Affective Labor and the Philippine Body by Patrick D. Flores

For this panel on “bodies politic,” occasioned by the 8th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art [1], I would like to look at the theme as referring to the political nature of the body. I am drawn to the phrase “political nature” because it tends to surmount certain divides between a sensing body and a sensible practice. In this regard, I turn to the Philippine term naturaleza, which is obviously a Hispanic derivation. It roughly means the condition of a person’s body, or better to say, an embodiment of its life force, its level of vitality; in the old Spanish lexicon, it is essence and attribute, in other words, “nature” in the sense that it is a “quality” and therefore not opposed to “culture.” In fact, the nature and culture duality is transcended by the concept; it makes of the body a vessel of distinction and hence of discrimination; and of nature as human, a biological and political form that enlivens and at the same time enfeebles. Naturaleza is perceived to inhere in the person so that whatever is perceived as coming from the outside, or the foreign, is mediated by it. This naturaleza may be discerned as part of a person’s destiny, an inheritance, conditioned by lineage and the state of the body that is always vulnerable as it is self-renewing, finite as it is persistent. It may also, however, be regarded as a medium in the active process of the body’s response to the various ways by which it is acted upon by an ill wind or a virus or a curse.

Naturaleza may be akin to the word favored by Spinoza, by way of Étienne Balibar, which is ingenium. It is a complexion or a temperament, “a memory whose form has been determined by the individual’s experience of life and by his various encounters, and which, as a result of the unique way in which it has been constituted, is inscribed both in the mind (or soul) and in the disposition of the body.” For this presentation, I propose the framework of naturaleza to talk about contemporary art practice in the Philippines that is sustained by an inquiry into affective or intimate labor.

Much has been said of the exceptional techniques of the Philippine body to perform affective labor across the globe beginning in the nineteenth century. This labor has assumed diverse forms, from entertainment to care giving, and has significantly shaped the economy of the country in recent time. This presentation will sketch out lines of conversation between the practice of Eisa Jocson and the theoretical efforts of Rhacel Parreñas in her study in Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo on what she calls “indentured mobility” to describe the condition of Philippine migrant workers in Japan. Tangential to this discussion are the initiations of Russ Ligtas as well as the projects of Chinese artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan and Tintin Wulia on Philippine domestic workers in Hong Kong.

In discussing affective labor, I turn to Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt who define the term as “labor in the bodily mode,” investing in the intimacy of human contact and interaction in their book Empire. According to them, “what affective labor produces are social networks, forms of community, biopower.” They continue that in affective labor, “the instrumental action of economic production has been united with the communicative action of human relations.”

Eisa Jocson fleshes out the Philippine body as a body of entertainment that mediates the pedagogy of its source, mimics its habits, and complicates the nature of the body. Jocson is an artist in the field of performance. Her research on the practice of macho dancing, or dancing by male performers in a gay bar in the Philippines, had culminated in a performance piece titled “Macho Dancer.” She elaborated on this project in the exhibition “Philippine Macho Academy” at the Vargas Museum: a fictive structure or institution that serves as a classroom where the principles of macho dancing in the Philippines are analyzed and conveyed.

This exhibition is a documentation of Jocson’s research and articulation of macho dance movement vocabulary. It comprises artifacts, texts, drawings, video, installation, and performance. It is a course on the physical principles of macho dancing based on a syllabus designed through a woman artist’s macho dance practice. Central in this project is the affective labor of man performed in the woman’s body. The latter undergoes both physical change and social habit, ultimately complicating the notions of the feminine and the macho.

All this is materialized in the body and its movement. The artist makes ample reference to it in the form of drawing and performance, as well as the ethnographic details of her research and collaboration with practitioners. She also notates it in the modernist method of Laban, rendering turns of the body graphic, and so reflecting on erotic desire and the devices of modernity. This is her articulation of a striptease: a laying bare of the gendered body that finally becomes queer.


