Lemlunay

May 1st - 18th, 2003
Thursday - Sunday 7:300pm
Sunday 2:30pm
The Annex Theatre

directed by: Wayland Quintero
concept and choreography: Potri Ranka Manis, artistic director
master musician: Nur Nonilon V. Queano
company: Amira Aziza, Diane Camino, Doy Hatta, Johanna Kiamzon, Frank Ortega, Lisa Parker, Malaika Queano, Desiree A. Seguritan, Jo-Anne Suriel, Kim Toscano, Tomas Trinidad, Rose Yapching
company: Kinding Sindaw

New York Theatre Wire Review


"Lemlunay" by Kinding Sindaw, the New York-based Philippine dance/martial arts troupe, is a dramatic adaptation of a sacred epic myth of the same name from the T'boli people of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. The piece tells the story of a Prince Tudbulol and his seven sisters, each possessing unique and distinct powers. They battle an evil king who is desperate to abduct them, steal their lands and extinguish their existence. The epic also abounds with creation stories including the peopling of the Earth, the Sun and the Moon and the origin of water. The piece is conceived and choreographed by Artistic Director Potri Ranka Manis and directed by Wayland Quintero (a member of SLANT, a resident company of La MaMa).

Kinding Sindaw will illustrate the drama by performing the T'boli people's sacred, ritual and secular dances that imitate and honor nature. Accompanying the dances are lively and rhythmic beats produced on percussion instruments such as various pitched hanging gongs, handheld gongs, the kumbing (jaw harp), the hegelong (two-stringed lute), and the saluray (a polychordal, bamboo tube zither). Melodious T'boli chants-typical of Southeast Asian chant traditions-will also narrate the drama. The production celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The company will evoke the T'boli homeland in the highlands of southwestern Mindanao by re-creating the bong guno, the traditional longhouse. Made of rattan, palm leaves, cogon grass and bamboo, the bong guno is where the respected elders make decisions for the community, where weddings are celebrated and where other communal events are held. The dancers and musicians will wear authentic costumes, especially the distinctive brown and black t'nalak (tie-dyed abaca) weave, whose designs represent the dreams and aspirations of the weaver. Other costumes include colorful, embroidered clothing, and beaded head, arm and leg ornaments.

The actors and musicians participating are Potri Ranka Manis, Wayland Quintero, Amira Aziza, Diane Camino, Doy Hatta, Johanna Kiamzon, Guro Frank Ortega, Lisa Parker, Malaika Queano, Nur Noni Queano, Desiree Seguritan, Jo-Anne Suriel, Kim Toscano, Tomas Jason Trinidad and Rose Yapching. Lighting is by Tom Lee.

Kinding Sindaw (Dance of Light) was founded in 1992 and has performed at the Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, the World Trade Center, Theatre of the Riverside Church, the Alabama International Festival and various community and grass-roots events. Its La MaMa debut was "Rajah Mangandiri" (2000), an adaptation of The Ramayana which was performed in a vibrant tapestry of royal court dances of the Sultanate, secular dances derived from animal movements, Silat martial arts, colorful silk costumes, kulintang (gamelan) music, hanging gongs, talking gongs, native drums, bamboo jaw harp and haunting indigenous-chants from Maranao.

Jack Anderson (New York Times) wrote, "Kinding Sindaw created magic when it presented 'Rajah Mangandiri' on Sunday afternoon," praising the "inventive adaptation" which was directed by Wayland Quintero and choreographed by Potri Ranka Manis. Anderson reported that "theatrical wonders abounded" in the shipwreck and battle scenes and praising the "shimmering music by an ensemble of gongs and drums." He added that, once acquainted with the story, children would enjoy the production as much as grown-ups and recommended "Rajah Mangandiri" as "fine wintertime entertainment for families who have overdosed on 'The Nutcracker.'"

David Lipfert, writing in Attitude, The Dancers' Magazine, recounted how "Kinding Sindaw's twenty-six-scene compact version packed in ample action and pageantry to tell the story but keep an American audience highly entertained….Manis's dance sections were a marvel of color and pageantry, and her appearances throughout the show as Oracle and Chanter were models of stylistic clarity. Quick entrances that enabled the players to explode onto the Annex playing area seemed to be her specialty. Up to seven live musicians playing instruments related to those in Javanese gamelan ensembles only added to the fun….La MaMa should be applauded for adding Kinding Sindaw to their lengthening list of dance-oriented companies to appear there."

The troupe was founded in 1992 by Potri Ranka Manis (Princess Essence of Sweetness), the daughter of a Sultan of the Maranao people of Mindanao, a true modern-day princess and tradition-bearer, trained since childhood in the traditional dance, music and martial art forms of her people and of other Philippine indigenous groups. She lived and worked periodically with the T'boli people from 1979-1985. Her other performance credits include "Draupadi," a dance drama based on the Mahabharata, which was directed by Ellen Stewart in May 2002, and the 1998 full-length independent film "Disoriented," directed by Francisco Aliwalas. She is a resident artist at La MaMa E.T.C. and at Lotus Fine Arts where she also conducts classes.

Ms. Manis is about to become the first Muslim hospital chaplin in history. In her "other life," she is a medical-surgical nurse at Cabrini Hospital, Manhattan, and has just today finished the first phase of her certification in its Chaplaincy school. She will be qualified under "non-Catholic" chaplaincy. There is no ordination in Islam, but there is a breakthrough in the notion that woman can do a religious job. "Healing goes beyond the medications I am giving," she says, knowing out of experience. She says, "Women will open up to women."

Director Wayland Quintero is American of Filipino ancestry, whose parents are descended from the Igorot and Ilokano peoples of the north.

