Sometimes all we need to see are the ironies of being a cultural worker in this country, to realize that the crisis in culture is far larger, but also far simpler, than we care to admit.
The cultural workers’ rights after all, are also every workers’ rights, give or take a few specificities. The problem of lumping together our cultural workers with doctors, engineers, dentists, accountants and calling them all “professionals” under our tax laws is ungrounded in the real conditions of our existence as freelance and contractual writers, directors, performers, and artists. The refusal to build unions that will not only protect artists, but also professionalize the industries we belong to, reeks of the kind of fear that capitalists have about workers’ rights.
The lack of support for our individual projects, the lack of even a help desk where we can have our contracts checked for unfair clauses, just overall the lack of care and compassion for the cultural worker, are such basic concerns, it’s surprising that 30 years since we gained freedom and democracy, and five presidents since, no one can claim to care for culture the way the Marcoses did.
Yup, there’s another irony for you.
‘DanceMNL’ in ironic times
“From June 14 to 26 DanceMNL, a biennial festival is happening. Sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Ballet Philippines in cooperation with Philippine Ballet Theatre and Ballet Manila, as supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Manila Broadcasting Corporation, DanceMNL is envisioned as a festival that is “focused on uniting and celebrating the Filipino dance community.” The biennale will include performances, workshops, and a conference convened by Ballet Philippines and World Dance Alliance-Philippines/WDA-Asia Pacific.” (DanceMNL.com)
If that paragraph name-dropped organizations and cultural institutions, it did so for good reason.
On July 30, Addlib Dance Crew, the Champions in the Upper Division Category of World of Dance Philippine Qualifiers will be competing in the World of Dance Championship in Pasadena California.
The dance crew of 22 needs a pretty huge amount to compete for nation, and not surprisingly, has not gotten enough support—be it real financial assistance, or just media mileage to generate interest in the group’s need to raise funds.
What about State support? You ask.
I laugh out loud.
But then again: there’s DanceMNL.
Addlib and independence
It might be said that as with many cultural workers across all the arts sectors, Addlib pays the price for its independence.
Formed in 2008, Addlib has a pretty impressive portfolio of mainstream (TV and concert) work, and runs summer workshops as well. But it is one of many dance crews in this country that in instances like this one must suffer the consequences of living without the support or sponsorship of corporate or state institutions. Working hard towards making dance a self-sustaining artistic enterprise, one that will respect as well its cultural workers with the pay they deserve, opportunities like the World of Dance Competition become a time for taking stock.
Art and creativity requires time and money. Passion and talent will not pay for plane tickets after all.
On June 8, Addlib raised enough for its accommodations in the U.S. through a fundraising concert entitled Defy. Now with a July 5 deadline to complete requirements — including plane tickets to the U.S.— some eight members of the group (as of this writing) have yet to acquire the funds they need to compete with the rest of the dance crew.
Fly these dancers
Rein Navarro is founder, senior choreographer, and assistant director of Addlib Ladies. She is a nursing graduate from Far Eastern University.
Muji Andres is senior choreographer and styling head of Addlib, and is Communication Arts graduate from UP Baguio.
Macky de Guzman is senior choreographer and assistant director of The Addlib-Divas, and a graduate of Trinity University of Asia.
Macki Pineda is junior choreographer of Addlib, a product of its LAB Summer Dance Workshop in 2014, during which he was hailed as best student.
Kei Mamauag is team leader of Addlib. She is a former member of UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe and Metropolitan Dancemasters and holds a second degree in Special Education from the Far Eastern University.
Jaspher Casin is project manager of Addlib for Defy, and is a chemical engineering graduate from UP Los Baños.
Brynne James Menguito is an apprentice of Addlib, who was best student of The LAB Summer Dance Workshop for 2015. He is a student from PNTC College.
Fly the girl who knows no bounds
Along with the seven dancers above is Sasa Cabalquinto, whose fundraising activity reached me via Facebook, where she posted about Addlib competing in the World of Dance Championship, and her need to raise enough funds for her plane ticket.
I know of Sasa because I saw her work during Kleptomaniacs in 2014, a musical I helped with, which required of its actors both dancing and rapping, as well as a whole lot of creative imagining of what it is like to live with so little, and to live with a poverty that only knows to go from bad to worse with every tragedy, every calamity, natural and man-made.
I saw Sasa work her ass off throughout the stretch of preparations for Kleptomaniacs. But I also saw her struggle with the pain of a bum knee, and all the other pains that I knew the young cast was living with. She was open to criticism, and asked often if she was doing things right, or if what she was doing was working at all.
I didn’t know then that Sasa was a working student, doing theater and dance alongside being a student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). She is the third of seven siblings, with a father who works as a taxi driver, who also depends on her to make ends meet and fend for family.
If there is anyone who deserves to fly and dance at the World of Dance Championships, it is Sasa. And while I cry for her and Addlib, given the lack of support for them even as they are competing for nation, I find hope in the fact that for so many dancers and performers, cultural workers and artists, the ability at persistence and hard work, the belief in pursuing passions, remains as the only option. It is romantic, I know. But also it is about as real as an empty stomach, isn’t it.
And if we can bring Addlib to the World of Dance Championships, we will prove once again that while government might not care much for culture and its workers, the rest of us do.
You can fund Sasa Cabalquinto via gofundme.com/29ek8ee4, and contact Addlib to help them raise funds to compete for nation at the World of Dance Championships in the US at firstname.lastname@example.org.