Konnecting Body to Movement to Kwento
As I continue to process my first show with Kularts recent “In the Belly of the Eagle: Man@ng is Deity”, I listen to DJ Proof’s recent mix “Astig: A Tribute to OPM” and think about how I played - correction, how I presented - the character Dalisay 'Dolly' Bautista. Dalisay is an immigrant from the Philippines who traveled to Hawaii and then San Francisco with her Kuya Evaristo 'Dandy Boy' Bautista. New to San Francisco, the kapatids reunite with their kaibigan, Manong Valentino. As her Kuyas go to work in the fields, young Dalisay finds her profession as a Taxi Hall Dancer.
While her story is unfinished and will be continued to be explored for the world premier in 2020, I have understood Dalisay to be a symbol of optimism that comes when you land in America. When her character’s spirit resonated in my body, I felt excitement, awe, and wonder - all feelings you could experience when you go somewhere new. She was curious. She was ready for opportunities. To me, she represented the hope immigrants and their families carry when they leave the Philippines.
The feedback I received about my character has been thoughtful: “Where did she go?” “I felt your character’s innocence.” “Your character brought a different vibe to the stage.” Whether intended or coincidental, Dalisay served as a contrast to her fellow Manangs - she is fresh to the country, the work, and to the environment around her. As a Pilipina American, these were feelings I had to channel from conversations with my Mamang, Mama, Nana, Tita, and Mom - the Manangs in my life who brought me here. Their stories were channeled through Dalisay and continue to live within me when the show is over. Going through that process is one of the many beauties and challenges being a part of Kularts.
I paused my music and remembered how I had been wanting to dance with Kularts for years - 5 to be exact, since I first saw their 2014 production Maseg Typhoon. The way the music and movement was able to tell a story and evoke emotions drew me in. As a dancer, I aspire to achieve this. As a Pilipina American, this production inspired me to learn more about my culture’s roots through dance. And as I continued to watch its productions like Ba-E Makiling, She, Who Can See, or Incarcerated 6x9, I hoped I could one day be a part of its magic and influence too. Kularts was my introduction of what the arts could do to share the voices within the Philippine and Philippine American diaspora, and I am grateful to have been Dalisay’s vessel.
To be in “In the Belly of the Eagle: Man@ng is Deity” was a dream and an awakening. While I was challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally, the greatest thing I learned is how Kularts calls you to dig deep and not only absorb movement but also kwentos - stories - that may be rooted somewhere inside yours and your family’s past.
I know Dalisay and Evaristo’s kwentos were inspired by a friend of Kularts Artistic & Executive Director, Manai Alleluia Panis, and it’s only as I’m writing this that I realized how this story relates to mine - and many - family’s experiences of being separated at one point((s) and even for good) during their immigration journey. For my family, it was parents away from children or couples separated so a part of the family could settle in the States first or work in the Air Force. For other families, it’s to work as an OFW, in the Navy, as a Yaya, and more. To present Ading Dalisay and Kuya Evaristo’s kwento on stage is to honor my family, those of the Philippine diaspora, and especially the Pilipinas in my life. Like I shared on Kulart’s blog:
“...the more I practice the Taxi Dance Hall section, the more I understand the sacrifices womxn gave during the Manong generation. Like the Manongs but in a very different way, womxn sacrificed their bodies and time. Their efforts were exploited and painful, yet womxn persevered because of their conditions living in the States. Embodying these emotions and movements has made me respect them and the Pilipinas in my life.”
Being a part of this process has reminded me how powerful storytelling through dance is. It continues to be the way I translate my cultural identity and experiences because I’m not fluent in Tagalog. When I have seen that as a barrier, spaces like Kularts have broken down my wall of doubt. Being Dalisay has transformed my body into the voice my tongue wishes to be.
I pressed play on Proof’s mix and let the sweet sounds of OPM fill my room in hopes that it prepared me to be Dalisay 'Dolly' Bautista. If you were able to watch the show, in whatever way you interpreted her story, to me she symbolizes the wishes families and friends carry when they immigrate to the States. She is a Manang; She is brave; She is a part of our kwento.
More About Kularts’ “In the Belly of the Eagle: Man@ng is Deity”:
“The latest work by Alleluia Panis, with Music by Joshua Icban and Media Art by Wilfred Galila. Immortalizing the 8,000 mile immigration journey, the boisterous triumphs sought and achieved in America, and the unspoken reclusive contempts, MAN@NG IS DEITY is inspired by real-life accounts of Pilipina/o Americans from the 1920s-1960s in SF” (https://www.kularts-sf.org/manong-is-deity)
Stay updated on https://www.kularts-sf.org/ for more productions and event dates
Jazlynn G. Eugenio Pastor is a performer, activist, and aspiring educator. Raised in Alhambra, California, the most she knew of her culture was through her family. Before discovering her Pinayism, she wrote poetry and danced Hip Hop competitively. She began to find her roots when she moved to San Francisco in 2014 to study at the University of San Francisco. Through Kasamahan at USF and USF’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, Jazlynn has connected to the Fil/Fil-Am community. She is currently following her passions for culture and the performing arts by serving as Kasamahan’s Cultural Director, an Asian Art Museum Intern, and a member of Parangal Dance Company. She hopes to one day bring her experiences to higher education curriculum.