It is interesting to note that Jocson is keen to probe the implications of the vertical and the horizontal as indices of control and release. In an earlier work on pole dance, she argues: “It is a series of public interventions that moves the practice of pole dancing to the public landscape using urban fixtures as sites for play. These architectures of control strategically placed as constraints and disciplinary objects are transformed into playground fixtures for movement exploration. The pole dance vocabulary is used as a starting point to initiate other possibilities of moving in a given site with urban fixtures. I tag and document each public intervention, in the process mapping the fixtures in the urban landscape. The public intervention intends to provide an alternative practice and a different perspective towards how our bodies move within the urban landscape.”

I zero in on Eisa Jocson’s practice because it raises important issues in the political nature of the body in terms of expenditure, exhaustion, pedagogy, discipline, and dissemination. But on the other hand, it also implicates the conditions of affective labor in a migrant context. Here the work of Rhacel Parreñas on Filipina migrant hostesses in Tokyo becomes cogent. She argues that to more fully understand the tension between “coercion and choice” embodying “labor migration experiences…we need to dismantle the binary framework that separates these two distinct migratory flows and construct a middle ground that recognizes the agency of migrants without dismissing the severe structural constraints that could hamper their freedom and autonomy.” Parreñas provocatively marks out a “middle zone between human trafficking and labor migration” and calls it “indentured mobility,” a process that creates degrees of unfreedom and financial and sexual liberation.


photo credits: Andreas Endermann c/o tanzhausnrw

I bring up this notion particularly because it has animated the work of Eisa Jocson who has done work on the Philippine entertainer in Japan, focusing on the various forms, from the traditional style to pop, and will work on Philippine entertainers in Hong Kong Disneyland.

Another trajectory that this discussion on affective labor opens up is a possible queerness, a quick-change procedure that reveals layers of repressed personae that are then performed as a protracted confession. I reference here the work of Russ Ligtas on a multi-character persona called Mdm. B. Niyaan is Russ Ligtas, or Madam Abandoned is Russ Ligtas. The piece takes off from the original one-hour performance Mdm. B. Niyaan is Russ Ligtas where the artist undergoes an exercise to manifest the character Mdm. B. Niyaan and in doing so manage the suffering caused by a tragically frustrated love affair. “Being B. Niyaan” extends the second step of the exercise. Around the perimeter of the Cultural Center of the Philippines fountain, Mdm. B. Niyaan, according to Ligtas, continues the cycle of her grief: from the heights of her most ecstatic memories to the consuming depths of her anger and pain. The performance covers eight hours, one cycle of the ramp covers an hour of Being B. Niyaan. She relives her origin and being, ending only after she’s clocked in a day’s work. It is interesting to mention that Mike Parr also performed in the premises in 1995 as a bride.

Finally, this conjuncture of migration and affective labor, this exceptional sentimentality in foreign spaces that is rendered ultimately intimate, has prompted artists outside the Philippines to speak to the condition of the Philippine bodies that are embedded in the houses of their masters like some terrorist bomb or seen as forming a sprawl, a horizontal gathering across an urban space marked by cardboards that become houses. I refer to the work “Hong Kong Intervention” in 2009 by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu in which they asked Philippine domestic workers to plant bogus bombs in the houses of their employers, photograph them, and ask their fellow workers to take a photograph of them standing with their backs turned on the lenses. I also bring in here the 2016 work of Tintin Wulia called “Five Tons of Homes and Other Understories” on the used cardboard boxes appropriated by Philippine domestic workers in Hong Kong as transient floors or mats in urban pavements during their rest days. These works are potentially provocative, inscribing the internal danger of strangers who dwell in domestic spaces and the occupation of public space by both body and cardboard.

These brief notes on the political nature of the body in the Philippines hopefully stir up interest in affective labor in the migratory ethnoscape. I think it is important to talk about the habits of the body and the changes it has to carry out – out of a robust relational will or under adverse duress – in situations of self-disclosure and collective desire. There is a need to speak to the consequences of pedagogy and repetition as well as the promise of sympathy, intimacy, and the sadness as well as the thrill of indentured mobility and the mediation of the compromised but prevailing naturaleza of the Philippine body.

