In Filipino dialects Tagalog and Visayan, sanga means tree branch. In botany, a branch is an extension plant’s trunk, which comes from its original source, the root. A tree takes glorious shape when it has lush leaves, flowers and fruits in a resplendent crown. Given that sunlight, air, water and soil work well together, and add to that the genuine human care, a tree grows healthy and strong, and later provides beautiful foliage, cool shade, fascinating flowers and luscious fruits.
In the living history of the performing arts, “Sanga” is a original, contemporary dance creation by Davao-based choreographer Agnes Locsin. It is the fourth of a series of dance pieces with the theme, as articulated by Locsin herself, “the love for trees.”
The concept for a dance based on the tree began in 2010 when Locsin along with the alumni dancers of Ballet Philippines (BP) went on a performance tour in Northern Luzon during which they traversed through the forest mountains of the Ilocos, Isabela and the Cordillera. Locsin was fired with the desire to do a staging of the forest with the tree as central theme.
The dance, Puno, which is the Filipino word for “tree” would be a series of dances with “Ugat,” which means “root”, as the first production. The second of the series was “Dahon” or leaf. And finally there is “Sanga,” the branch.
For “Sanga,” Locisin’s poet friend, Ricardo de Ungria, observed the dance, wrote the poem directly in Filipino and read it himself during the performance. Thus, the performance weds poetry and dance wherein dance inspires poetry.
Movement and voice are integrated as a synchronous performance of the dynamic human body in motion and words in live poetic utterance. The poem echoes the dance as the dance visualizes the poem.
As the previous episodes, “Sanga” premiered in Locsin’s dance studio theater in Davao City on August 23. Given a small proscenium stage with a thrust platform extending to the audience area, the performance area mainly fills up the studio theater.
The audience is seated along the three sides of the rectangular thrust. The farthest end is the small platform framed by two poles, branches and “bark” panels at the center of which is a wooden rostrum where the poet reads the introductory verse.
The rostrum would later be located to floor level at the foot of stage right so that the poet would be in the dim soft light speaking as the forest patriarch.
Locsin’s vision, as assisted by Biag Gaongen an Igorot Kankanaey dancer, is impressively executed with the expressive focus and firm physical resolve by dancers Sonny Locsin and Kris-Belle Paclibar.
Choreographer-teacher Locsin pushes Locsin and Paclibar to literally illustrate dramatize love through a design textured with the gnarls, knots, concaves, convexes, protrusions and foliations of a tree with their human anatomies.
In human bodies, the dancing branches exhibit their union by interlocking in the flesh. Body against body in various love postures configured as inter-branching that a daring modern ballet could possibly do onstage. But they are branches not human, so the eroticism is kept at bay.
What beautiful artistic restraint showing the elegance of Locsin’s dramaturgy. Nothing in excess despite the textural richness of pathos and eros in the dance.
“Sanga” is a wonderful love dance that moves the soul by its muted magnificence. It technically exhibits the lustrous textures of intimacy between lover and beloved; between human and tree. The message is clear: Like humans, trees love and feel love.
Joycie Y. Dorado Alegre