| "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
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
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
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
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.")