Ea Marie Torrado: Young and cutting-edge
MANILA, Philippines - In the age of hypermedia that has allowed for the fusion of dance and film, young Filipina choreographer Ea Marie Torrado is worth watching.
My first experience of Ea's choreography happened virtually via You Tube, now one of the most common venues for all kinds of artistic experiments.
What I saw was not just another experiment but a well-conceived artistic collaboration of dance, film, and architecture.
It was a site-specific dance titled “Embracing,” a lovely contemporary solo choreographed for Airdance artist Clarissa Mijares, set on one of the rooftops in urban-savvy Bonifacio Global City. At the peak of a high-rise building, the dancer's arms were spread like wings, perched uncertainly as she looked down as if to watch over the earth.
Her articulation was at once pensive, tentative, yet flowing. The dancer's long peach dress together with her edgy yet supple moves reminded me of Isadora Duncan frolicking in space in her sweeping tunic. Isadora was one of the founding mothers of modern dance, who achingly yet elegantly gave birth to a new movement tradition marked by freedom and natural expression.
Watch the video of 'Embracing' here:
The rebellious spirit behind modern dance was fueled by countless women through many decades, from Lois Fuller to Ruth St. Denis, from Martha Graham to Anna Sokolow. What we now know to be contemporary dance — where Ea's choreography springs from — was due to the early inventiveness of the modern dance mothers of our past, notwithstanding the male trendsetters in between.
Significantly, at the time of discovering Ea's dance film, I was in another part of the globe: in New York for a residency that exposed me to artists at the thick of collaborative creative work.
Fastforward to the present and I am back in the country, teaching at the State University. Just a few months ago, I found time to meet Ea, the young choreographer behind the dance film that enchanted me while miles away from my own country.
The 27-year-old dancer recalls how she started dancing in primary school, finding herself performing in school programs, parties, and family reunions. As a child, Ea loved performing in front of everyone; she would make up steps on her own, her version of me-time, playing, and daydreaming.
Her parents enrolled her at the Effie Nanas Ballet School at the food court area of SM North Edsa. “As a kid, I had so much energy, I could not keep myself still. My grandparents chose ballet because they wanted me to develop a good posture. The moment I saw fellow little girls in pink tights and leotards with their hair in a bun, (I knew that) ballet was where I wanted to belong,” Ea tells Rappler.
It was when she turned 12 that Ea decided she wanted to become a dancer. She was a recipient of a full scholarship at Lisa Macuja's Ballet Manila school. She recalled having to attend 3 ballet classes daily, not to mention rehearsals for the summer recital.
This allowed her to discover how challenging ballet was as an art, seeing other professional ballet dancers sweating it out to perfect the exacting dance craft in classes, rehearsals, and performances. She describes ballet as "beautiful, enchanting, magical."
Ea has worked for two of the Philippines's major dance companies: Ballet Manila and Ballet Philippines. For a year, she also worked abroad with the Dance Theatre of Tennessee.
Shifts and turns
While experiencing opportunities of dancing lead roles and living in a first world country and all the conveniences that came with it, Ea went through a period of disillusionment in dance. Like Isadora and the early dancing mothers who gave birth to modern dance in rebellion to ballet's rigid and restrictive style, Ea felt that ballet started to put her inside a box of an "ideal dancer" which she felt was no longer relevant to her.
Inside, she ached to find more meaning in her life and her dancing, beyond the stereotypical roles that the ballet company had to offer. Coming back to the country, she finally decided to put to rest her pointe shoes and become an independent contemporary dancer and choreographer.
Going “indie” is the new norm in dance nowadays, though there are some dancers who still choose the security of belonging to a dance company. Ea says about the benefits of going freelance: “Switching companies and freelancing taught my body versatility and adaptability. It layered my dancing with rich experiences from different mentors and teachers who approach dance differently.
"All those experiences made me find out what works best for my physique and natural sensibilities.”
Ea has never run out of things to do after deciding to go independent. She has been a guest performer with Steps Dance Project, Airdance, E-dance Theatre, Dance Forum, and Contemporary Dance Network Manila. She has also choreographed for the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School, UP Dance Company, Seven Contemporary Dance Company, and Wi-fi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival.
In February, Ea danced the lead role as Magayon in E-dance Theatre’s "Daragang Magayon." Besides taking freelance work, she has a full-time job as a teacher of PlanaFORMA, a new and emerging barre workout technique that fuses Pilates, yoga, and dance. She also teaches Zumba Fitness, a Latin American-inspired dance workout, and serves as a resident choreographer at the Marie Eugenie Theatre at the Assumption College.
“I am a young dancer-choreographer who believes in and enjoys continuing education through performances and collaborations. I am still finding my own language as a contemporary dance choreographer. And I choose 'contemporary dance' because of its big room for discovery and exploration, and the challenge of setting the parameters in that big room.
"Its audience are the ones who come to the show not only for shared humanity but because they are willing to question a piece of work and its motives,” Ea says.
Ea is a thinking dancer, injecting her works with thought-provoking insights and layered stories. Her work “Embracing,” she shares, was inspired by her experience of seeing young girls who live and survive through flooded places in the Metro, who seem to have no future ahead of them but remain brave in facing their realities.
Another work, also using dance and film, is called “Wallflower,” another solo done in tribute to the World Anti-Suicide Day. Another work of note is “The Overture,” a finalist at the Wifi Body New Choreographers Competition in 2008 at the CCP. Dance critic Edna Vida Froilan hailed “The Overture” as a "stand-out," being a commentary on a dancer's restive anticipation before a show.
Watch the video of 'Wallflower' here:
For Ea, the future of contemporary dance in the country is promising, mainly because of the network of artists who help one another, and the opportunities to dance abroad which Filipinos join, learn from, and share when they come back to the country.
“I think it is important to be hungry for learning and growth, no matter what age or level of expertise one is in one's artistic endeavors — to be generous enough to want to share it to the community, and humble enough to accept what that community has to offer as well.
"It also matters that there is a healthy, friendly competiton among artists just to inspire everyone to do excellent work that could develop a bigger audience and more following.”
As a testament to her ever-curious mind, Ea actively keeps a blog called Curious Dancing where she shares her thoughts on dance and life.
Contemporary dance may still be a new idiom for some audiences compared to the more accepted classical ballet. But for its sheer ability to communicate new ways of moving through the body while challenging set norms in dance, Ea says of contemporary dance: “It may not be popular, but it is worth watching.” - Rappler.com
Rina Angela Corpus is an assistant professor of Art Studies at the College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines. She survived Sandy while on special detail in New York in October 2012. She practices the healing arts of shibashi-chigong and Raja Yoga meditation. Her poems have been featured in Mad Swirl, Philippine Collegian, Philippines Free Press, and Tayo Literary Magazine.