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Writer’s Recap: Dancelebration 2021 waltzes down memory lane

The art of dance goes beyond merely putting on a showーit is a shared experience that captures what cannot be put into words. For centuries, it has brought communities together by expressing ideas, emotions, and cultural traditions. But at a time like this when theaters remain empty, art must take on new forms. 

The La Salle Dance Company-Contemporary’s (LSDC-C) Dancelebration annually showcases the best student groups in Metro Manila. In its 31st year,  LSDC-C has taken the opportunity to instead showcase recorded footage of some of the best performances of its past iterations, allowing not only its seasoned patrons to reminisce about the past but also for newcomers to partake in the celebration of dance.

With its online shows hosted on Facebook, YouTube, and AnimoSpace on March 26, April 10, and April 11, Dancelebration: Showcase of Champions opened with a prerecorded number, Dancelebrate Your Dreams, which featured the troupe’s current roster with the vocals of De La Salle Innersoul. With powerful performances from the past, LSDC-C showed that the magic of the art form never fails to spellbind us once more.

Blast from the past

Dancelebration 2021 kicked off its exhibition with a retro 1995 performance from the UP Filipiniana Dance Group. This performance was then followed by a high school champion that may have come 10 years later, but moves even further toward the pastーHulag Dance Troupe’s oriental routine that incorporated the Chinese Guanyin thousand-hand dance.

Next were stages by Dancelebration 2006 champions UP Street Dance and the Company of Ateneo Dancers-Jazz. That year’s iteration was particularly unique in the sense that, unlike the other years, it did not have a designated theme. Despite competing in the same year, UP and Ateneo’s performances couldn’t be any more different, with the UP team choosing to pay an energetic homage to classic Hollywood movies and the Atenean dance troupe putting on an elegant folk dance-infused classical stage. 

2010 champion St. Benilde Romançon Dance Company-Contemporary then closed the first half of the Dancelebration highlight reel. In line with the theme “Youth for Nation”, the Benildean dance company incorporated the culture of the muro-ami divers in the central and southern regions of the Philippines, putting on a unique performance filled with intensity from start to finish.

Love, culture, and heritage

Celebrating its back-to-back wins, Indayog ng Atenistang Kabataan (IndAK) of the Ateneo High School took the stage at Silver Dancelebration 2012 with the theme of being athletes for God. With showstopping grace, the troupe depicted the courage of resisting obstacles in choosing to fight for the glory of God.

Then it was back to the UP Filipiniana Dance Group once again; their spectacular Love Dancelebration 2013 number brought their own interpretation of what love is and can be, with pairs of dancers taking flight and smoothly gliding across the stage. As the showcase roared through the late 2010s, the AMA Dance Troupe took the helm at the street-themed Dancelebration Avenue 2014, where it brought out a rhythmic celebration of people from various walks of life.

Up next, Elite Scientia’s winning turn at the World Dancelebration 2016 brought a nuanced perspective into different global issues. In the following year, Reel Dancelebration 2017 challenged dance troupes to turn everyone’s favorite film masterpieces into performances. First off was the moving 47 Rōnin (2013) number by Dance X of Xavier School San Juan which paid tribute to the 44 Special Action Forces who perished in the 2015 Mamasapano clash. On a lighter note, the college division champion made an exciting and heartfelt portrayal of the 2016 Disney movie Moana, as the Nexus Cardinals of Mapua University danced along to the many tunes of the thrilling adventure.

Setting the stage

However, Dancelebration 2021 did not simply stop at celebrating the most iconic performances throughout its long years of existence—it also lauded the efforts of those who work behind the scenes. The event featured short interviews with the organizers, choreographers, and judges who built Dancelebration from the ground up.

Ms. Darcy Grefalde, former member and company manager of LSDC-C, shared that a major challenge in organizing Dancelebration every year was agreeing on a timeline. “We really had to give critical planning to our schedules,” Grefalde said, “because participants will be coming from different schools and colleges.”

On behalf of the coaches, Mr. Xernan Alfonso, artistic director of Ateneo High School’s IndAK, explained that when he participated in Dancelebration as a dancer, all he had on his mind was simply “to dance well.” But as a choreographer, he had to take into account Dancelebration’s yearly designated theme, pushing the limits of his creativity. “The bulk of the work is thinking of how you’re going to formulate the routine,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ace Lebumfacil, a judge for Dancelebration since 2003, expressed that the event has allowed him to witness the unending growth of dance throughout the years. “Everybody was really bringing their game up,” he stated, “[Whenever] I judge, I get surprised every time.” 

A showcase of unending dreams

Amid this disconnected era, LSDC-C’s exhibition strives to show that even when there are no physical stages to dance on, nor any live audiences to perform to, dancers need not put an end to their step sequences. They prove that there is, indeed, a way to keep the flames of dance burning, even when the world itself is in a tango with a fatal pandemic.

Though the lights may be off and the future may seem unclear, Dancelebration: Showcase of Champions invites us to reminisce the evolution of dance that has persisted through many trials and tribulations. As we wait for the crisis to end and for the music to start again, may this generation’s dancers be reminded of the torch that their forebears have passed onto themーthe mission to keep the art of dance alive.

By Matthew Gan

By Criscela Ysabelle Racelis

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