Back in 2001, prolific Vancouver choreographer and dancer Alvin Erasga Tolentino teamed up with visual artist Miyuki Shinkai to create Minori/Fulfillment of Life, one of his most aesthetically striking works to date. Perfectly shaped blown-glass apples in bold reds and golds dangled from bamboo slats, while Tolentino moved beneath and about the shiny orbs. For BODYGlass, a new ensemble work he cochoreographed with Toronto's Peter Chin, Tolentino joins forces with a glass artist once again–but this time he ups the ante: not only will Jeina Morosoff's fragile, glistening creations offer an installation for audiences to gaze upon, but Tolentino will also "wear" objets d'art of varying shapes and sizes and dance with them.
Clearly, partnering with glass is no easy task. But the artistic director of Co. ERASGA says he has long felt a strong desire to incorporate the decorative material into his movement.
"I'm fascinated with glass," he tells the Georgia Straight. "It's so solid yet it's so fragile. It's much like the human body.”¦As I've discovered in working with it, it represents spirituality, clarity, transparency. It reflects and invokes reflection.
"From a scientific view," he adds, "glass is a supercool moving object. It's a cool liquid moving through a long period of time."
Although there is debate over that particular theory, Tolentino, too, could be described as a supercool moving object. The Philippines-born performer has studied a range of forms, from classical dance with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to contact improvisation with Vancouver's Experimental Dance and Music company. He has developed a distinct language that draws on martial arts and Asian and contemporary dance. Adding to the appeal of his East-meets-West vocabulary is his mind-bending ability to isolate, undulate, and gyrate every single muscle in his taut, tall, expressive body.
For her part, Morosoff became intrigued by glass more than a decade ago, after studying graphic design at Emily Carr Institute.
"You can work with it in so many different ways," she says in a phone interview. "The material has always been really mysterious to me.”¦You have to think about weight: it can't be too heavy, but it can't be too thin or then it becomes too fragile.”¦There's definitely a connection between glass and the body."
In BODYGlass, which features Gordon Wong's video images and an original score by Ted Hamilton, Tolentino and Chin will perform alongside Chengxin Wei, Billy Marchenski, and Deanna Peters. The multimedia collaboration takes place Wednesday to next Saturday (July 11 to 14) at the Centre A gallery (2 West Hastings Street), as part of the 19th annual Dancing on the Edge festival.
Tolentino likes site-specific work, he says, because it breaks down barriers.
"I wanted to do 3-D art that was not staged in a traditional theatrical place but where we're part of the audience and they move with us," he explains. "They're free to move to different areas [of the gallery] for different viewpoints. And the nature of glass does that: it can offer different perspectives."