An interview with Alvin Erasga Tolentino about ‘Shifting Geography’

From Feb 18 – 22, The Cultch is happy to present the world premiere of Shifting Geography, a new international dance creation choreographed by Alvin Erasga Tolentino (Co.ERASGA ,Vancouver) and Rafaële Giovanola (COCOONDANCE, Bonn, Germany). Using Vancouver and Bonn as inspiration, Shifting Geography  explores the body as a geographical metaphor with which to inquire about one’s origin and pathway.

In preparation for the world premiere we’ve caught up with Alvin Erasga Tolentino, Co.ERASGA’s founder and co-choreographer for Shifting Geography, to get some insight about his collaboration with COCOON DANCE and his company’s residency at The Cultch.

Q) Could you tell us how your passion for dance started?
It all started in my native land of the Philippines
when I was introduced to cultural dances in elementary school. Since then my dance journey has taken on a path beyond my imagination.

Q) We know you studied ballet in Winnipeg for two years, what made you change to modern dance?
Well in fact, I was already trained in modern dance before I entered the ballet world, but coming to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was one of the best pieces of training I’ve had giving me a solid foundation in dance technique and it also allowed me to choose which dance form I wanted to fully dedicate myself to.

Q) Shifting Geography is a co-creation with German dance company COCOONDANCE. Could you tell us how this collaboration first came together?
My relationship with Rafaële Giovanola, Artistic Director of COCOONDANCE began through an introduction by Martin Inthamoussu – a former dance member of COCOONDANCE. Martin and I met in 2005 after meeting at a dance festival in Venezuela. We also collaborated on a piece of work for Co.ERASGA in 2011 that was featured at a festival in Bonn, Germany hosted by COCOONDANCE. Needless to say, meeting Rafaële then provided the inspiration and initiative to create Shifting Geography.

Q) What was it like working with Rafaële Giovanola on this project?
Challenging, as we both have our own aesthetics, ideas, and vision. However, we are also very generous to one another. The creative process has reminded me of the importance of working without ego. It’s integral for collaborators to meet creative challenges by building trust with fellow dancers and doing our best to create the best work possible.

Q) You and your company had a residency at The Cultch, this past July, could you describe for us this experience and how this helped develop your upcoming show?
I was thrilled to return to the historic performance space at The Cultch since I have performed in the space so many times during my years of dancing for other companies since the early 90s. The residency this past summer provided my company and the creative team of Shifting Geography a chance to have a performance space that facilitated the direction and imagination of the work that we were developing. We opened several creative processes as well to the public during the residency providing insights into the creative process and conversation with the artists.

Q) What can audience members expect from this production?
Bringing together onstage six fabulous dancers with native roots from Spain, Taiwan, Canada, Germany, Uruguay, and Romania. The debut of Spanish composer Pablo Palacio. To present dance as a sense of search where the body describes the shifts of state and feelings. Dancers observe this transformation in and out of the body in between performance mode and in the act of being presence. The body becomes the geography of states.

Q) What does it mean to you to be an active member of the Philippines community and a dancer with this heritage?
Filipinos are now the third largest minority group in the country, I am happy to represent contemporary dance to the widest community and to share my work and embrace the multi-racial that makes up diversity in Canada. I honor being Filipino to know my roots, culture, and history but I exist and practice as an artist to provide creativity for all.

Shifting Geography by Co.ERASGA and COCOONDANCE runs at The Cultch from Feb 18-22 at the Historic Theatre. Tickets are from $18 and can be purchased online at: tickets.thecultch.com, or by calling the box office at 604.251.1363.

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