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Still enthralled by ‘Encantada’ today, 30 years after

Catch final weekend at Metropolitan Theater. The look and energy have endured—but it has evolved, been slightly tweaked

Encantada: Agnes Locsin tells her story to make you feel you have a stake in it. (Photo by Patrick Uy)

‘Encantada’ has its final run this weekend at Metropolitan Theater in Manila, April 21-22 at the Metropolitan Theater, with evening shows at 7:30 pm and matinees at 2 pm. All evening shows will have live music performed by Ayala and Ang Bagong Lumad with the Philippines’ World Music Siren, Bayang Barrios.

Among the most impressive mergers of theater art forms that premiered 30 years ago, Encantada, a Philippine dance piece choreographed by National Artist for Dance Agnes Locsin, has now been re- staged for a new generation. It has been said that re-staging is the litmus test of a work’s vitality. Will I still like it? Will it still impress me? Has the choreography changed?

When speaking about dance losing relevance for contemporary audiences, I quote the Pullitzer Prize awardee and dance critic Sarah Kaufman: “It is not the responsibility of an art form to stay relevant. Why must an art form bear the burden to stay relevant when it is not designed for that, at all? Art is made to endure.”

So it’s really up to you and me, the contemporary audience watching it. And I am watching it again, 30 years older.

This is a sold-out production by the Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

The crowd-silencing overture performed live by Joey Ayala and Ang Bagong Lumad underscores the entire plot of Encantada. It is intense and visceral, and I catch my breath as the curtain goes up and I am transported onstage, drawn to the rigorous set created for the dancers to traverse.

It begins. Overall, the look and energy have endured with updated lighting, costume design, and staging. Then all of a sudden, I notice there are new things about it; it has evolved, been slightly tweaked, still alive.

Entrancing ‘Encantada’

Encantada’s intentions become clear. It is an artistic celebration that moves post- modern ballet, as we know it, forward to what all else it can be, with new form: the physical body deglamorized. This is done by connecting dance to themes that impact our changing world: nature, destruction, the delicate and syncretic connection between our folkways and Christianity. It posits that syncretism always faces Christianity. As the Gospel moves through cultures, the listener is inclined to try to understand the message in light of indigenous faith and culture. It spins a story around stewards of nature vs. stewards of faith. It becomes an entrancing live performance.

Locsin’s choreography moves elemental, sovereign spirits and earthbound adversaries across the stage with splayed limbs, rolling necks, stomping feet, rippling torsos

Locsin’s choreography moves elemental, sovereign spirits and earthbound adversaries across the stage with splayed limbs, rolling necks, stomping feet, rippling torsos in ceaseless, hard and fast movement. The corps de ballet is reinvented, bodies flood the stage, moving with subtle balletic precision, feet planted to the floor, treating it like a dance partner while telling the story in glorious dance.

You take in a work like Encantada in small chunks, because there are many elements at play: the music, the lighting, the costumes and sets, the breathtaking choreography, and the considerable core work, strength, and discipline of the dancers.

I chose to zero in on Locsin’s spellbinding choreography and how a pedagogical framework of classical ballet and ethnic and contemporary dance techniques has informed her work, resulting in a dance form with a distinct identity, and not just a Western category, but an expressive Asean genre.

It is a rich and diverse well of cultural references she has drawn from: folk dance theater forms, rituals, traditions, and history. Locsin tells her stories in such a way as to make you feel you have a stake in it. Crafted with so much meaning and intention, Encantada has creative flexibility—which is why, after 30 years, it still enthralls.


Credit: Video by Christine Bremio

Encantada is directed and choreographed by Agnes Locsin; live music by Joey Ayala and Bagong Lumad; lyrics and libretto by Al Santos; set and costume design by Salvador Bernal; lighting design by John Batalla; technical direction by Barbie Tan Tiongco; featuring Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

About author

Articles

A former magazine editor, she writes about arts and culture, both as journalist and as friend to many of the country’s foremost artists, designers and the culturati.

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