Alvin Tolentino’s Rhythms enriches with passage of time

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      Alvin Tolentino believes that good things take time.

      Dance is an example.

      The Vancouver dancer and choreographer holds that a work needs to mature with its performer.

      “I really believe that it takes time for the dance to really live in the performing body,” Tolentino told the Straight in a phone interview.

      This is one of the reasons why the artistic director of the Co.ERASGA dance company likes to bring back previous productions, like Passages of Rhythms.

      The work is a trio of duets showing at the PAL Studio Theatre (Performing Arts Lodge, 300-581 Cardero Street) on May 19 and May 20.

      The return of Passages of Rhythms reunites Tolentino with Kasandra “La China”, a Chinese-Canadian flamenco dancer; Sujit Vaidya, a professional performer of classical Indian dance called bharatanatyam; and Gabriel Dharmoo, a voice artist.

      “Remounts give us the opportunity as artists to go back and see, how did I make this?” Tolentino said.

      He explained that it is often challenging to have this chance.

      “In the performing arts, you’re given a certain amount of funds and resources so that you can produce it in a short time, and you perform it two or three nights and then it’s finished,” Tolentino said.

      It usually never reaches “maturity over time”, he said, which is achieved when dancers get more chances to perform and go on tour. “That’s really when the work matures in the body of the artist and all of the artists working together.”

      Tolentino had this in mind when he initially planned to restage Passages of Rhythms, which premiered in 2019. Tolentino and his collaborators were supposed to return the following spring and go on tour. Of course, that didn’t happen, as the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

      “I have always been a creator of choreography who really loves to invest in the research and the creation and to perform it many times and to tour it,” Tolentino said.

      Sujit Vaidya, Alvin Tolentino,Gabriel Dharmoo, and Kasandra “La China” bring diverse skills and styles to Passages of Rhythms.
      Yasuhiro Okada

      This time around, Passages of Rhythms will go on the road.

      After its Vancouver run, the work shows on Salt Spring Island at Mahon Hall on May 27 and 28. Then it goes to Powell River, appearing at the Evergreen Theatre on May 30.

      The Filipino-born Canadian artist founded Co.ERASGA in 2000 and has created a body of work that has placed a great deal of focus on cross-cultural explorations. He has collaborated with a group of diverse artists in Offering, a collection of solos that premiered in 2020 and returned in 2021.

      This remount affirmed Tolentino’s belief in how time makes things better. “It’s not learning it over again but really understanding what we know already that’s in place,” he said.

      Artists also become technically more proficient.

      “When there’s time for the mastery, the performance gets a higher of degree of calibre, and that’s an important space that must be recognized and we have to enter into as performers,” Tolentino said.

      And with mastery comes the pure joy of performing. “There’s absolute freedom, an absolute kind of ecstasy,” Tolentino said.

      It’s the feeling he remembers from having performed his 2008 work PARADIS/Paradise 50 times.

      “I didn’t have to think of the dancing, that it was just in my body. It was like I knew everything. I could play with the material. There was a sense of play with the work. I was just playing with me. I was playing with music. I was playing with the audience and the timing. I knew it in and out.”

      He said he’s able to lose himself in the work that toured North America, Europe, and Asia. “I could dance it with my eyes closed,” Tolentino said.

      With the return of Passages of Rhythms, the Vancouver artist said that those who have seen it in 2019 should expect some changes.

      “We are remastering it in a way that is different from the first run, so I think we have a much more grounded approach,” Tolentino said.

      He explained that the title of the work speaks to the encounter of different genres that create new passages of contemporary artistic expression.

      Tolentino and his fellow performers will hold their dress rehearsal as a free show for seniors residing at the PAL social-housing facility on May 18.

      As part of the celebration of Asian Heritage Month in May 2022, they will also dedicate a show at a fundraising event by the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society. That performance takes place at the PAL Studio Theatre on May 21.