Sunday, August 14, 2011

Encantada at the CCP

Watched a restaging of Encantada, by Ballet Philippines. It's still as powerful as I remembered it to be. At the end, I was moved to tears by the thought of all those bodies dancing with so much anger and joy.

I watched it 20 years ago. Then, Cecile Sicangco played the Encantada, and Wendy Panganiban, the babaylan. I don't know who among the players alternating for each role (Encantada: Candice Adea/Georgette Sanchez; Babaylan: Katherine Trofeo/Carissa Adea) performed during today's matinee. In the beginning, I thought both couldn't hold a candle to their predecessors, but by the middle of the first half, the babaylan won me over (her dancing was so clean, the corps de ballet looked bad dancing beside her; Panganiban was more passionate, though).  And by the second half, the Encantada was passion herself. Estranjero, played by Jean Marc Cordero, was excellent, as were the dancers who played the chief frayle and the guardia civil.

There seemed to be less dancers in the corps de ballet, and because layered, colored hair is all the fashion these days, the dances where hair became a metaphor for rain and water didn't have the impact I remembered from the original show (hair then was longer, thicker (being unlayered) and uniformly black).

Still, it was powerful--although at the end (I being 20 years older), I began to think about the dance's narrative, which is:

The kababaihan in the mountains are in a trance, controlled by the Encantada; down in the plains, the Spanish friars oppress the ordinary city dweller. The friars and guardia civil behead the people, including a man whom the Encantada and the babaylan's tribe of women save; the women go to war with the guardia civil, who succeed in raping them and destroying the forest. The Encantada sheds tears, which turn into a deluge that kills the guardia civil. And the babaylan, her women and (suddenly appearing), the tribal men dance with each other with great joy.

This is the type of narrative that was rife/that I grew up with in the '90s. But what does it do for our imagine-nation? What option do we have, other than returning to the animistic state, and controlled by nature, or being oppressed by the foreign oppressor? And is the forgetfulness implied by the dancing after the flood indicative of the forgetfulness with which we, as a people, deal with our past, and the people and institutions that have subjected the nation to rape and pillage?

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