“‘Sayaw (Dance)’,” says Cecilio Asuncion, “is a dreamer’s film. Dance (the film’s subject) just happened to be the vehicle chosen to show this message. I want people to see it and to be inspired to dream and dream big. I think that message will always be relevant no matter what it is you want to do in life.”
Introducing the latest film from the director of “What’s the T?”. “Sayaw” is a feature-length documentary that explores the culture of ethnic dance communities through the journey of Jay Loyola Dance Company, and its pursuit for a coveted spot in the venerated San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. The film specifically follows Filipino choreographer Jay Loyola as he endeavors to cast and then rehearse his troupe for the festival.
Yes, the jaded may be quick to dismiss it as just another film about dancing (considering the tired formula of Step Up and, heck, even Black Swan). But “it offers a previously unexplored view of the American dance industry, as experienced by dancers of diverse heritage,” Asuncion said.
Asuncion first met Loyola – the namesake of the dance company being featured – at a bar in Castro in San Francisco in the US. “When I met him and we asked each other the customary: ‘What do you do?’ question, and when he answered: ‘I’m a Philippine dance choreographer’, I just knew I had to do this film,” Asuncion said.
“Sayaw” took a year to be developed.
“It was all new to me, in the sense that my crew and I were documenting (Loyola’s) story in a chronological sequence as events were happening,” Asuncion said. While this was challenging, “the reward in being able to see art, in the form of dance, being created 10 feet away from you was magical.”
For “Sayaw”, Asuncion was able to work and collaborate with the same team he had with “What’s the T?”. These key people included: Brian Anderson, Joshua Jones, Larry Roan, Michael Garrigues, Ben Shearn, and John Piscitello.
“I am so grateful that I was able to show more of my culture beyond adobo and lumpia to these brilliant film makers,” Asuncion smiled.
Dancers highlighted in the film included: Cera Byer, Shinobi Jaxx, Reina Victoria, Jadyn Rozzano-Keefe, Loren Gonzales, Jonathan Mendoza, and Mahalaya Tintiangco-Cubales.
Now as a Filipino-American, Asuncion’s film can be misconstrued as an outsider’s perspective on Filipino-ness. But for Asuncion, “I don’t think it would (be misconstrued as an outsider’s take) as your roots and culture are ingrained in you at a very early age. I moved to the US later in life, and I have learned take all the good things I grew up with, and to assimilate and choose what I want to practice now that I am older,” he says. “Besides, if there’s anything I am sure of, there is not one singular definition on what a Filipino is, one has to define that.”
“Sayaw” premieres at the New People Cinema in San Francisco on October 24, through the generosity of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines and SwirlTV. The premiere is for the benefit of the Artists in Motion Bay Area.
PHOTO CREDITS: Vlad Gitlevich, Ana Grillo