Bohol dance ensemble premieres at Manila Fringe Festival 2018

Apat Bohol Project Dancers

Bonifacio Global City - The evening opened with an empty stage bathed in darkness and a narrator saying, “The sky is blue. But its blue contains the light of the sun, the moon, the stars; the lightness or the menacing madness of the clouds; all the colors of the rainbow…”

Four figures then appeared out of an ultramarine blue light background and broke the stage in spurts of disciplined body movements that built up into simple moving lifts and seeming flights in space, giving the audience both moments of peace and turmoil. “In the strange blue of the sky, there are moments of deep peace and tranquility, or places of turbulent explosion!”

The dancing quartet is from the Bohol Dance Project Company, a newly formed contemporary dance ensemble developed through the collaboration of French choreographers and Boholano dance groups. Its premiere performance took place at the Manila Fringe Festival at Maybank Theatre, Bonifacio Global City last Feb. 23.

“It is an offspring of a gift to Bohol three summers ago,” composer and director Lutgardo Labad said before the show. French choreographers and dance teachers Guillaume Morgan and Nicola Ayoub, he added, conducted a series of dance workshops in the summer of 2015, 2016 and 2017 for the island province’s dancers and choreographers through the auspices of the French and American governments and the provincial government of Bohol.

The four Boholano dancers, considered “the best of the three years of training” are Jay Banquil, Jerrey David Aguilar, Marvin Ablao, and Yassie Nalo. Each has received a certificate after completing 150 hours of dance instruction from the International Dance Council of the UNESCO.

Apat Dancers become three

World renowned artist Romanian Gigi Caciuleanu choreographed the company’s first piece, “Blue Way,” a 30-minute number considered “a hymn to life and to the dancers’ group strength.” He graduated from the National Conservatory of Choreography in Bucharest, and gained world recognition when his choreography won first place in the Varna International Ballet Competition in 1970, and again first place at Cologne’s Young Choreographers’ Competition in 1971 and 1972.

Aside from “Blue Way,” the programme entitled “A Blue Evening” showcased two other original dance creations:Mula Sa Kaibuturan’ (out of the depth of being), danced and created by renowned Rama Marcaida; and ‘Apat’ (four) specially choreographed for the company also by Marcaida.

The three dances represented the melding of East and West, the first building from individual contemporary movements that flow out in a celebration of the human body; the second and third, fusing yoga, ballet and contemporary dance, music and sound with the Southern Philippine dance movement ‘pangalay.’

After the hour-and-a-half performance, the Maybank Theater audience gave the ensemble – four Boholano dancers and a guest – resounding applause and a standing ovation, some cheering and shouting, “Bravo!”

Sofia Zobel, president of the Steps Dance Studio, in a Facebook post about the Bohol Dance Project’s performance at the Fringe Festival Manila, said: “It’s been a while since I enjoyed a show like this one…Sincere, thoughtful, honest, and so much heart and soul!”She added: “Massive Congratulations Guillaume, Rama, Gardy and your beautiful dancers!”

Entranced Beating of the Drum by Jerrey Aguilar

Part of the appreciative audience were Philippine Ambassador to Greece Frank Cimafranca and his wife, leading choreographers Denisa Reyes, PJ Rebullida, Max Luna, Ea Torrado of Daloy, Jeng Halili, and Larawan film director Loy Arcenas.

The ethnic and Asian-inspired dances that followed “Blue Way” evoked a sense of awareness of the four elements of life – earth, wind, water and fire – in intricate, flowing and almost mystical dance movements complemented by Asian percussion instruments (bamboo, gongs and drums) and human utterings.

In 2017, Filipino choreographer-dancer Rama Marcaida was invited to create a new piece based on ethnic dances of the southern Philippines, Bohol-based theater artist Labad told the audience at the start of the show, where the resulting dances ‘Apat’ and ‘Mula sa Kaibuturan’ were premiered.

The two dances are attempts “to show the interplay of the four elements of life by fusing and drawing influences from several Asian dance traditions, and gather inspiration from the graceful pre-colonial Filipino writing system called the Baybayin,” Marcaida related at a forum after the performance.

“I wanted to give the audience a feel of what Asian dances look like, and improvise the rest,” he said, adding that the music was also purposely made “incomplete” so that the audience can participate in its completion in their mind and imagination. Marcaida studied Balinese and Indonesian dance in Bali and Jogjakarta on a scholarship under a cultural agreement between the Philippines and Indonesia.

Blue Ways Move

Dancer Marvin Ablao’s costume design for ‘Apat’ drew raves from art enthusiasts in the audience for its delicate combination of earth colors and versatile use of indigenous fabrics.

Labad thanked the organizers of the Manila Fringe Festival 2018 especially Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan for giving the dance ensemble the “historic opportunity” to be part of the festival.

Started in 2016, the company showcases Bohol’s dancers and invites choreographers (both Filipinos and foreigners) to create for the workshop’s top dancers. “The goal is to give visibility to the island’s dance talent and throughout the Philippines,” says the company’s post. “The dancers strengthen their experience and enrich their resumes with international artists coming to them.”

The company comprises professional dances and talented youth (apprentices). “They are paid for their rehearsal and performance time,” the same post disclosed, adding that the company “is a professional starting block for the workshop’s most talented. It is considered by organizers as “the meeting of East and West. We feel it is of utmost importance to showcase Filipino culture in our program, particularly with European tours coming soon.”

The Manila premiere of the Bohol Dance Project Company was made possible through the auspices of Guillaume Morgan and friends, Kasing Sining Teatro Bol-anon Ensemble, the Holy Name University, Mater Dei College, Buon Pastore, the Provincial Government of Bohol, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The forces behind Bohol Dance Project: Jay Banguil (left), Guillaume Morgan (center) with Lutgardo Labad (right).

A day after the Manila premiere, the Boholano dance ensemble performed “Blue Way” and an excerpt from the Boholano musical drama ‘Dagon sa Hoyohoy (Dagohoy)’ for the Visayan Theater Festival, Tampok Visayas in Bacolod City, organized by the Visayan Theater Networks through the NCCA.

Meanwhile, the Kasing Sining Teatro Bol-anon Ensemble announces the holding of the Fourth Bohol International Dance Workshop from April 9-21, covering training in Yoga, Ballet, Jazz, Modern Dance, Theater, and Indigenous Dances, with instructors from France and the Philippines. It will have a basic class and an advanced class. For more information, visit

Bohol Dance Project Dancers take a bow with Rama Marcaida.


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