BIO | Patrick D. Flores

Patrick D. Flores is Professor of Art Studies in the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, which he chaired from 1997 to 2003, and Curator of the Vargas Museum in Manila. He is Adjunct Curator of the National Gallery Singapore. He was one of the curators of Under Construction: New Dimensions in Asian Art in 2000 and the Gwangju Biennale (Position Papers) in 2008. He was a Visiting Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1999 and an Asian Public Intellectuals Fellow in 2004. Among his publications are Painting History: Revisions in Philippine Colonial Art (1999); Remarkable Collection: Art, History, and the National Museum (2006); and PastPeripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (2008). He was a grantee of the Asian Cultural Council (2010) and a member of the Advisory Board of the exhibition The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989 (2011) organized by the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe and member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council (2011 and 2014). He co-edited the Southeast Asian issue with Joan Kee for Third Text (2011). He convened in 2013 on behalf of the Clark Institute and the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines the conference “Histories of Art History in Southeast Asia” in Manila. He was a Guest Scholar of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 2014. He curated the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015.


[1] The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Conference 23 November 2015, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia. First publication of the text. (ed.).

Review “Host”: Die Dämonen einer Erotiktänzerin

“Host”: The Demon an erotic dancer

25. Jänner 2016, 07:02

Ein gespenstisches Glanzstück der philippinischen Choreografin Eisa Jocson im Tanzquartier Wien Wien – Es ist ein glitzerndes Bild, das die philippinische Choreografin und Tänzerin Eisa Jocson an den Beginn ihrer neuen Soloarbeit Host setzt: eine Geisha-Figur in rubinschimmerndem Paillettenkimono. Rosa Licht, rotes Papierschirmchen, dazu ein süßlicher Song: “Let me call you sweetheart …” Sehr nett, aber in dieser Dekoration steckt etwas Böses. Host wurde am Wochenende im Rahmen des Projekts kültür gemma! für migrantische Stadtkultur vom Tanzquartier Wien gezeigt. Ein guter Griff, denn Jocson gehört wohl zu den vielversprechendsten jungen Choreografinnen von heute. Nachdem sie einen Pole-Dance-Wettbewerb gewonnen hatte, zeigte sie 2011 ihr erstes Solo mit dem bezeichnenden Titel Death of the Pole Dancer. Auf diese eher beunruhigende Körperinstallation folgte Macho Dancer: Jocson trat gendershiftend als ekstatischer Erotikbar-Tänzer in Stiefeln und mit ausgestopfter Hose auf. Ein Volltreffer, in dem sich Themen wie Transkulturalität, Körperausbeutung und die Erosion von Geschlechternormen überschneiden. Jetzt öffnet die Künstlerin weitere Vorhänge des Unterhaltungskleingewerbes. Dabei holt sie die philippinische “Japayuki”-Erotiktänzerin ans Licht, die in japanischen Herren-Clubs auf spiegelnden Laufstegen als “Entertainment-Servicemaschine” dienstleistet. Das verführerische Anfangsbild von “Host” verzieht sich, als Jocson eine Oni-Maske aus dem Nô-Theater aufsetzt. Nun verkörpert sie eine Hannya, eine gehörnte Dämonin, wie sie auch im alten japanischen Kagura-Tanz aufscheint. Ein gequälter, gefährlicher Geist mit spitzen Hörnern, metallischem Blick und anzüglichem Grinsen. Diesen Blick behält Eisa Jocson bei, als sie Paillettentraum und Maske abgelegt hat und fächerschwingend in einem traditionell aussehenden Kimono weitertanzt. Die Begriffe “host” (Gastgeber) und “ghost” (Geist) sind miteinander verwandt: Als Gespenst einer Geisha kniet sich die Tänzerin vor ihr Publikum. Noch zweimal häutet sich Jocson, bevor sie als postmoderne Dämonin mit Schlangenbewegungen in anregende Musik und geiles Licht tanzt. Corsage, Zopf, schwere Stiefel. Einen Sessel im Schlepptau, stampft sie auf dem Spiegelsteg, bricht die Musik ab und zeigt: Es gibt eine Stille, in der das langsame Öffnen eines Stiefel-Reißverschlusses dem Publikum direkt in den Kopf knackt. Dieses Knacken geht in ein fernes Klopfen über, das immer näher zu kommen scheint, während sich Jocson in extremer Verzögerung bewegt. Es ist wie in einer Unterwelt. Im Gegenlicht umrahmen fahle Konturen ein gelöschtes Gesicht, einen ausradierten Körper. Posen werden in so großer Spannung und so lange durchgehalten, dass Jocsons athletische Beine zittern. Bis eine bestrahlte Discokugel die Unterwelt auflöst und das böse Glitzern wiederkommt. Es folgt die letzte Häutung. Das Gespenst, jetzt in ein sexy Kleidchen mit langen Fransen gehüllt, ist perfekt. Es braucht keine eigene Stimme bei dem Song, zu dem es mechanisch routiniert tanzt: “I want nobody but you” der Wonder Girls. Und Abgang im Zeichen einer trostlosen Heiterkeit. “Host” ist gelungen. (Helmut Ploebst, 25.1.2016) –


