Since its birth in 2006, the Wi-Fi Body Festival has always represented the concept of developing independence among dance artists, and driven by this initiative, to reintroduce contemporary dance as a liberating genre to explore and develop. A decade since, and contemporary dance no longer needs an introduction. Much of this has to do with the compounded success and persistence of festivals in the past, gathering artists from different genres and creating a strong cult following.
Wi-Fi in particular has assumed the role of being teacher to dancers. After generating interest in contemporary dance, it encouraged dancers to have a voice. After finding a voice, the dancers were encouraged to evolve. Now, dancers and choreographers are expected to be willing and able to innovate.
The question is this: will Wi-Fi’s progress the past 10 years be enough to sustain momentum?
This year the Wi-Fi festival, now called Wifibody.ph, was reduced to a simpler platform retaining only its choreography competition. Stripped to the bare minimum, the competition has – consciously or not – made the strongest statement about survival and victory.
On August 20, 14 choreographers presented their points of view at the CCP Studio Theatre, delivering what might be called a rallying cry for contemporary dance. Collectively they answered the call for evolution by showing a much more developed dance vocabulary. Yet what might be ultimately more laudable was the diversity of concepts that were here. Gone are the days when contemporary dance was a mere rehash of ideas. This year, each piece was a distinct story that was allowed to unfold in movement.
Michael Barry Que emerged as the top prize winner for his choreography “Negatives to Positives,” which used technology to allow the audience to experience the choreographer’s creative process. Two dancers holding flashlights had cameras attached to their bodies, revealing on a projected screen what the performance was like from the perspective of the dancers. It was a novel idea that excited the crowd especially because as it progressed, the aesthetics of their movement gained momentum, and the combination of light, shadow, and music became poetry at its finest.
But the conversation Que sought to have did not stop there. The sequence stopped and the dancers started an interactive dialogue with the audience, revealing their personas as dancers collaborating on choreography. The two were comic geniuses as they echoed what goes on inside the four walls of a studio, eliciting laughter from the audience as they poked fun at collaboration and the rudiments of rehearsals. The piece was relatable, well thought of, and entertaining. It was no surprise that it also won the Audience Choice Award.
Second prize went to “Time” choreographed and performed by Christopher Chan, an abstract interpretation of the reality of vulnerability, that played with the idea of nothing amounting to something. It was a very personal performance that was restricted to the center of the stage. With his hair covering his face, Chan transitioned quite catatonically to a myriad of held poses, the performance intensifying in physicality and drama, in the end leaving everyone breathless and disturbed. Based on this work, Chan also received the French Embassy Prize, which is a valuable study grant in France happening in 2017.
Byuti Balaga won third prize for “Man’s Best Friend,” which depicted the blurring of gender roles through a visual parody of sorts, where couple dancers take turns taming each other, alternating as masters. As the title implies, their movement would often be a caricature of the nature of the dog.
Other than the top prize winners, there were several other noteworthy pieces at this year’s Wifibody.ph, namely, the relatable “Alas Tres” by Gebbvelle Ray Selga, the socially relevant “Kasag” by Kenney Kent Garcia, and the stirring “Kamalayan” by Minette Caryl Maza.
Overall, the participants of this year’s festival delivered work that reflects the growing vitality of contemporary dance, and while in the end three people came home with a physical prize, the bigger prize might be that their efforts were received delightfully by this niche audience. I went home relieved that given this year’s festival, Wifibody.ph will live to see another year, as it has proven that every cut, bruise, and friction from the rough ten-year journey has finally allowed the diamond to emerge.
Myra Beltran, Wifibody.ph Festival Director said it best: “We had an audience who understood that each twitch of the nose, each movement in the dark, each silent moment was part of the whole. They waited for each idea to unfold, not expecting when the ‘dancing will start’ or when the action will happen. Each moment is the action. Each moment is the dance. This much we have achieved.”
About the author: A former ballerina with Philippine Ballet Theatre, Erica Jacinto discovered her passion for dance photography and pursues her goal of making dance accessible to new audiences through her blog http://artaturningpointe.blogspot.com.