Filipino artist Eisa Jocson, presents an outstanding doubleheader performance of Macho Dancer and Corponomy. The former is an original seductive dance found in Manila, and the latter a performance lecture unpacking the creative process behind Eisa Jocson’s body of works.
We find ourselves in the theatre facing a small catwalk seating on a semi-circle. The atmosphere is similar to the one found in the nightclubs of Manila. Jocson takes the stage dressed like a Macho Dancer, tight grey singlet, small denim shorts and cowboy boots. She is chewing gum, walking casually but determined with a heavy step – gazing the audience and seducing the theatre.
Jocson is a very fit performer, muscly arms and strong legs she performs a sensual routine to Total Eclipse of the Heart: embodying a sexy macho man. Kissing her right bicep, sliding on her knees and emphatically waving her spine, finishing off with her pubic-bone tilting towards us. We must remember, Jocson is a woman and not a man. However, sometimes we can’t tell one from the other, her impersonation is unquestionably masculine.
A sequence of ballads follows up until we find ourselves in a chilling silence when Jocson’s steps out of the catwalk. Our senses shift to listening. We are no longer admiring the muscular body but rather the sound of the cowboy boots demarking her territory. Staring into everyone’s eyes, she circles the female audience approaching one person at the time, entering our souls with piercing and provocative sight. After stripping off her singlet, we can verify she is, in fact, a beautiful and seductive woman. She then rests her eye-sight for the very first time, showing vulnerability and empathy to turn around and disappear into a smoky landscape of a club.
Jocson appropriates dances to reveal the Filipino patriarchy, and in Corponomy we can verify the central question to her body of works – Filipino social mobility.
Jocson transforms herself into a macho dancer, a pole dancer, a Japanese dance hostess and a non-white Disney princess in Corponomy. A full projection shares the written and video archive of Jocson’s laptop. She is sitting on a chair at her work-table scrolling through her notes. On screen, we see four open tabs. The first one with a killer ballet workout, the second is rehearsal footage of Death of the Pole Dancer, 2011 and the third window is a video of the real performance. The creative process in on display, wide-open as she re-writes notes on her first work in the last tab. Past and present come together in an interactive and digital performance.
Following up, she questions the Filipino hostess culture in Japan in Host, 2015. Video footage accompanies a live performance of this tradition of Filipino women moving abroad to perform like Japanese performers, in Japan. The sense of identity is at lost, as these women learn the language, traditions, and mannerisms, entertaining wealthy Japanese man in the late hours of the evening in Japan.
Jocson embodies every single one of these women to perfection. She demonstrates incredible dance and performance skills portraying a geisha, an exotic dancer or a Disney princess in Princess, 2017 and Your Highness, 2017. Filipino export labor is central to her research, as well as the role of women in a patriarchy society. It’s a binary tradition where in one hand, Filipino women move abroad to support their communities at home financially, and on the other hand, they lose their worth working in industries that don’t value their culture at all. Instead, these people repress their heritage to become entertainers speaking and behaving in a foreign social context, pleasing the wealthy and stable.
Eisa Jocson brings her research forwards in Corponomy, articulating video and text. In the end, she introduces herself as Snow White, bringing out a laugh on everyone’s face. The dichotomy of playing a happy and cheerful white-Disney-princess, versus the overworked, home-sick tired Filipino woman. In the end, Jocson mixes all these different characters in her body in an arresting, powerful and emotional performance.