photo credits: Andreas Endermann c/o tanzhausnrw



Vanini Belarmino in conversation with Eisa Jocson

Having received training at the Philippine High School for the Arts and the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, what was the impetus that triggered your relationship with contemporary dance? 

I had classical ballet training from 7 till 12 years old. I decided to enter PHSA with a focus on visual arts and took ballet as an elective. I then continued my education in visual arts at the University of the Philippines, College of Fine Arts majoring in Sculpture. On my 3rd year of university, I had to choose between taking up nursing or visual communications. I chose the latter.
I was introduced by my aunt to pole dancing during my last year at university. As the first batch of students learning pole in a dance studio context, we received a lot of stigma. I had been practicing for 2 years, became a pole dance instructor myself before I saw the potential of pole dancing as a tool in my artistic practice. Pole dancing being heavily charged with its own history was in an interesting period of transition and appropriation from the nightclubs to the fitness industry. The shift lies in the embodied engagement with pole dancing. The physical labor, monetary investment, change of lifestyle to become a ‘pole dancer’ is exposed. For those practicing pole dancing in this context, it is no longer an image outside of their sphere but a lived practice that brings with it a different set of conditions as well as community formation.
Stainless Borders: Deconstructing Architectures of Control was the first work inspired by my pole dance practice. The work is an intervention in public space that combines guerrilla street pole dance techniques with graffiti tagging on top of street poles. The work was first developed and performed in Manila and was presented in Coup de Ville (2010) an international art festival in public spaces in Sint Niklaas, Belgium. Within this period, I had an artist residency with FoAM, a Brussels-based cultural laboratory. I was then researching on the politics and potentialities of pole dancing.
In 2011, through Tang Fu Kuen, I was commissioned by In Transit performing arts festival in Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin to make a piece around the theme of Spectatorship. I was at that time in artist residency with Nadine in Brussels. Under these conditions I was able to create my first solo performance work. Death of the Pole Dancer interrogates the way we look at what we think we look at. The audience is brought to reflect on what they witness: a woman during the act of pole dancing. The performance renegotiates notions such as voyeurism and restraint, vulnerability and violence, sexuality and power.

Could you share and elaborate on how you moved forward from ballet, burlesque then pole dancing alongside your visual arts practice towards the development of extended research about the economics of the body? 

