Dancers with Alvin Erasga Tolentino make selfless Offering to convey ephemeral moments of wonder

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      Dance makes for magic to Vancouver choreographer and artist Alvin Erasga Tolentino.

      The fleeting movements that a performer delivers are moments of wonder.

      “It’s ephemeral,” Tolentino told the Straight by phone. According to the founder and artistic director of the Co.ERASGA dance company, each motion is unique, never to be repeated.

      “There is an essential component that is really special to this practice, which is the delivery of it in the moment,” Tolentino explained.

      Dance is unlike art forms like painting or sculpture, he said, where a work is preserved as a final, unchanging entity. “In dance, every moment is different from yesterday and for tomorrow,” Tolentino said in an interview before the launch of a major production by his dance company.

      The work is titled Offering, and it will make its world premiere with a two-day livestreamed run at the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia Street, New Westminster) on November 28 and November 29. The show will be performed at 3 p.m. each day.

      Offering features solo dances by Molly McDermott, Olivia Shaffer, Marissa Wong, Joshua Ongcol, Marc Arboleda, and Antonio Somera.

      For the production, Tolentino asked the performers to reach deep and offer themselves like an act of prayer to the divine.

      Tolentino said that the dancers committed themselves not only to the idea of the show but also to the act of merely making it possible. They showed up for daily rehearsals amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic like a “ritual”.

      “They surrendered themselves, and to me that’s an act of being selfless and making an offering,” Tolentino said.

      Now it’s time to share with an audience the magic moments they create.

      “We perform not for ourselves but for somebody, for an audience, and when we do that, dance is elevated into another kind of energy,” Tolentino said.

      The Filipino-Canadian dancer noted that the pandemic has hit patrons of the performing arts, as live shows have been cancelled after the latest provincial emergency orders.

      In response, Tolentino said, “we’re transforming dance for the virtual world”.

      Alvin Erasga Tolentino is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his dance company.

      Offering was supposed to be an ensemble production to celebrate a major milestone for Co. ERASGA, which turns 20 this year.

      Because of health protocols related to the pandemic, the work became a collection of six solos.

      According to Tolentino, artists and arts groups face serious challenges because of the health situation. “We try to be as strong as we can,” Tolentino said.

      Co.ERASGA took its identity from the maiden name of Tolentino’s mother, who left the Philippines during the 1970s to work as a seamstress in the Canadian Prairies. He was a young boy at the time. The entire family reunited in Canada in 1983 after years of separation.

      Tolentino continues to be enthralled with dance. “I’ve seen some performances where I was really blown away,” he said, “and I don’t think I could see it again, because it was only given at that particular time.”

      This is where, for him, the magic lies in dance.

      “It’s a vanishing act,” Tolentino said. “It’s never the same."

      Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo