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Home » An Empire Dances Back: Nationalism, Postcoloniality and the Canadian Diaspora Through Philippine Folk Dance Traditions

An Empire Dances Back: Nationalism, Postcoloniality and the Canadian Diaspora Through Philippine Folk Dance Traditions

Principal Investigator: R. Patrick Alcedo (Dance)
Funding: Government of Ontario Early Researcher Award
Project Dates: 2014–2019

Description: This project offered an original cultural understanding of the lives of immigrant Filipinos through the lens of Philippine folk dance as practiced in Canada, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The now-established disciplines of dance and performance studies have convincingly argued and demonstrated, by way of ethnography and historiography, that dance is not simply a mirror of a society, but is more importantly an active element in the shaping of its very fabric (Dils and Albright, 2001; Ness, 1992 and 2003; and Taylor, 2003). Employing the theories and methods of these disciplines, Patrick Alcedo produced both scholarly and artistic expositions of Philippine folk dance.

Project Highlights

In 2016, Dr. Alcedo presented a lecture-performance—An Empire Stages Back: Nationalism, Postcoloniality, and the Diaspora in Philippine Dance —at York University.

*This presentation is also available as an Asia Colloquia Paper (Vol. 08 No. 2 / 2018):

To disseminate his ERA research, Dr. Alcedo directed the three-day Philippine dance concert, Luzviminda: the Philippines Dances for Canada150 on 26-28 October 2017 at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, York University. With additional support from York University’s Vice President Academic & Provost, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts, Luzviminda packed the 350-seat theatre for three days in a row. It was such a success that the Philippine Consulate General of Toronto requested Dr. Alcedo to direct another major Philippine dance concert on 22 June 2018 at the Fleck Theatre in Toronto in celebration of the 120th Philippine Independence and of the City of Toronto’s declaration of June as Filipino Heritage Month.  

In collaboration with Ontario-based elementary teachers, Dr. Alcedo authored a Philippine dance unit for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) whose demographics are overwhelmingly Filipino. When the unit was launched in March 2018 as part of the PASSOC project, TCDSB teachers received it with such welcome and excitement that Dr. Alcedo and his students have been invited to do a workshop with elementary students in the fall. 

Dr. Alcedo’s feature-length documentary film, A Piece of Paradise, whose post-production the ERA supported, and whose central organizing theme is a streetdancing, folklorized Roman Catholic festival, world premiered at the prestigious Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (TRAFF) in 2017, where it won the National Bank Best First Feature Film Award and the Centennial Best Canadian Film Award. Since the founding of TRAFF 20 years ago, it was the first time that a single film received a back-to-back win. After TRAFF, his film won two more international awards: the Impact Doc Award and the Spotlight Documentary Film Award. In addition his film was officially selected to screen at the CITYFLIX International Film Festival in Toronto, the Telling Tales International Film and Audio Documentary Festival in Manchester, England, and the Regina International Film Festival in Regina, Saskatchewan. 

With a graduate student in Cultural Geography at York University, Dr. Alcedo traveled to the Philippines from January to February 2018 to work on another Philippine dance documentary. The film is about the lives of underprivileged Filipino dancers in Manila, the nation’s capital and which during the colonial period was a major seat of power of the Spanish and American empire. Titled, Dancing Manilenyos, the film received numerous recognitions: an official selection from the 2019 Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase; an Award of Recognition from the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award; a US-premiere at the historic Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California; and an official selection at the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris, France. 

Dr. Alcedo co-edited with his ERA-postdoc, Dr. Ruth Pison, a peer-reviewed journal on Philippine dance and narrativity for the University of the Philippines Department of English and Comparative Literature, one of the country’s centres of academic excellence. This journal includes a joint article by Dr. Alcedo and Dr. Pison and brings together some of the finest academic scholarship in Philippine dance. 

Due to his long engagement with and volunteer work for the Philippine dance community in the Greater Toronto Area, the Culture Philippines of Ontario (CPO), a Philippine dance group based in Mississauga, invited Dr. Alcedo to join them when they represented Canada in a series of dance festivals in Murcia and Segovia, Spain in July. These festivals were under the auspices of UNESCO’s International Council of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts. CPO’s attendance at these festivals were critical milestone in Dr. Alcedo’s ERA research. Dr. Alcedo conducted ethnographic fieldwork around CPO’s participation with three undergraduate and two graduate students, who the ERA funded