Ballet was formative in my physical and movement orientation. My visual arts education and practice gave me access to theoretical discourse. Pole dancing enabled me to investigate movement in relation to its social context.
In 2012, I moved away from pole dance as a tool in my artistic practice. I decided to learn the opposite gendered language in the realm of night work – macho dancing. Visiting several macho clubs on a regular basis, I invited good macho dancers to teach me. It took me a year to become aware of existing movement habits and to transform the movement practice of my body. A change of lifestyle was necessary; going to the gym became part of the research. I was stepping outside my given body politics as a woman as well as expanding spatial sphere into the urban nightclubs of Manila. The work Macho Dancer was made between Manila and Brussels. It premiered in Brussels in 2013 and toured different cities in Europe, America and Asia. I approached Patrick Flores of Vargas Museum to make an exhibition about the process behind Macho Dancer which resulted in a solo exhibition in March 2014 titled: PMA; Philippine Macho Academy. The exhibition refers to a fictional institution of masculinity. It was then invited to the Wifi contemporary dance festival 2014 in Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The idea for the next work came in 2011 when I first visited Japan. Curious about the existing relations of Philippines and Japan I became fascinated with how Filipino/a entertainers negotiated their identity to fit into the demands of their Japanese clients.

During my residency with Saison Foundation in Nov 2014, I met a transgender Filipina hostess who transmitted to me one of her dances. In parallel I was learning Nihon Buyo as a way to get some understanding of Japan through the body. Host was created in Tokyo, Brussels, Yokohama, Metro Manila and finally premiered in Dusseldorf in May 2015. I had to reorient my body away from macho dancing into a malleable vessel that is versed on transcultural notions of feminine representations.
I am currently researching on Filipinos dancing in Disneyland Hong Kong. In 2008, I made my bachelors thesis on the state of Ballet Philippines post-Disney exodus. Where in half of the company members went to work in Hong Kong Disneyland. I am revisiting the subject from the point of view of those who went or are still there.

In the last 5 years, you’ve embarked on an intensive (intensified) process of exploring a range of dance vocabulary, shifting gender orientation, and completing an anthology on the Filipino sexual capital through Death of a Pole Dancer, Macho Dancer and Host – how would you define your role in the retelling and/or appropriation of their stories? 

I approach these subjects from within movement languages specific to each context. There is a long and intimate transmission process between my teachers working in the field (macho clubs, host club in Tokyo) that results in my embodiment of their dance practices. Dancing their dances does not equal to telling their stories. These marginal movement practices loaded by their specific context become tools in destabilizing dominant and comfortable ways of seeing. All 3 works operate in the dissonance between perceived notions of reality and performed embodiment.

In the numerous interviews you’ve given, you’ve consistently highlighted the apparent economic challenges by those working in the professional sex industry, how would you say this has paved way for you as a Filipino artist, performer & choreographer, being heavily supported and presented by European institutions?

I am concerned how the body moves and what conditions makes it move; social mobility and non-mobility as well as movement out of Philippines in the form of migrant work. I am interested in current body languages formed by social conditions. It follows that our body politics is a reflection of the society we live. What is shared between pole, macho, host is that capital is a driving force of movement in the body and in into spatial geographies. I work between Manila and where there is support for what I do; Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong etc.

How do you manage the physical and mental demands of these diverse performances particularly that you have been on an on-going tour, research and residency?

I’ve found myself in a state of floating in between intense periods of work. Shifting between extreme focus and blur. It’s a strategy that the body naturally adapts. Working in cycles I physically and mentally prepare slowly. I spend a lot of time on one thing only gearing up at the end of a work phase. Then there is nothing left but to float, rest, sense. And then I start again. There are routines that are vital that I try to keep constant: meditation, chanting, reading, yoga. It is important for me to be grounded back in Manila with family and friends and to keep connected to the context and lived reality of the Philippines.

