Alice Reyes and Agnes Locsin: Pillars of Philippine dance

Two national artists shared classic pieces from their formidable bodies of work during the three-day dance concert “Pulso Pilipinas II: Alay nina Alice at Agnes” over the weekend.
The production featured Agnes Locsin’s “Igorot,” “Moriones,” “Elias at Salome,” and Alice Reyes’ “Carmina Burana.”

During the talkback session on Saturday afternoon, Reyes and Locsin, both National Artists for Dance, shared their experiences as visionaries and trailblazers for Philippine dance.

Reyes said she originally wanted to become a diplomat. Dancing for her was like eating and sleeping during her childhood years, since her family came from a clan of musicians. She began dancing with her father Ricardo Reyes, also known as “Mr. Philippine Folk Dancer,” at the age of five or six.

Reyes took up a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Foreign Service at Maryknoll College (now Miriam College) and completed her post-graduate studies at Ateneo de Manila University.

She said she became serious about dance when she received a scholarship from Ana Holm in Colorado College in the United States.

Locsin also grew up in a home steeped in dance. Her mother was a ballet dancer, and “the classes were held in our living room,” she recalled. “I grew up watching (them), and started dancing when I was two and a half years old.”

“I wanted to become a choreographer, but I didn’t know there was such a thing as a choreographer. I also wanted to be a dancer,” Locsin said.

Her first choreographic works were for her fellow high school students in school productions. “I choreographed most of the school activities and inter-class competitions,” she recalled.

When she took up Architecture in college, Locsin realized she missed dancing. “I came to Manila to study architecture and I wanted to be like Leandro Locsin. But I was sad because of the distance.”

Locsin returned to Davao and formed the Locsin Dance Workshop.

“I went home to Davao, formed a college dance group, and just kept dancing. My teachers were saying, ‘Agnes, you are neglecting your academics.’ But I just kept choreographing, and I was happy when I was choreographing. I got mad all the time, but I was happy.”

For the retrospective show “Pulso Pilipinas II: Alay nina Alice at Agnes,” Reyes said she made adjustments to the pieces to adapt them to the times. “I adapt with the times, I adapt with the dancers’ bodies, and it’s fun for me to make adjustments.”

Locsin, however, said she did not tweak her pieces much. “I have to make changes with regard to the participants, but the movements, they have to do it my way. They pass it on,” she said.

“I take inspiration from tribal dances; they’re stylized, and I use Western choreographic techniques… there is no misappropriation. I consider my works as a tribute to our tribal dances,” Locsin added.

In any case, “This (dance production) is wonderful, using two different kinds of choreographic vision and process.”

“Pulso Pilipinas II: Alay nina Alice at Agnes,” was part of the CCP Dance Series that started in late September and will end in December, with “Puso ng Pasko” — from 2 to 4 December –— as the closing salvo.

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