Marie Alonzo-Snyder: Dance is for everyone
MANILA, Philippines - The ebullience of Marie Alonzo-Snyder takes her dancing and being to newer heights.
A Filipina-American dance artist born in Manila, raised in Italy, schooled in New York City and presently an independent dancer-educator in Princeton, New Jersey, Marie has navigated across multi-cultural locations with her native instinct for curiosity and inventiveness.
Among her recent adventures is initiating an international Zouk-Lambada flashmob that included differently-abled dancers on wheelchairs in her current hometown of Princeton. The event took place last September.
Set to live percussive music at Hinds Plaza, some 40 dancers “spontaneously” assembled and started a semi-choreographed performance across the public space. Part of a global flashmob, the dancers were in solidarity with 3,000 others through more than 30 countries in 84 cities.
For this project, Marie got sponsorship from the YWCA Princeton and the Arts Council of Princeton. It was a way to unite the community through dance by bringing attention to Brazilian Zouk-Lambada dancing, a new social dance craze that originated in Rio de Janeiro.
For Marie, the main message in her joining this global dance movement — that could well be her prime artistic ethos — is simply, “Dance is for everyone.”
'Dancing' with Parkinson's
Another of Marie's recent dance advocacies is as a specialist dance teacher of Parkinson's patients at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio, something she was trained to do in a workshop with Mark Morris Dance.
“As people age in this disease, their movement capacity degenerates. Helping them to move in creative ways helps alleviate their condition and build self-esteem,” Marie shares, whose 85-year old father is also a Parkinson's survivor.
Not to mention that at 48, together with her other 40-and-up female friends, Marie also does pole dancing as a way, she says, to strengthen her muscle and limbs at an age where her body could easily fall into inertia.
As an active and independent dance artist and educator, Marie is an adjunct dance professor at the College of New Jersey and the Raritan Community College.
In between, she juggles her other dance activities as founder of Tangerine Dance, a collective of dances that she has choreographed and presented over the years in various spaces in New York, New Jersey and Canada.
She is also program director of New Jersey's Dance Vision.
After training in classical ballet following the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus of England, Marie was finally “allowed” by her “traditionally Filipino and Catholic” (read: conservative) parents to do her BFA and MFA in Dance at the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Marie also did her doctoral studies in Education at Teacher's College, Columbia University, that equipped her further with the ability to formulate dance programs and curricula in the institutions that she now works with.
Cultural blend in dance
Watch the dances Maria has performed and choreographed in this collection of videos:
Her dissertation was one of the pioneering scholarly explorations on female Asian American modern choreographers.
Her research significantly centered on the perspectives of immigrant dance makers examining issues of diasporic identities through staged images, looking at the works of Fil-Am choreographer Kristin Jackson, together with Hikari Baba and Muna Tseng.
Marie shares, “Though coming from a Western dance training with classical ballet and American classical modern dance technique of Jose Limon, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Lester Horton, yet having mainly performed with Asian American choreographers, I was inevitably drawn to the cultural blend of Eastern and Western movement sensibility that these choreographers have shown within their choreography.”
Dancing for women
One of Marie's notable works is Unveiling the Bamboo (2003) a duet of female dancers that makes use of the traditional malong cloth of Southern Philippines.
Besides a take-off of from her cultural roots, it was also a commentary on the culturally-laden use, oppressive or otherwise, of the hijab as a traditional outfit for Muslim women. Set to the poem of Elizabeth Madden-Zibman, the dance also highlighted the strength and resiliency of women in the face of adversity.
Another set of dances that draw from her Filipino roots are Seven Seasons, Songs of Nilad and Crispy Water & Sugary Air, that are explorations of the history of Jews in the Philippines and their little-known contribution to Philippine history.
Dance and kundiman
Meanwhile, Marie's Till you Return is a poignant solo set to the live Philippine guitar kundiman music of Constancio de Guzman, a multi-layered piece tackling not just a lover's affinity to one's beloved but also of the patriot's love for country.
Coming from her sustained commitment to dance practice and education for over two decades, Marie shares a quotable that struck me in my encounter with her, cluing us into her ebullient yet empathic spirit that has endeared her all these years to her audience, colleagues, students and even to her 'non-dancing' dancers:
“A professional dancer is one who dances with all and makes each one feel like a professional dancer, too!” - Rappler.com