Vanini Belarmino is curator, producer and writer, trained in theatre arts, art history, European cultural policy and management. She is Founder and Managing Director of Belarmino&Partners, an international cultural and arts consultancy, established in Berlin (2008) and Singapore (2011). Vanini is a 2015 Asian Cultural Council Curatorial Fellow. 


APR 23 2014



In an unlikely underground bar in the outskirts of Geneva, as part of the Antigel festival last February, contemporary Filipina dancer and artist Eisa Jocson delivered Macho Dancer (2013), a solo performance based on her study of male macho dancers, a distinct breed of performers who haunt Manila’s gay bar scene. Trained as a visual artist and with a background in ballet, Jocson investigates representations of the body. ArtAsiaPacific sat down with the artist to discuss her views on exposing gender biases, the politics of seduction and what constitutes Filipino identity.

Macho Dancer WTP #05

EISA JOCSON performs Macho Dancer, 2013. Photo by Giannina Ottiker. Courtesy the artist.

In your solo Death of the Pole Dancer, first performed at the 2011 Transit festival in Berlin, you portray a sensual female dancer, moving vertically up, down and around the pole, with almost mechanical precision. In Macho Dancer, however, you completely transform your body movements into those of a man. How did you learn to dance like this?

For Macho Dancer, I often visited a bar called Adonis close to my house. This club became my macho school where I asked macho dancers to become my mentors. In the beginning, when I invited them to teach me in my house, they would bring a back-up person with them. They did not really trust my request and indeed, it is strange for a young woman to ask for macho dancing lessons. I would also study YouTube videos and recordings of my macho lessons at home. I copied the movements and practiced everyday, recording myself on video and reviewing what needed to be improved.

Your rendition is incredibly accurate, the audience sees a young man dancing on stage, with your cowboy boots and shorts. How did you achieve that degree of control in your facial expressions and body movements?

I went to the gym! That made a huge difference in how I approached macho dancing. I became aware of my muscles and how to engage them in movement. I learned a whole new body language—posture, stance, walk, gestures, gaze, ways of gyration and undulation—all through the physical quality of my body and my muscles.


EISA JOCSON performs Macho Dancer, 2013. Photo by Giannina Ottiker. Courtesy the artist.

How did this develop into the Macho Dancer theme?

It was only when a foreigner friend pointed out that he had never seen this kind of macho dancing before in clubs outside of the Philippines that I started to take an interest in macho dancing. I became more and more fascinated by the physical quality and vocabulary of this type of performance and started researching how it all began.

Macho dancing is performed by young men for both male and female clients. It is an economically motivated language of seduction that employs notions of masculinity as body capital. The language is a display of the glorified and objectified male body as well as a performance of vulnerability and sensitivity. The music used in macho dancing is mostly power ballads, sung by artists such as Mariah Carey or Celine Dion, as well as rock and soft rock, like Metallica and Scorpions.

These kinds of love songs from the ’80s and ’90s are heard everywhere in Manila, when riding jeepneys or on the radio. What is this fascination with nostalgic music?

Yes, this music is pervasive in Metro Manila. I find that the movements of these macho dancers are really dictated by this type of music—they physicalize a kind of limbo state that is neither here nor there. Their bodies move through thick nostalgia, seemingly in slow motion and stretched over time.


EISA JOCSON, sketches from the “Philippine Macho Academy” exhibition at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum, 2014, Quezon City. Courtesy the artist.

At one point in your performance, the music and smoke machines turn off and we just see and hear your body physically pounding the stage as you throw yourself onto your knees and gyrate. It’s very different from pole dancing, isn’t it?

It’s quite the opposite. Pole dancing is vertically oriented and works with the illusion of lightness and grace, while macho dancing is horizontally oriented, and works on the illusion of weight and volume. It’s more compact.

You have also created sketches of your Macho Dancer work, which were presented at your recent show at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum in Metro Manila. Can you tell us more about these?

The sketches were made for the “Philippine Macho Academy” exhibition and are a first draft. They are straightforward and didactic, and help illustrate and break down the physical principles of macho dancing. The process of deconstructing the movement vocabulary by text and illustration helped me to clarify and define the physical principles in macho dancing that I experienced.