Kinding Sindaw's repertory is built upon the dances, music, and orature of the T'boli, Maranao, Maguindanao, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Higaoonon, Tausug and Bagobo peoples of the southern Philippines. The troupe exists to assert, preserve, reclaim, and re-create the traditions of dance, music, martial arts, storytelling, and orature of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines. By asserting their arts and traditions, the historical and contemporary stories of these peoples are brought to life.

New York Theatre Wire Review
Dance Review
by Perry Bialor

Lemlunay: from the epic myth of the T'boli people

For an hour and 20 minutes a magical world of music, dance and drama came to life on the Annex stage of LaMaMa e.t.c. I can give no better expression of my enthusiasm for the performance I witnessed than to strongly recommend that as many people as possible see it before it closes on May 18th.

The production was conceived and choreographed by Potri Ranka Manis who also performed the lead role of the shaman and was directed by Wayland Quintero, both of whom realized for the stage this mythic epic of the T'boli people of the mountainous coastal region of southwestern Mindanao (The Philippines). The dance-drama was accompanied by master musician Nur Nonilon V. Quintero and several others on hanging and pot gongs, a two-stringed lute, bamboo tube zither, and drums who produced the sweet, other-worldly music of a kind of "gamelon." Scenic design and construction was by Jun Maeda and lighting design by Tom Lee, both essential to the production's realization.

My apology to the other performers whom I cannot acknowledge by name but who performed convincingly throughout, for which I credit instruction by Ms. Manis whose authenticity and intensity was immediately apparent and a joy to experience. The introductory chant and creation dance in which she appeared as if emerging from the pre-creation void set the tone of the performance to follow. With knees slightly bent, her left hip slightly raised, a stance that never left her body, she proclaimed in raucous, shouted T'boli the scenario of the creation myth, her right hand holding a wood staff with clabber that she rattled continuously.

The company's costumes and accoutrements are all authentic as they were purchased from the T'boli. It would have been impossible to reproduce the extremely fine quality patterned textiles woven by the T'boli. One of their slanted looms appeared briefly in one of the scenes. As for scenery, none was necessary as between the lighting and the imagination, a few major props (such as a loom and a wheeled stage) and a few more minor ones (the lengths of cloth, the rice seedlings, the betel box, staffs, etc.) the setting of the drama was evoked.

The 26 scenes of the dance-drama were outlined in the program, required pre-performance reading if one is to fully appreciate the rapid trajectory of the drama, a kind of creation myth and birth of Tudbulol, a first man-hero (Jason Trinidad), bedeviled by Kayong, an evil sorcerer king (Guro Ortega) but protected, and sometimes revived by the shaman (Potri Manis)-whose healing powers seemed to be needed more often than an intern in an ER.

Lemlunay is the edenic land in which the drama unfolds. First, seven sisters are "born," each entering and displaying their different powers. Then Kemukol (Lisa Parker) gives birth to Tudbulol in a birthing ritual; the newborn is wrapped in a special cloth and betel nut is blown through the umbilical cord. All leave but leave behind the betel nut box unattended. This gives Kayong, the evil one in black contorted and fanged mask, an opportunity to curse the betel nut. When the sisters return and each takes a bite of the now poisoned betel nuts, they retch in agony, only to be cured just in time by the shaman.

When Tudbolol next appears, he is a young man. He dreams of a young woman who is to be his wife. His sisters prepare him for his wedding. Metengkil (Desiree Seguritan), the bride to be, is also prepared, red dots are applied to her cheeks and her head covered and veiled in a red canopy headdress. The wedding ritual is performed on a wagon-stage rolled in for the occasion followed by celebratory dances. Tudbulol now wears his headcloth as a married man.

Following a musical interlude, Tudbulol appears as a hunter accompanied by his youngest sister Nga Libon (Malaika Yasmin Queano) who can speak to animals. He performs a ritual to the gods to gain permission to hunt. He next appears as a slash-and-burn farmer to perform an offering to the god of life. Kayong appears with him, as, in an earlier scene, Kayong had transformed himself into the likeness of a human being and inveigled himself into the confidence of Tudbulol as a guest-friend. But we, the audience, know that he awaiting his chance to do no good. His every effort to imitate human movement is belied by his grotesque stance, which goes unnoticed by the trusting Tudbulol and his sisters. (Mr. Ortega, who is a martial arts expert and teacher as well as a senior member of the company, is not, on first view (his sagging mid-section), what one would imagine to be a dancer. And so I congratulate him on what I consider a superb and nuanced performance as Kayong, the evil one.)

The shaman then leads the sisters in a rice planting ritual and dance. When the others leave, Kayong slips in and destroys what was planted. The men dance a water ritual. Kayong is not finished; he now casts a spell on Metengkil who must then prove that she is still "chaste"-a word used in the program but which I find difficult to use, considering that she is a married woman. The shaman's betel nut comes to the rescue and she is purged of Kayong's spell. A celebratory dance follows in which the wealth colors (red, yellow, blue/green length of cloth) of Lemlunay are displayed.

Kayong's human guise is finally unmasked and a battle ensues between Tudbulol and Kayong in which Tudbulol is wounded. The shaman performs a healing ritual and Tudbulol is empowered and geared with sashes of power, sword and shield to return to the field in a second battle with evil, who, this time, is defeated. However, Metengkil is accidentally wounded and placed on the rolled-in wagon (now a bier or "altar") as she is near death. The shaman performs a healing ritual that restores her to life and Tudbulol. With this resolution, there is cause for celebration and a dance praising D'wata and Lemugut Mangay "for all of life's blessings." (And then, as Melina Mercouri in "Never on Sunday" said: "We all went to the beach and had a picnic.")
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