Master Philippine dance choreographer Sydney Loyola is collaborating with The Filipino American Development Foundation to create Sayaw sa Ilaw-Dancing in the Light, honoring the indigenous deity of fire, Kanla-on, who is believed to live in Mt. Kanla-on, an active volcano, and who appears in both male and female forms.
The performance structure draws from traditional Pilipino processions featuring patron saints — healing ceremonies of choreographed movements that travel through towns before culminating in rousing celebratory dances by devotees in a town plaza. It also will dig beneath the surface of Catholic colonial practices to reassert these processions’ indigenous, shamanistic roots. Loyola will choreograph simple dance moves that community members can learn online or at workshops at Bayanihan Community Center. At the culminating Parol Festival, a community dance procession, led by the cast of Sayaw Sa Ilaw-Dancing in the Light, will wend its way through Yerba Buena Gardens, ending at Jessie Square for a grand performance. Originally scheduled for December 2020, work by the artist was filmed, but the procession was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more than 15 years, Sydney Loyola has been creating significant dance works performed by cultural groups worldwide. She was a principal dancer for the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company (1989-98). Raised in Palawan, she has nurtured deep relationships with the tribal people of the region and became an adopted member of the Tagbanua Tribe in Napsan, Palawan. She is transgender and previously received a Creative Work Fund grant shen she was Jay Loyola.
The Filipino American Development Foundation was founded in 1977 to provide a community space for newly arrived Filipino immigrants and opened the Bayanihan Community Center at the corner of Sixth and Mission streets in 2005. The Center provides an integrated array of cultural activities — including developmental workshops for this project.