LIFESTYLE | DANCE

The Filipino migrant story through a dancer's lens

Michelle Baltazar

Filipino-Australians can stand proud as the work of Novy Bereber, one of the leading dance choreographers from the Philippines but now based in Australia, took centre stage at the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Titled To Whom It May Concern 2.0, Bereber’s entry was part of Platform Shorts 2015, a contemporary dance series conceptualised by seasoned and emerging choreographers.


Bereber said that To Whom It May Concern 2.0 is a story about the personal sacrifices that many Filipino performing artists make for their family and loved ones.

"I choreographed this piece around seven years ago with Ballet Philippines and it's about Filipino dancers who are forced to leave the country to provide their family with financial support," said Bereber.

It is a little-known fact but the Philippines produces more performing artists per capita than any country in the world and yet they get very little government support and funding.

WATCH THE VIDEO: A sneak preview

Watch the interview with Novy Bereber

When they do find a job, many get paid around $120 a month (4,000 pesos), barely enough to support themselves, let alone others.

"We see all these talents leaving [the country]. Some of them are having a hard time doing it but they do it for the sake of their family."

Bereber gathered a stellar dance ensemble to bring his concept to life. The six professional dancers who performed last month (when it was first submitted as a potential entry for the Fringe Fest) were Andrew Mark Baris, Elle Evangelista, Vanessa Sew Hoy, Satoko Doi, Ernest Hojilla and Joel Corpuz (See Video).

In a case of art imitating life, Baris, one of the dancers, had a promising career in the Philippines but, like most of his peers, decided to work overseas.

"I'd like to thank Novy for making me feel like a dancer again. The choreography he taught us was challenging and tested my abilities," he said.

Bereber has an enviable dance pedigree. He was a soloist with Ballet Philippines before becoming a highly sought-after choreographer, creating works for all the prestigious dance companies in the Philippines (including Ballet Philippines and Ballet Manila) and presenting modern dance workshops around the country.

Moving to Australia in 2012, he teaches dance at the Sydney Dance Company, Studio 26 and the Australian Performing Arts Grammar School. This year, he made history as the first male practitioner in Australia for ‘Dance for Parkinsons Disease’, a new form of therapy.

As if those weren't enough to keep him busy, he is also studying fashion design and just finished performing as part of the King & I musical that toured around Australia last year.

For all his achievements, Bereber has not forgotten his roots, choosing the tale of love, family and the Filipino dancer as the subjects of his latest work.

To Whom It May Concern 2.0  performed over three nights (September 10-12) at the Annandale Creative Arts Centre in Sydney as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.

www.platformshorts.com
www.sydneyfringe.com

Photo credits: Elle Evangelista (Facebook, http://www.paulnatalephotography.com/), Photos of the dancers and Novy Bereber were sourced from Facebook images.

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