Tuesday, June 3, 2008

From Norwich to Hengelo.

My English friend Alice and her 7-year-old red-head daughter Maia came for a visit last week.

I´ve known Alice since 1995. We were both government scholars in Java. She was with the Royal Ballet in London, who trained both in Europe and the Martha Graham dance school in the U.S. An excellent dancer really. And there I was. The Filipina music scholar who wanted to learn everything about gamelan music.

What really brought us together, was not the similarity and/or difference in our character or ethnic background, but our fascination for indigenous music and dances. You know what they say, musicians are frustrated dancers and dancers are frustrated musicians.

I never really understood that phrase until I did my field research in Ifugao in 1990. It was in Ifugao that I discovered that gong players and epic singers are also dancers. That is the beauty of non-western culture. Because in non-western societies, to be a fine and respected musician would mean to be well-versed in movement, singing, drumming, reciting poems and folk tales, and understanding the philosophy behind it.

Apart from her dance performances, I don´t really know Alice very well. I've always thought that offstage, she was arrogant and snub, stubborn and self-absorbed. But at the same time, I was a great admirer of her work. I think I am one of the lucky ones who had the privilege of seeing her perform. Because when she dances, Alice reveals passion, vitality, ectasy, rage, and brilliance.

However the Alice that I met last week was not the worldly-ambitious-fierce-and-graceful-as-a-feline that I know. Last week, I met Maia´s mother. A domesticated Alice. Somehow, Alice managed to set her `self` aside and be mom first. They have a very special relationship; too perfect in fact. Maia behaves both like a child and an adult.

I completely adore her. Everytime she would ask a question, she sounded like a university student. At the same time, she would grow extremely bored & insecure like a lost child everytime Alice and I are engrossed in our discussion.

I also noticed that Alice habitually motivates her daughter with mind-boggling problems. She patiently explained things and concepts that were quite difficult to grasp. And most of all, I was impressed to know that Maia is learning to play chess and piano. Somehow, Alice managed to make her daughter be interested in things that she herself is not and will never be interested. hahahahaha

I am not however surprised that Maia is a very intelligent kid. Her father Tony is a university professor in England. Besides, Alice herself is also an intellectual. She had written many things about almost everything.... from contemporary dance to cultural anthropology, to music and movement and the Japanese taiko drums.

After they left, I had a sad realisation. I realised that neither Alice nor I continued to pursue a career in our respective fields where we´re both extremely good at. I consoled and tried to convince myself that we both are making a difference in this world in our own special way. Alice the great wise mom who volunteers at a local school to teach music and movement; and I ..... the teacher who inspires (according to my students, that is! hahahahahaha).
We still love indigenous cultures. In fact, we plan to travel to Brazil someday and perhaps, study about the newly-discovered tribe close to the Peruvian border.

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