The Philippine Macho Academy is a fictive structure or institution that serves as a classroom where the principles of macho dancing are fleshed out and conveyed. The exhibition is a documentation of my research and an articulation of the vocabulary of macho dance movement. It comprises artifacts, texts, drawings, video, installation and performance. I offered introductory workshops every Friday of the exhibition at the museum. Approximately six to eight people showed up each time.


Jocson’s Basic Macho Dance Manual, part of the “Philippine Macho Academy” exhibition at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum, 2014, Quezon City. Courtesy the artist.

You have worked with other dancers in the past, any upcoming collaborations? What themes will you be working on next? 

Currently, I’m researching the japayuki phenomenon in Japan, where exported Filipino entertainers perform in what are known as “salarymen clubs.” I’m thinking about naming this piece “The Hostess” and it would become part of a trilogy, after Death of the Pole Dancerand Macho Dancer. All of my work converges around this theme of the Filipino body and its labor capital in both the local and global entertainment industry.

I’ll be working on a new creation with Daniel Kok, a Singaporean choreographer and pole dancer, as well as with choreographer Arco Renz on the subject of pole dancing in a work that will premiere in Singapore later this year.

Learn more about Eisa Jocson’s work here.

Marlyne Sahakian is the Philippines desk editor for ArtAsiaPacific.


Macho Dancer Review from New York TImes

Arts Twitter Logo.


Transforming Movements

Room 100 and Eisa Jocson at Queer New York Arts Festival


Published: November 1, 2013

What does “queer performance” mean? In the second edition of the Queer New York International Arts Festival, the notion of queer relates not only to gender and identity, but also falls under the bigger umbrella of otherness. Programmed by André von Ah (who died in September) and Zvonimir Dobrovic, the event offers a look at artists working in anomalous, eccentric and even otherworldly forms.

On Wednesday at the Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement, the festival continued with performances by Room 100, a Croatian company formed by Jakov Labrovic and Antonia Kuzmanic, and Eisa Jocson, a choreographer and dancer from the Philippines. The first, Room 100’s “C8H11NO2,” was created as a duet, but visa problems prevented Mr. Labrovic from traveling, and the piece was reworked as a solo.

Named after the formula for dopamine, “C8H11NO2” begins with an interview on film with a man who describes multiple stays at psychiatric hospitals. As he talks about being thrown in isolation, how many days he was tied up (42) and the side effects of his medication, his hands tremble uncontrollably.

Moments later, Mr. Labrovic appears on video, too. With his back to us, he slowly contorts his shoulders, rounding his scapula forward and backward so it appears that faces — of monsters, of animals — are fighting their way through his glistening skin. The film is also reflected in a pool of water that sits on the stage, mirroring and multiplying the ominous images.

Ms. Kuzmanic, in the flesh, stretches on her side next to the pool, hiding her face to look disembodied. Every stretch of a leg or an arm is duplicated in the water so that she, like Mr. Labrovic, transforms into multiple creatures. Is this a corporeal rendering of schizophrenia, what is real, and what is not?

In “Macho Dancer,” Ms. Jocson explores pole dancing by raising her own questions about the role of gender in a dance style performed by young men in nightclubs in the Philippines. This brand of dance exists on the fine line between power and weakness. Along with the image of a strong male body, objectification is at play.

But Ms. Jocson adds another layer as she is transformed into a macho dancer herself: Her strong body teases the crowd with leather shorts and steel-toe boots that stomp heavily on the raised platform stage.

As a woman portraying a seductive male dancer, she is hauntingly accurate. Ms. Jocson’s androgynous beauty, paired with the control she uses to undulate her torso or to spin forward on a knee, is stunning; even while grinding on the floor, she never forsakes her taut, calculated tension.

