Timothy Russell


The restaging of Taglish at YBCA

I am getting prepared to head back to San Francisco this weekend to perform in Gerald Casel's Taglish at Yerba Buena Center of the Arts as part of YBCA's Public Square show: Can we design Freedom?: (https://ybca.org/whats-on/public-square

I can't think of a better forum for this particular piece to occur especially after reading Gerald's description of the work:  

"In Taglish, we blended postmodern dance, hip-hop, house, voguing, historical text, and traditional Filipino folk dances to represent the intersectional elements present in our dancing bodies. It was curious to notice similarities between Trisha Brown’s clear, geometric forms and that of voguing’s adherence to geometric planes. The demarcated lines in the voguer’s arms and torso seem to connote a two-dimensional etching of the body in space to disidentify with gender norms – to ultimately seek freedom within (self)-imposed constraints."  

Gerald's full description here: 


Performance of Taglish:


It should be noted that this piece was originally created as a reaction to Trisha Brown's Locus.  

My part of this reaction combines and abstracts elements of Post Modernism, Filipino Colonialism,  and Vogueing Culture. 

The work begins with a direct nod to Alvin Lucier's "I'm Sitting In a Room". (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAxHlLK3Oyk)  This decision came as I wanted the audience to become aware of how the performers, Gerald Casel and Suzette Sagisi, exist in a space that is markedly different from not only the audience themselves but also the other performers in this particular performance.  From here we enter a world of abstract connection, one where harmonies try to exist with each other. In a nod to Steve Reich, non melodies from resonant frequencies of the text emerge and are reinforced. Rhythm begins to take it's grasp  on the performer also as a result of patterns from the text.  I purposefully choose to highlight this relationship here because it is relevant to note how Music and Choreography can be seen as a Colonizing force for the performer. This is also central theme in the work that Gerald and therefore I create.   

Out of the abstraction we arrive in a New York City vogueing ball, presenting a fluidity of culture, gender, movement and musical experience.  I took two vocal samples from the iconic movie Paris Is Burning.   Quotes pertaining to "OPULENCE" and "Leaving your mark on the World" have a two fold symbolism.  One side serves as a celebration of the extravagance of freedom. The feeling when you can finally be yourself and move beyond your oppression and claim your place in the world. The second perspective is that of the Colonist.  You believe that you own the World and everything is your for the taking.  Your legacy is your conquest.  

The final section returns to the ambiguous. We hear a familiar but un recognizable sound texture as if we are being presented with a memory we have repressed.  This is also represented in the movement's turn toward the traditional Filipino Tinikling dance.  From here, text once again enters. This time it is a reading from President William McKinley’s famous “Address to a Delegation of Methodist Churchmen”.  http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5575/ This text is looped and layered in order to represent the repetition of ideas that can lead to cultural amnesia and self hate: the deeply ingrained layers of abuse brought by colonization.    

This piece brings about many questions. Most of which I am still asking myself.  Performing it demands me to think deeper about where we are as a culture/community and how I fit into in this World.  I would ask that you perhaps take a few moments and ask yourself the same.