Dance Forum presents special repeat of Itim Asu: 1719 – 2009 on February 24

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byCassie Cheng

One-night gala at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium to feature contemporary dance version of Virginia Moreno’s play Itim Asu with choreography by Myra Beltran

Itim Asu: 1719 – 2009, a contemporary dance based on Virginia Moreno’s play Itim Asu/The Onyx Wolf will have a special performance at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza on February 24, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. Presented by Myra Beltran’s Dance Forum, Itim Asu: 1719 – 2009 combines video, dance, music, and sound to recreate Moreno’s “play within a play” in an ultramodern light.

The modern-day dance version is choreographed by Myra Beltran and features dancers from her Dance Forum and the University of the Philippines Dance Company. Melanie Motus and Marielle Alonzo will play the main character, Itim Asu, while Reagan Cornelio performs as Itim Asu’s husband, Governor General Bustamante.

Itim Asu/The Onyx Wolf has been staged in various versions in the early 1970s after it won the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ 1969 – 1970 National Historical Play Contest. Beltran’s choreography will “attempt to bring this important work of the 1970s and convey it in a contemporary language.”

“This drama is a play within a play, and contains the story of La Loba Negra, the Mexican wife of Governor General Bustamante, one of the more ‘exceptional’ governor generals in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era, and how she avenges his death,” says Beltran.

“Bustamante inspired an alleged conspiracy among the religious to assassinate him through a mob riot. Yet he is scantily mentioned in the pages of Philippine history. The document that recounts Bustamante’s death and the story of La Loba Negra is allegedly written by Father Jose Burgos, one of three martyred priests. Some dispute its authenticity, but that makes it all the more interesting.”

She adds, “Either there are layers of forgetfulness or layers of untruth in our history. I am interested in how this drama shows the level of complexity with which we, as Filipinos, create meaning in history, how we readily blur fiction and reality, and myth and history.”

“Our contemporary world is characterized by a deep questioning of previously held notions and a displacement of their once privileged status. Being a play within a play, this drama, for me, does not to pretend to one fixed meaning, but lays those layers of meaning for us; hence, I find it malleable to contemporary reconstruction. We are using contemporary dance, video, and sound design without spoken dialogue. This visual world is my translation of this drama’s point of view of history,” she says.

Filmmaker Sherad Anthony Sanchez, video collaborator, is best known for his internationally acclaimed Huling Balyan ng Buhi, and his Imburnal won the Woosuk Best Film Award at the 10th Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea in 2009. Sound designer and collaborator, Teresa Barrozo, on the other hand, is responsible for the score of Brillante Mendoza’s award-winning movie Kinatay.

Virginia Moreno was dubbed “The Empress Dowager of Philippine Poetry” by the late National Artist for Literature Jose Garcia Villa. Moreno was the lone female member of an influential group of writers in the 1960s who called themselves “The Ravens,” and counted among them was National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. Moreno has also served as Chair of the UNESCO Culture Committee of the Philippines.

Beltran is the trailblazer for independent contemporary dance in the Philippines, and her Dance Forum has led the way in using alternative performing spaces for dance. She is the founding director of the Wifibody Festival and the Contemporary Dance Map Series. Her dedication has pushed her initially solitary efforts into more than a decade’s body of work. Her dance studio, Dance Forum Space, has become a performance space that pushes experimental choreography and committed dance artists into new terrain in Philippine contemporary dance. Beltran has choreographed for local mainstream dance and theatre groups, and has also collaborated with numerous artists of various disciplines in China, Taiwan, and the United States.

Itim Asu: 1719 – 2009 had its world premiere in November 2009 at Dance Forum Space, playing to standing room only audiences, and is set to tour the country. Interested organizations or schools may e-mail the Dance Forum [email protected] about succeeding performances and tours.

The one-night gala performance of Itim Asu: 1719 – 2009 is by invitation only. For details on the show, contact The Lemon Circle at 0906-2943895.


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