In February of this year, I was fortunate to attend Bodies in/and Asian Theatres, a regional conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR, the scholarly organization with which this journal is affiliated). It was held at the University of the Philippines Diliman under the aegis of the IFTR Asian Theatre working group. Toward the end of a plenary panel on contemporary South East Asian dance on the final day, a debate arose over the work of one of the speakers, Eisa Jocson. A dancer and choreographer, Jocson's work explores the aesthetics of local and transnational performative labour, and is often based on forms she learns from Filipinos working in the entertainment industry. For example, Macho Dancer (2013) is based on a distinctive style of erotic male nightclub performance, Host (2015) on the work of Filipinas in Japanese hostess clubs, and the HAPPYLAND series (2017) on the high number of Filipinos employed at the Hong Kong Disneyland. In response to her presentation on these and other works, some scholars from the Philippines asked Jocson, who mainly performs in Manila and on the international contemporary performance circuit, why she did not tour nationally. After all, they reasoned, since Jocson's performances are inspired by the work of entertainers who often come from regional cities and rural areas, is it not right to present the work ‘back’ to such a workforce and their communities? Such questions are, of course, complex and loaded. In so far as Jocson's performances address the exploitation of Filipino entertainers’ affective labour, is there any risk that Jocson compounds that exploitation for her own benefit? And in so far as those performances explore the choreographies of entertainment capital and commodified desire, should Filipino audiences not be informed and perhaps educated about such things? Jocson countered that while wider local exposure for her work was desirable, it was wrong to presume that it could readily be presented in such circumstances. She makes her work within a specific critical and discursive context, she explained, and as part of a long-term thematic and aesthetic enquiry. To present it outside such contexts would benefit neither the audience, nor the artist, nor the work. If anything, she seemed to be suggesting, the work is not made for the producers of such performance forms, but for their consumers, and those who elsewhere participate in and benefit from such economies. She recounted making the ‘mistake’ of asking the owners of a ‘macho dancer’ nightclub if she could perform Macho Dancer there, as part of their regular line-up, late at night. They offered her an early slot, so as not to disrupt business as usual.
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