Last March 16 to 18, the La Salle Dance Company-Street (LSDC-Street) debuted its production Danz Dish 15: Taympers at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium after a year of preparation—both online and in the studios. Through the art of dance, Taympers aimed to highlight various socio-political issues and injustices faced by Filipinos. The production also serves as two firsts for the organization—the first face-to-face LSDC-Street show since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first theatrical-like performance of LSDC-Street divided into three acts with the elements of acting and costume changes.
First steps of the innocent
The first act of the performance started with the dancers clad in pambahay and elementary school uniforms. Act One focused on innocence as LSDC-Street danced to joyous tunes of Filipino children’s songs—all of which they composed and arranged—such as I Love You Teddy Bear, Dr. Kwak Kwak, and Bato Bato Pick. The children that the dancing ensemble portrayed knew nothing about the world’s cruelty, only comfort and playfulness.
Perhaps the most clever part of Act One was the incorporation of playground activities into the choreography. Instead of simply moving along to a simple dance, the core brilliance of the first act lay in how popular childhood games like Chinese garter and Maiba Taya, or tag, were utilized to tell a story. They skipped, ran, and jumped around the stage as if playing the game, all to the beat and in sync with each other. Alongside their sharp and practiced movements, the LSDC-Street performers showcased their acting chops as they played children immersed in their curiosity and naivety.
At the end of the first act, however, the joy took a sudden dark turn. After showcasing the joys of childhood, Taympers spared no effort to highlight the growing issue of domestic violence, which grew in cases amid the pandemic. As the stage lights dimmed and the music changed, a poem about how domestic abuse continues to and will continue to plague children all over the world was recited.
Dancing in the dark
In a smooth and passive transition, almost symbolic of Act Two’s message, the lights brightened once more on the passionate dancers, donned in similar clothing they wore in the first act but now possessing a more emotionally fickle demeanor. Long gone were the joyful children who knew only of fun and play—now older, but not necessarily wiser, the children that used to be full of childlike confidence were now beginning to doubt themselves. They expressed teen insecurity and painful awareness through graceful movements and expressive faces, the LSDC-Street troupe poignantly presented the dangerous walk on the tightrope of harsh societal expectations.
Starting with a rather joyful moment of finding their own identity, the performance curiously strayed away from the ups of self-discovery to the biggest highlight of the second act—the Shaggidy Shaggidy dance number. Prior to this performance, a gleeful little boy was finally on his way to discovering his true identity. Unfortunately, what was once a happy moment of sexual awakening later catapulted into sexual harassment during Sasara ng Bulaklak. To make things worse, an angry father suddenly appeared, unable to accept his son’s sexuality. The number was simultaneously realistic and creative, taking advantage of shadows and colored lights to tell its story, and leaving the theater audience mesmerized in a melancholic and deafening silence.
Significantly, Taympers makes it a point to not hinder itself from emphasizing the sad and incredibly disheartening realities that many LGBTQ+ Filipino youth experience, despite its sensitivity and how it’s usually controversial to portray the abusive realities of the LGBTQ+ youth. The very images of the lack of familial and societal acceptance are as harsh as they are, but it is even more so when corporal punishment from a loved one and ostracization of people who once accepted you come into play. As Act Two ended, they recited another poem about breaking free from a caged identity.
Unlike the sad realities emphasized at the end of the previous act, the last piece of Act Two gave a sense of hope. On the one hand, it emphasized the loss of innocence; yet on the other, it signified the wariness and newfound knowledge of sexuality, gender roles, and social norms. It was an empowering piece that showcased the yearning for freedom from abuse and the unfair expectations of society.
Last dance consciousness
Colorful stage lights that signified the freeing feeling of Act Three turned on. Whereas the previous acts portrayed the innocence of children and its ensuing loss, the performers in the third act were young adults clad in fashionable and bright outfits, hesitant and coy in starting relationships with one another. Unfortunately, as things are wont to do, the excitement and eagerness of the throes of young, budding love soon faded away, to be replaced with the harsh reality.
Bouncing off the consciousness that was gained in the previous act, this act tackled the complexities of more external socio-political problems such as binary gender norms, internal misogyny, and homophobia that are common in domestic and social settings. Unlike its predecessors, Act Three was shorter in length, though it delivered its message clearly and effectively through captivating dance numbers.
The very first number, Katawan, presented the loss of female innocence and the curse that accompanies the beauty of the fairer sex—men surrounded the sole female character onstage, perfectly encapsulating the fear of being trapped by those with ill intentions. Nota, the second number, started with a happy, floating feeling of falling for someone. Unfortunately, as the lead character shares her feelings, she is met with judgmental peers whose comments give a sense of internal misogyny given how those made judgments were fellow women. Finally, Hindi Ako Bakla breaks down whispers in the head to avoid presenting the gay character’s truest self.
Concluding Act Three, a grand presentation of the entire LSDC-Street company closed the production. There was notably less storytelling at this point of the show. However, by presenting the different dancers from the different acts of the production together, the audience is able to peek into the different stages we go through growing up.
Adding to the significance of the production, three organizations spoke to share their advocacies for victims of abuse and exploitation. Lunas Collective is a local volunteer-based online helpline for victims of gender violence and reproductive health. Childhope Philippines Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes street children’s welfare, spoke to share their advocacies for children’s rights. Additionally, the University’s own Office of Counseling and Career Services openly offered help to those in need. This portion concretized the message of Taympers because it allowed the audience to realize that there are real people who contribute to addressing the socio-political issues in the country.
As a perfect representation of the everyday Filipino struggle within our society, Taympers brought home the idea that no matter the circumstances that we grew up in, we all eventually bloom into our own. Everyone is a product of whatever experiences—fortunate or unfortunate—that they were put through. Most importantly, we become stronger because of them, not despite them.
With reports from Kim Balasabas