by Joelle Jacinto
▶︎ Opus Series started with Brian Moreno’s The Masculine Drag. It begins like a photo shoot, with lights flashing sporadically on a darkened stage as the smartly-dressed Brian strikes several masculine poses. He takes off an article of clothing and continues to pose, slowly becoming an unintentional striptease - he is not teasing as he undresses, doing so very matter-of-factly. As he strips down his pants, he reveals that, underneath his menswear, he was wearing a dress. His poses gradually become dance movements, mostly of the genre he calls “Old Way Vogue” (Airdance, Opus Series performance programme, 23 February 2019), and his transformation into this masculine drag is complete.
This work is fascinating to me and, ultimately, the most satisfying of this evening, especially when it was a night where your sexuality is supposed to be confronted. I know that there are other dancers playing around with Vogueing as movement vocabulary in their work, and I have seen some really impressive hip hop Voguers in both freestyle and choreographed settings. I don’t know whether Brian’s technique is actually good but I think it is divine how he performs it, still with the cold, mechanical aloofness as when he was merely posing, but now with an alarming presence.
The evening was filled with alarming presences, actually, though some not as alarming as others. Most alarming was Angelique Baccay in Beauty Balaga’s 1c5p, where she is sitting provocatively in sheer lingerie, but with white gloves and stockings, walking her fingers up and down herself - arms, body, head. Scattered around her were the Airdance men (Moreno, Ian Nick Tiba, Justin Diolazo, Marvin Peralta and Joshua Bajado), wearing only boxers, who would stand around, convulsing after executing a movement phrase then suddenly rush towards her, surrounding her and rubbing themselves against her body, while she stares at the audience with a frightening deadpan. I realize that this is so signature Beauty Balaga, but somehow also super fresh as it is transferred onto other dancing bodies. The year before, Balaga had spent several months in residency with Airdance, under Prudenciado when he was still their artistic director, and they had developed this work from its original iteration.
Balaga likes to play around with gender roles in her work, as does her TA colleague Jodel Cimagala, making me realize that one need not be feminist, or a woman, to make politically-acceptable (if not exactly entirely correct) statements. Some may find 1c5p unnerving, maybe even offensive, but I like how it makes you think about empowerment from a different perspective.
Other perspectives of empowerment are seen in the works of Fechie Babaran and Joshua Bajado, who both offered two works, each with totally different themes, although both did present solos they danced themselves that seem quite autobiographical.
Joelle Jacinto is a dancer, teacher, and dance scholar.