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Doin The Robot: Pilipino Culture Night without Traditional Dance

Academic Presentation by Lorenzo Lozo Perillo, UCLA Department of World Arts & Cultures

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
160 Kaufman Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Given that the terrain of Popular Dance has often existed at the periphery of Dance Studies, popular dances are usually mapped outside the jurisdiction of performing subjectivity, identity, and history. In April 2000, UC Berkeley’s Pilipino Culture Night (PCN) presented Home, which featured the strategic deployment of the popular dance, “The Robot”. Through popular dance, second-generation Pilipino Americans metaphorically exposed the nuts and bolts of mechanically re-producing “Cultural Shows.” Since the late 1970s, similar folks across mostly West Coast college universities have been developing Culture Nights, like PCN. They are typically three-hour theatrical productions of standardized folk music and dances. By completely un-charting these dances and inscribing popular dance as a migration away from the PCN genre formula, Home presents the following question: What does PCN look like when “traditional” dances are removed? 

At the core of my research is the notion that dis-locating the “traditional” from a cultural production genre conventionally tasked with re-presenting such traditions catalyzes an assessment of ideological and practical relevance. Home re-maps “homeland” and diaspora onto Pilipino American bodies while contesting the “authenticity” and globalization of indigenous folklore dance forms. Home offers an exploration of PCN, and implicitly other Culture Nights, that mobilizes embodied critiques of essentialism, mobility, and terms of “success.” I frame Home within the localized racial and transnational politics it aimed to address. Finally, I conduct a close-textual analysis of the section of Home that employs “The Robot” as a choreographic strategy to dis-locate static notions of Filipino identity. Choreographic decisions re-locate “home” from “homeland”, ground multiple senses of belonging, and gesture to other futures.

Lorenzo “Lozo” Perillo is a second-generation Filipino American born in Honolulu. While at UC Berkeley, Lozo performed and choreographed for PCN from 1998-2002, acting as PCN coordinator in 2002. In the Bay, he also danced/choreographed for Danceworx, Dance Junta, the Movement, and Culture Shock San Francisco. Lozo's academic career is informed by his Pilipino community work and experience as a hip-hop dancer/choreographer for the last decade. Lozo studied Filipino b-boys/b-girls while grabbing an M.A. in American Studies in Manoa in 2007. Lozo joined WAC to pursue a PhD in Culture and Performance with a concentration in both Dance Studies and Asian American Studies at UCLA. This past summer, he completed a Filipino language immersion program in Dasmarinas, Cavite, and conducted research as a Fulbright scholar with hip-hop dancers in Manila.

Part of the World Arts and Cultures lecture series "Chew on This."

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies, World Arts & Cultures/Dance

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