All the same, the repetition of her slipping in and out of fog while stark lights envelope her in a hazy silhouette wears you down. As the lights finally dim, and George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” fills the space with the lyrics “I’m never going to dance again/guilty feet have got no rhythm,” it seems tragic for all the wrong reasons. She dances with her shadow.

The Queer New York International Arts Festival runs through Sunday at various locations;

Press release: Zürcher Kantonalbank Acknowledgement Prize 2013

Zurich 31 August 2013

Press release

Zürcher Kantonalbank Patronage Prize and Acknowledgement Prize 2013

Today on the occasion of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel 2013, the Zürcher Kantonalbank Patronage Prize and the Zücher Kantonalbank Acknowledgment Prize were awarded by Corine Mauch, Mayor of Zurich, and Dr. Jànos Blum, presidium member of the Zürcher Kantonalbank. Following intensive discussions, the jury reached a unanimous decision: The Zürcher Kantonalbank Patronage Prize of 30 000 Swiss Francs goes to the Argentinian actor, dancer, performer, director and choreographer Luis Biasotto for his «Dadaistic» production «Africa», a revue defying all theatrical conventions and challenging the audience in an intelligent and comical way «to ponder on alleged certainties».

The Zürcher Kantonalbank Acknowledgment Prize of 5000 Swiss Francs goes to the Philippine performer and dancer Eisa Jocson for her solo «Macho Dancer», a work with «rigorous concept and excellent execution», in which she investigates the «boundaries between legitimized live performance and seduction as popular and public entertainment».

For the Zürcher Kantonalbank Acknowledgement Prize 2013 all of the works presented in Short

Pieces were nominated:

• Surjit Nongmeikapam INDIA: OneVoice

• Sung-Im Her & Su-Mi Jang SOUTH KOREA: Philia

• Venuri Perera SRI LANKA: Thalattu

• Moe Satt MYANMAR: Face and Fingers

• Chuma Sopotela SOUTH AFRICA: Inkukhu ibeke iqanda

• Mamela Nyamza SOUTH AFRICA: Isingqala

• Ali Moini IRAN: My Paradoxical Knives

• Eisa Jocson PHILIPPINES: Macho Dancer

• Sonya Levin RUSSIA: The Day Before

The jury

The members of the jury were: The South African performer Ntando Cele (33), the Argentinian playwright and director Cynthia Edul (34), the Samoan author, actress, director, and curator Louise Tu’u (35) as well as the writer and dramatist Lorenz Langenegger (33) and the performer and choreographer Martin Schick (35), both from Switzerland.

Statements of the jury

Eisa Jocson, Philippines: «Macho Dancer» (Acknowledgement Prize 2013)

One amongst the nine works stood out for their extraordinary achievement in performance and a true live experience from beginning to end. Shoulders rolling back and forth exaggerate the palpable effort and control. The sinew of the performer and the performance become apparent as the audience gaze and keep watching, eagerly anticipating and deciphering every move, unwittingly objectifying and implying themselves into the dance.

«Macho Dancer» is a continuation of Eisa Jocson’s blurring and investigation of the lines of legitimized live performance, seduction as popular and public entertainment, placing her own body squarely into the performance arena. A rigourous concept with excellent execution, «Macho Dancer» is a work whose seemingly base foundations reveal more about the unease of the observer and provoke a deeper questioning of what is being revealed on and offstage.

‘Macho, Mama, Kaya Mo Ba To?’


Weekends with Sipat lawn

Sipat Lawin Ensemble Blank-Ticketed Workshop Series: Saturdays 6:00 Registration. 6:30-10:00pm.

Practice and the Evolving Role of Artists in Society with Leeroy New
Sculptor. Artist. Designer.

Macho Dancing with Eisa Jocson
Contemporary Choreographer. Dancer.

Introduction to Stage Management with Ed Lacson
Stage Manager. Teacher.

PM on FB or Email to reserve slots for the Workshop Series. Contact SLE @ 09175008753.