The other night, a friend and I caught Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu in “La Bossa Fataka de Rameau” at the CCP Main Theater.
The show starts off with a large screen dead-center on stage, projecting a flower pot’s detail of a woman’s naked back coming to life. Perched on a head of a lion that also comes to life (eventually morphing into an elephant), the animation then becomes a backdrop as soon as the first dancer makes her entrance. Immediately, I began to welcome expectations of a zany journey, charmingly disjointed and Alice-in-Wonderland-like in structure; qualities that only the French can seem to pull-off without being ludicrous or pretentious. True enough, I got what I expected and more.
The dancing I have to admit was nothing too special; the dancers imitating animal movements (the chicken dance made me chortle as friends and I would usually do so whenever we’d feel silly), taking on free movements, often repeating the same steps. What caught my fancy, aside from the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing sweaty French men gyrating and yelling before me, was the message that came across. Amid all the modern choreography (an amalgamation of street dancing, jazz and ballet), most of the dances were set against Baroque music by French composer, Jean Philippe Rameau. It appealed to me that the show was celebrating the simple and pure joy of dancing, no matter the music.
I could relate to their showing man’s insatiable craving to “use all the bones” in one’s body to let go, to transmit, and to express and celebrate freedom. After all, I always take the time out to shut myself from the world, lock myself in my room, strip to my skivvies (or naked), and dance like there’s no tomorrow. I always feel happy right after. Endorphins and burning calories aside, as well as the surprise at finding me capable of being a pop star, the shedding of inhibitions loosens the cork up my ass. I even did this when I was slaving away in an office, often locking myself in the bathroom with my i-pod; shimmying like crazy, tie and long sleeves intact. Funny, once in the hallway of my condo, back from a night out with friends, I felt this sudden urge to break into dance. First, of course I made sure that no one was present; and that my favorite song was currently playing on my i-pod. Then, ten seconds into my Janet Jackson choreography, I caught my brother’s head peering from the door! In shock, I violently stopped midway as if post-epileptic seizure (or Turrets!), and gingerly made way to the front door. I vowed to be more careful next time.
What I found the most poignant about the evening’s show was the portion where the clown (whose tragic-like presence seemed to tie all the vignettes together) begins a melancholic soliloquy on the limits of speech. Set against a beautiful backdrop of an underwater view of a tiger swimming (its head above water), she began asking “would you feel my heart even if I don’t speak of it?”. It struck me how powerful actions are, and how life can manage to exist without words. Immediately, the graceful savagery of dancing as an expression of freedom took on an even deeper level.
Discussing this over dinner, my friend added that he had read somewhere how words tend to diminish or convolute what one actually means or would like to convey. And now, I think of what another friend once told me what one of her Philosophy teachers once said: “Why do we hide in the dark jungle of words?” as he attempted to understand what a student was actually trying to say. And now I compound my pondering even further with the question, are words really to blame or is it the meaning we give/have given them?
A discussion earlier in the evening, while waiting for the show to start, my friend and I carried on an almost-heated conversation on labels (i.e. how we brand people). I have heard this said by some people before: that they scoff at labels and would rather leave it out of any discussion. I admit that I get peeved whenever I get these remarks upon asking or confirming the sexual preference of someone. I feel it like the pink elephant that everyone chooses to ignore in a crowded room. Why should it matter negatively? Why should we walk on egg shells when we call a gay man a "gay man" if we can call straight men “straight”?
My friend’s voice began to rise continuing his defense that labels shouldn’t be, that they degrade the homosexual populace. With my cigarette trembling on one hand, I let out thick smoke ferociously, and spat out that the reason why he hated being labeled “gay” was because he still had not come to terms with his own sexuality. I explained that it was only logical to call a man who liked men “gay”, and that there need not be anything more to it. “Call a spade a spade” as another friend puts it. Why should you deny yourself of what and who you truly are?
He reasoned that “gay” had negative connotations. I agreed to this, but furthered my argument by saying that these connotations should not speak for all those labeled as ‘gay’. I was making him understand that to label someone ‘gay’ is to simply verbalize his or her sexual attraction to the same sex. Why should it need more meaning? To ignore this only furthers whatever stigma exists, just like the pink elephant getting pinker (its presence felt all the more) as people try their best to ignore it.
Then I realized my anger and frustration speaking in my behalf that night, and worked at changing the subject. As the evening progressed, and even to this day, I continue to consider our argument that evening.
Bombarded with images of scrambling animals on the large screen and animal-like dancers on stage, I considered other thoughts, grateful that it took my mind off the conversation on ‘labels’. I understood and agreed that we somehow tap into to the animal in all of us whenever we dance. And yet, given that a world can exist without words, are we really that different, if not ‘above’ the animal kingdom? Are words an excuse for all of us to betray our ‘inner animal’? Even when words escape us, we try to make up for it through simile and metaphor, or an extensive dissertation: words, words, and more words. Tonight’s show made me realize how many of us attach much negativity to our primordial inner animal, or to "primordial" truths we’d rather not face for that matter. All the dancing I just saw, all the dancing I have done is too pure and liberating to be a bad thing. Is it fear or arrogance that deters us from embracing the dance? When it comes to living life, wouldn’t you rather just strip, let go, and shimmy like there’s no tomorrow? But then again, these are just words; of course, to which actions speak louder than.