Alvin Erasga Tolentino explores colonialism
|Written by Mark Robins|
|Thursday, 27 September 2012|
Choreographer and dancer Alvin Erasga Tolentino returns to his Filipino roots in an exploration of colonialism, in his new solo piece set to play the Roundhouse Community Centre in October.
Working with four fellow Filipino artists (costume design, video, dramaturgy and composer), Tolentino hopes that the new work from his dance company Co.ERASGA, appropriately titled Colonial, will not only help him and the Filipino-Canadian community reconnect with their country’s history but will show Canadian audiences the parallels that he sees between what is happening in his birth country and in Canada.
For that connection Tolentino explores colonialism not only as it is linked to the historical Spanish colonization of the Philippines in 16th century, but as an extension to what he sees as the colonization brought on by the country’s ties with United States and the subsequent Americanization through culture and consumerism.
“This is something that is really important to me,” says Tolentino. “Colonialism is everywhere; for me returning to Philippines is important as it retrieves my identity and brings me back to my roots.”
Having met dramaturg Dennis Gupa from the University of the Philippines during a visit to the Philippines in 2007, Tolentino admits to having a gap in his historical knowledge that he knew Gupa could fill.
“Dennis works with social theatre that deals with community and society so I invited him to my company to be co-creator of this piece to provide the historical perspective, that information that I didn’t have [about the Philippines],” he explains.
Drawing from historical, mythical, personal and political themes, Tolentino and Gupa explore the historical notion of colonization through a trio of portraits that include primordial Babaylan, a healer cum priestess, the Katipunero/Katipunan, a bloodied warrior and finally Sinag, who invites us ceremonially to enlightenment.
Through this exploration Tolention hopes to pose the notion that understanding and acknowledging one’s culture is not only important, but there is an imperative in acknowledging that colonization is present in the modern world and in recognizing the need to de-colonize as an individual.
“You do that by living life to fullest as your own self but having a sense of what has happened in the past; you must acknowledge the wounds and in the realization that one’s history cannot be forgotten.”