THE VOICE AND THE BLACK CIRCLE
BY JARED JONATHAN LUNA
You are so Delicious, Maria is a film that tackles issues of domestic violence incidents in the Philippines. Developed by John Carlo Nova in Casa San Miguel Philippines, Jared Jonathan Luna pens his narrative as a dancer in the film.
The following is a recollection of the author’s experience in the creation of You are so Delicious, Maria as part of Cinemovement Lab V in January 2019. Cinemovement Lab is a laboratory/workshop for filmmakers and choreographers in Southeast Asia who are interested in Dance on Camera.
You are so Delicious, Maria. I faintly remember that morning. I stood on lahar, wearing a white skirt and my white veil. I remember having to look at the black circle. And as I did, the black circle stared back at me. The black circle was like a blackhole but it wasn’t a deep void of emptiness that sucked my soul out of my body. It did however seem to have a face on its own. The black circle’s face I thought had many other black circles. Each circle was inside the other, they got smaller as I looked towards the centre— just like the layers of the earth, I imagined. At the centre, instead of seeing an image of the earth’s inner core, I thought I found a tiny point of white; not like the end of a tunnel, but a distant star. It was not very clear though as sometimes, hints of colour would show on the black circle’s face. Sometimes the colours looked like the marbling of oil on water. At other times I thought I saw an impression of myself.
Doing You are so Delicious, Maria and the other projects in Cinemovement Lab was a novel experience for me. Prior to this, I’ve had little experience dancing for the camera. As far as I can recall, one of them was for a dance-based TV-serye, and I was asked to battle one of the actors in the scene. One was a short film by a contemporary dance choreographer who went to manila; we went to Intramuros to film a short choreography that she created in the studio. The last one was a short dance film project that some friends entered for a commercial competition. Apart from these, my main interactions with camera are viewing rehearsal footage or documenting my explorations and dance making processes. Joining the lab as a hired dancer (my job was to perform in the films that the lab participants were making), gave me a glimpse of film making especially in collaboration with dance. I noticed how my bodily experience in dancing was altered by the presence of a camera. Shared corporeality and gaze seemed foreign when with a piece of equipment. The project was queer in more ways than I thought:
I tried to talk to the black circle. Using my eyes, I thought I tried to pierce through its soul if it had one. Staring contest. It wouldn’t even blink. I could tell that it was looking at me. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of myself on it. But I wasn’t certain if it actually saw me— the kind of seeing where one receives, takes in and consumes the images, impressions, emotions... affect. It did not give back a piercing stare especially when moments were intense. I could not tell what it was thinking or if it was thinking at all. It probably wasn’t. It didn’t budge though. It kept looking even when I wasn’t. It looked from a distance and from atop a bridge. It also looked up close. It scanned me and my body in different positions and throughout different manoeuvres.
Performing. It was natural to get lost in the moment. Time passes unfelt as the body revels in the present.
I did what I had to do, imagining that perhaps I was on a stage. The sun was my light design on a hyper-realistic set. The music were cars passing by, birds chirping, and imaginary melodies I kept to myself. The black circle was a spectator of sorts, privileged with a 360 degree view and a 4D experience.
Performing. It was natural to get lost in the moment. Time passes unfelt as the body revels in the present. As I moved, I could feel the presence of the black circle. It wasn’t massive and so it wasn’t intimidating in that sense. But it also wasn’t organic. The black circle was solid in its form and continues to make it felt despite its efforts to hide. You give it space and it comes in. You share breath, tension, liveness and it doesn’t give back. Yet it remained, watching, looking from the outside despite the privilege of being in. Selfish, my body thought. Sharing with the black circle was almost unfair. I thought to myself, if I were a bat, I would have been a dysfunctional one. If I was a bat, and performance was my sonar, I wouldn’t have probably felt the stalactite of the black circle. I would have been lost in my own cave.
Thoughts of uncertainty would cloud my mind (and my body), curious about the black circle. I wondered what it saw, what it felt, and what it thought. If not for the voice that I could hear, I would have remained clueless. Sometimes, I would hear a voice tell me to stop or to do it one more time: “cut!” “Ok na” “isa pa” “safety”. Then, I would completely drop character. I would disengage my muscles, brush off some lahar, catch my breath, and maybe drink water until the voice asked me to come back and carry on. It was episodic, repetitive and cyclic. The whole morning went by like this: It was episodes of doing movements and actions a number of times under the black circle’s gaze. A repetition of going in and out of the zone — of being lost in moments of movement, sensations and emotions. When satisfied, the voice asks to move on. We will go to a different spot in the lahar, and then the black circle follows as I perform a different task. It was like running different parts of choreography again and again except I never ended up doing the whole piece. The good thing though was that the voice was never mad. It never scolded even if I thought I performed subpar. He was actually pleasant and encouraging.
The voice added semblance of life. His tone and pitch varied. His words travelled and made themselves known to a body that was alone in their moment. The voice communicated. He responded. He gave feedback. He seemed very clear with what he wanted yet he also gave room for my thoughts — my movements and actions. We were partaking in exchanges which built on each other. It was a partnership of sorts. The voice would outline shapes, and I was privileged to fill them in. The black circle? It framed how I gave life to the shapes that the voice created. The voice held the black circle. He pointed it towards my body. He consumed my presence that was in front of him. And he saw what the black circle saw. Perhaps he saw beyond what the black circle did. If the black circle had a gaze, vision was what I thought the voice had.
The black circle took fragments of the 360 degree and 4D performances, and condensed them into a series of images. The images when put together, as I thought translated the vision. The vision showed me a different way of seeing myself and the world.
The black circle was a curious thing. By itself, it was a mere object, a selfish one. It needed to be held and it needed a subject to direct its gaze. In the eyes and the hands of the voice, it was a powerful one. The black circle took fragments of the 360 degree and 4D performances, and condensed them into a series of images. The images when put together, as I thought translated the vision. The vision showed me a different way of seeing myself and the world. I saw my body and my movements in ways that I did not imagine possible. I saw stories told by a collection of moments. I felt a part of the world unfold in front of my eyes — parts of the world that were hidden and kept under the dark of night.
The voice wasn’t foreign as the black circle was. Sir JC as I called him, had a large build and was taller than me. He was definitely older than me for probably a couple of years. He was an enthusiastic and driven one, which I thought was admirable to say the least.
I remember my conversations with Sir JC, the day before the shoot. We talked about You are so Delicious Maria in his car on the way to the test shoot for another project at the lahar (and then back to Casa San Miguel). He explained his concept and he looked for someone who, as I remembered, can present masculinity and femininity. I seemed to fit the role as I do work that crossed traditional presentation and performance of gender. We talked about his daughter who was a Hip Hop dancer and we talked about voguing as one of my interests. We also talked about how he made and produced his own films. He would source materials from household items and he would ask the help of his friends. He was a passionate one, and I was glad to have worked with him for his film.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Jonathan Luna is a Manila-based dance artist and thinker. They are interested in the relationship of dance/movement and culture/society. Their projects look into dance and vernacular ways of moving as seen in pop culture and urban spaces. Apart from dance, Jared loves apples.