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Dance Review

Troupes Travel 'Pacific Rim' Together--and Get Lost

July 15, 2002|VICTORIA LOOSELEAF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For 250 years, Spanish galleons (called El Nao de China), sailed between Asia and Spain laden with riches and evangelizing priests. In a program that seemed nearly as long, two local dance troupes, Danza Floricanto/USA and Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts ensemble, premiered their joint effort, "From Acapulco to Manila: An Untold Pacific Rim Story" at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday.

Ambitious but ill-conceived, the story exploring the link between Mexican and Filipino cultures probably remained untold for a reason: With a triple narrative (English, Spanish and Tagalog), sometimes drowning out the music, about 40 dance numbers in three acts dragged on as if the companies were in competition instead of collaboration. The project, dreamed up by Floricanto's Gema Sandoval and Kayamanan's Joel Jacinto (aided by co-directors Barbara Ele and Avecita Jacinto), never meshed. Indeed, moving back and forth between groups, a schizophrenic quality pervaded the night, as Kayamanan outshone Floricanto at nearly every turn--with more extravagant costumes, more varied choreography and an overall precision that made Sandoval's noble efforts pale by comparison.

Which isn't to say the evening was a total wash for Floricanto: Their Aztec take, accompanied by Christie Rios' solo drumming, teemed with energy, as did "La Iguana," where florid footwork led to uninhibited break dancing. The groups joined forces--albeit briefly--in "Lapay Bantigue," with lovely fluttering arms miming seagulls. Birds also inspired "Torayan" as Kayamanan members gracefully leaped and hopped on one foot.

The third act's "The Spanish Legacy" found the troupes doing their own versions of quadrilles, polkas, waltzes and mazurkas in ball gowns and tuxedos. "Jota Paragua," a kind of Filipino flamenco, wowed with five Kayamanan men spinning and stomping. The finale, "La Paloma," featured both groups joining hands and singing this traditional favorite.

Kayamanan's live accompaniment--a rondalla string ensemble and kulintang percussion group--also boosted their performances, infusing them with an energy that Floricanto's taped music could not match.

To its credit, though, Floricanto did make sporadic use of the rondalla, adding a trio of robust singers for good measure.

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