of his choreography, on the pop song “Sayaw (Dance)” performed by Davaoeña Maan Chua.

“Unity Dance” was due to be performed in front of Guinness World Records officials in April last year at an open field in Pototan, Iloilo, but the global lockdown has upended the judges’ travel plans.

Not wanting to waste all the effort invested in the project so far, the NCCA-NCD produced a video version of the performance, with a legion of dancers – hundreds at a time – swinging their arms, clapping their hands, pivoting and crawling in the halls of the school and in front of the campuses. While these schoolyard shots and Cruz’s cameos in different areas were taken before the pandemic, the finished “Unity Dance” video is interspersed with post-quarantine footage of small groups of students authorized by their own. local government units to participate. Physical distancing and other health protocols were respected.

She hasn’t given up on the prospect of Filipino dancers landing in the Guinness World Records, Cruz says. “But officials must be physically present to count the contingent, so we’ll wait until the situation improves and the restrictions relax.”

Kan Sygbo Dance Fusion

Virtual shows

In truth, not even a pandemic can take this dance-follower away from her large-scale projects. The largest NCCA-NCD undertaking to date during the forties is “Dance Xchange on Air,” a virtual concert series featuring groups nationwide.

From the comfort of their own homes, via the Dance Xchange Facebook page or its YouTube channel, viewers can be transported to a number of places: a forest in Pampanga to watch the boys of Mabalacat National High School revel in the thrill of a Aeta hunting dance; by a river in Negros where members of the Busilak Dance Theater Company perform while carrying bunches of bananas in “Handuraw”, one of the festival favorites; a gravel-laden garden with couples from the Binhilan Performing Arts Guild wearing barong and traje de mestiza performing Leyte’s majestic “Alcamfor”; the beaches of Laiya, Batangas, with girls in blue dresses from the Halili-Cruz ballet school spinning on the quay; or a transport terminal with South Avenue dancers dancing to hip-hop.

For the first season of “Dance Xchange on Air” (October 24, 2020 to February 1), the NCCA-NCD produced 27 shows, plus an international edition that reached 32 countries. It involved 262 groups and schools and had been consulted by over 1.72 million at the time of writing.

“We are proud that many of our videos are making waves on social media,” says Cruz. One of those videos is from the Ligliwa dance group from Pangasinan, whose members, dressed in simple T-shirts and loose shorts, perform an intense contemporary piece on an open basketball court. The video recorded half a million views.

La Jota San Juaquina

Support creativity

Much earlier, in 2009, Cruz launched the Philippine International Dance Xchange Festival, which consisted of special events attended by enthusiasts from here and elsewhere.

The first festival was held in the city of Dumaguete, in the Negros Oriental, and has since been hosted by different provinces in order to make the event accessible to a wider audience. An average of 30 groups joined us, half of them from Europe, Africa and elsewhere in Asia. Workshops were also organized for its generated audience of 25,000 people.

The festival lasted for a decade until pandemic restrictions prompted the festival to migrate online as “Dance Xchange on Air”. The concept has always been to present Filipino ethnic and folk dances as well as western, contemporary, lyrical and hip-hop ballet, performed in open spaces.

“It’s our contribution to the dynamism of the dance community and our way of supporting creativity,” says Cruz. “The atmosphere has generally become more collaborative and dance creations have become more meaningful and in tune with current realities. The dance industry has been hectic, like all other arts, and eager to move forward.

To register, each group submitted a four-minute, high-definition broadcast quality video. Since the concerts were to be streamed through Facebook and YouTube, the dance music had to be copyright and copyright free.

The post-production process was tedious, to say the least. Cruz previewed all the videos and sent comments to the groups. “I really wanted to include everyone, regardless of levels of expertise, experience and artistic standards,” she says. “I believe in giving opportunities to as many people as possible. So a huge challenge was how to help groups whose dance videos did not meet our standards. Some had to do 10 revisions. In that sense, it has also become a mentoring session. We asked the choreographers to fix parts of the dances, or we asked the groups to improve the quality of the videos. Everyone was very cooperative.

Each episode is over an hour long and features 13-15 groups with Issa Litton, dressed in Filipino tops from Twinkle Ferraren, as the host. The series has been posted on other Facebook pages for wider reach.

Shirley Halili-Cruz

Arts month and beyond

To commemorate February Arts Month, “Dance Xchange on Air” presented “The“ International Dance Research Conference / Webinar, ”hosted by the Dance Division of the NCCA from February 16-19. It included 20 researches on global issues, best practices. and postpandemic progress.

The division held a virtual dance costume exhibition, with historical and cultural annotations on February 25.

“Sayaw Pinoy Goes Virtual” will air every Saturday at 6 p.m. until March 27, Cruz said, “Sayaw Pinoy Goes Virtual” features all genres, from ethnic to ballet to hip-hop, in important places for Filipino culture. sights such as Cathedral Falls in Kapatangan, Lanao del Norte, Negros Occidental’s Tangel Cave burial site, Camugao Bridge, Hacienda San Lucas and a former sugar cane center.

“Buyogan Festival Dance Tribute to the Frontliners” takes place on the Buyogan stage facing the Gulf of Leyte. She quotes the story of the Spaniards disembarking at Leyte and asking the natives what the place was called. Thinking that the strangers were asking about a swarm of bees, the locals replied, “Ah, buyog.”

Considering this prodigious production, Cruz does not brag when she says that the dance sector has been the most dynamic and the most productive of the artistic community in these unusual times. She adds: “These programs also serve as a breeding ground for future groups, especially those from other regions.”

The production of the virtual series is not without its challenges. She notes fluctuating internet connections, short audience attention span, online coordination and logistics. On a personal level, she says, her drastically reduced mobility following a massive stroke in 2014 after an active life as a dancer and teacher was quite a test, but she actually triumphed.

In his own words: “I cannot walk without help. I cannot write with my right hand, but I have learned to work with my left hand. And precisely because I am in a wheelchair, I have to be more imaginative and more innovative.

-CONTRIBUTED

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