My relationship to Jazz
I have been an educator and choreographer all of my life. Growing up in a small town called Pototan, in the island of Panay, Philippines, I recall teaching everyone my favorite dance moves and organizing public performances in the plaza with the support of my school teachers at a very young age. In a sense, I am still doing that work. As a social justice choreographer, all of my impetus and learnings are informed from my experiences as a teaching artist. Through this work, I realize the joy in sharing dance, for dance brings healing. It is through the embodiment of emotions often not expressed through words that we figure out feelings we never knew we had, or we figure out ourselves further, or at best, have a good time.
One of my favorite experiences was working with the Kimmel Cultural Campus for over five years. I went to different public schools to share lectures on Jazz as a form of freedom. This experience of sharing an African-American rooted art form to mostly African-American middle schoolers throughout many schools in Philadelphia led to many fruitful conversations that created a mark in my own life work as an artist. Every year, we made protest songs about changes we would like to make in the world and related this to the very essence of Jazz, a music of resistance. We always finished the class with dances that stem from Lindy to Hip-hop, drawing on the evolution of dances also created by Black-Americans. This was reminiscent of how I too made protest songs, dances, and posted political posters against the Marcos dictatorship when I was their age.
In this Jazz workshops with the Kimmel, we often talked about how Jazz was important to the Civil Rights Movement. And I also shared that it was the political movements of Black Liberations that mobilized Asian Americans to protest for equities as Americans as well. When I thanked the students for this, and told them to thank their elders, I saw the pride in their eyes. This is why I teach. It is for the dialogues, this transference, this resistance made through unapologetic joy, ownership, self love, and solidarity.
During the pandemic, I became a cohort of the Building Bridges created by Painted Bride. One of my favorite contributions to this cohort was leading breath-centered movement exercises at various small parks during the pandemic. This was a need I saw the community needed at a time when breath was compromised.
My work as a choreographer, mother, dancer continue to be informed by my teachings, and hope to continue fruitful dialogues within Asian and Black diasporic communities through this public engagement.
I currently work with mostly Filipino and Asian Identifying communities in terms of my choreographic work and community engaged performance. This has been where I am most comfortable leading because I am of Filipino descent and indigenously Panayanon. However, my entire dance career has been dedicated to Black Dance, dancing with Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. I am also in the midst of my Katherine Dunham Teaching certification. My scholarship is in centering Africanist in Asian Dances. Thus, I am hoping to bridge my Filipino/Asian/migrant communities by hosting this in Painted Bride's new location in West Philadelphia, where I also reside.
As a Visiting Assistant Professor at Muhlenberg, I also navigate discussion the hierarchies of race that contributed to the erasure of rooted Jazz. Everyday, I try to think about liberatory pedagogical approaches while sharing an authentic history. It is a hard task teaching race and social inequities by way of dance, but those who are open and respond.....become portals of truth in actively decolonizing dance.
supported by the Bartol Foundation Teaching Artist Grant
Channels examines the effects of television by looking into the beginnings of TV’s global popularity-the 50s. The piece takes you to images of flipping through channels of fragmented histories: a frenzied Bebop post-war renaissance, a cool sedated 60s amidst racial divides, and a multicultural freedom-loving America. Channels also references channels of spirit reshaped into exotic imageries for consumption, channels of water that hold stories of death, migration, and strength, and channels of media that continue to indoctrinate global waters with messages of US exceptionalism, patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy.
Gavino is from the Philippines and as a child, learned about the US through television.