On April 29th Vancouver celebrates International Dance Day with a series of events at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. Included in the line-up is a studio performance of gay Vancouver choreographer Alvin Erasga Tolentino’s OrienTik/Portrait. We spoke with Tolentino about his upcoming show, the importance of dance and his company’s tenth anniversary.
“Co. ERASGA are performing a 20 minute excerpt in a studio showing of OrienTik/Portrait,” explained Tolentino. “A studio showing allows us to present something in its raw state where the audience gets to see what it is like to work in a studio and develop a dance and engage with the dancers after the performance”.
And for Tolentino this is what International Dance Day is all about.
“It’s all about education,” continued Tolentino. “It is a celebration of a global awareness of dance and how it is not just necessarily used for theatrical purposes but is part of daily rituals and cultural practices around the world. It is a great way to introduce people to dance that may not know anything about it.”
And having grown up in the Philippines before coming to Canada in 1983, Tolentino knows a thing or two about dance as part of a cultural heritage as he says movement and dance has always been part of his upbringing. And although dance was part of his life since his early teens it wasn’t until he came to Canada that his work as a professional dancer really solidified during his time at the iconic Royal Winnipeg Ballet. And while Alvin laughs now about the tediously disciplined nature of the instruction he received at the RWB, he readily admits that it provided him with a solid foundation as the dancer he is today.
Beyond the classical influences gained from his time at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Tolentino sites such dance luminaries as Merce Cunningham, José Limón and Martha Graham as inspirations. But Tolentino also talks about his Asian heritage as another aspect from which draws his inspiration.
“I am very much influenced by my Asian roots and the cultural dance of Asia,” he said. “I honour these traditions by integrating them in my work; a fusion of East and West”.
For Tolentino though, fusion doesn’t just stop with culture, for part of his company’s mandate is to integrate other art forms with dance.
“I am always interested in applying dance and allowing it to breath beyond just movement,” he explained. “I have worked with opera singers, filmmakers, visual artists, enhancing the ability of dance to be expressed in other forms. Diversity is important and I am always looking at how I can partner and collaborate with other artists.”
As both a dancer and a choreographer, Tolentino also finds himself in an enviable situation.
“When I am choreographer I can understand what it is like to be a dancer,” he said. “And as a dancer I can also have empathy with the choreographer. While I don’t have a preference for one over the other, as both challenge me in different ways, I am able to be sensitive to both.”
And it is obvious that this sensitivity has served him well as this year’s International Dance Day takes on a whole different meaning for Tolentino as it also marks the tenth anniversary of his company.
With the International Dance Day performance as the starting point, Tolentino and his Co. ERASGA will undertake a national tour to celebrate this milestone. But also, true to Tolentino’s influences, it is much more than just an anniversary as it also serves to mark Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
International Dance Day
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Launched by UNESCO in 1982, International Dance Day celebrates the art of dance every April 29 with events worldwide. The Dance Centre will host a great selection of events taking place at Scotiabank Dance Centre this year, most of them free, with artists/companies including MovEnt, Spanish Passion Productions, No Hitting, Co. ERASGA, Dance 4U, SVS Style and Pixie Hoops. Visit http://www.thedancecentre.ca for more information.
Co. ERASGA Dance Society (aka Co. ERASGA) is a Vancouver-based contemporary dance company founded on the principles of innovation, artistic integrity and social reflection. Its works explore diverse and complex issues such as the nature of gender identity, ethnicity in a global world, and the nature of self in relation to the creation of art. Visit http://www.companyerasgadance.ca for more information.