– by ChiChai@Empire with photos by Braindon Raines, Ray@Empire, and Rizzabel@Empire –
What began as discussions over food & text messages became an evening of performance art and a strong sense of community for local artists & our motherland. After a six-month long collaboration between the Company and the Empire Team came Art of Us.
Before diving into the recap, I want to take you behind “why.” Why did we organize Art of Us?
Last summer, my mom (founder of Project PEARLS) approached my friend Bernie (dancer for The Company) with concerns about the Philippines’ mainstream dance scene. She explained to Bernie that dance in the Philippines tends to be sexualized and, like most children, the Project PEARLS children mimmic what they see.
My mom wanted to change that. Knowing some of my dancer friends out here, my mom has seen how dance can be more. Dance has aesthetics and emotional-release; it allows one’s self to open up their creativity, speak from the heart, and give.
That is what my mom wanted the PEARLS children to experience when they dance.
Bernie and I then arranged for our teams to meet and begin addressing how we can enlighten the PEARLS children with the beauty of dance.
We determined that the best way to demonstrate dance’s potential is to teach. With that, we birthed the concept of a “dance immersion trip.” This immersion trip would consist of The Company choreographers hosting workshops for PEARLS children in our three communities: Helping Land in Tondo, Batia in Bulacan, and Botolan in Zambales.
The Company selected choreographers Jolo Cabrera, Melissa Batesting, and KJ Estudillo to be this mission’s teachers.
In our first meeting all together, each of them shared that they want to partake in this project because they love to “feed the youth,” “empower dancers to do more,” use dance to “take [the PEARLS kids] away” from their harsh environments, and “divert the children from negative outlets.”
To put it simply, the three of them aspired to inspire….
which brings us to our show Art of Us.
We hosted Art of Us to fundraise for our immersion trip and to celebrate art’s impact in our lives. If it wasn’t for a community effort, Art of Us wouldn’t have been possible. Everyone who partook in it– from our performers to our DJ and emcees– donated their time and talent to our cause.
The night started off with an introduction by Cassie, one of Project PEARLS youngest volunteers. She described her experiences volunteering and the children’s smiles that always calls her to come back.
Then, DJ Druskee and our emcees Bernie and Steven played off each other in keeping a lively atmosphere all night. For instance, after the two selected the first “trivia” winner, “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled just happened to start blasting from the speakers.
As for the performers…
Astralogik brought the audience into a world of “celestial lyrics and neo-soul melodies.”
We swayed to Charito’s voice and Rowena’s guitar. Once Charito dropped the beats on the drum pad for their new song “Here & Now,” heads bobbed and many began to dance.
Melvin Sings soothed the audience with his tranquil singing and ukelele playing.
Fun fact: Melvin and I attended the same wedding that morning. Believe it or not, he bounced back and forth between the mass & reception and Art of Us! We appreciate the dedication, Melvin!
JR Deguzman continued the acoustic vibes but… with a completely different twist.
This comedian sang songs about famous interracial babies and “keeping it in the family.” No matter how out-there his topics were, the audience non-stop laugh tear-jerkingly.
Last but not least of our guest performers were the dancing power couple: Sorah Yang and Jonathan Shay.
Sorah originally intended on singing for Art of Us . Unfortunately, she got sick and was unable to share her voice with us.
But, fortunately, she got other tools in her belt and a boyfriend ready to share the stage with her.
On top of all of these amazing artists, our featured choreographers performed as well!
Jolo swaggered over with a full mob of guys ready to go.
KJ set up a mighty trio to accentuate his clean and adventurous style.
Fun and girl-power fueled Mel’s choreography.
The three performed once more together…
And everyone who danced in the three’s projects came out to conclude the show with them
It’s extraordinary to see how one idea unravels into fruition.
Up next– the Philippines!
Thank you’s to the Art of Us organizers:
Aiko@Empire (this was her cotillion!) Chris@Empire (ah! and me!)
and, from the Company: Bernie, Russell, Mel, Jolo, and KJ
Thank you’s to both of our teams for being hella supportive all day everyday!
And, of course, thank YOU for all of our support. Without those who gave to Art of Us, none of this would be possible. Thank you for coming together as a community in supporting our goal to uplift marginalized children through the art of dance.