Eisa Jocson: It takes preparation and passion to elevate the art of macho dancing
FOR MANY PEOPLE, dance may simply be a form of expression bereft of artistic expression, either as a form of entertainment or a regimen to lose those extra pounds. But for dance artist Eisa Jocson, dance is no longer just a reaction to music – it is ultimately, an articulation for art, one that is sensual, suggestive, and bold.
But there’s a catch: Eisa is not your typical dancer who expresses her sexuality in predictable feminine moves. She is, after all, a cut from a different mold – someone who dances to the beat that is often associated with red-light district fare, one meant to titillate or arouse the senses.
Eisa is 100 percent female (in body and in sexuality) with a passion for the art of macho dancing – the languid gyrations that seemed to move in its own slow time, and with enough boldness, arrogance and virility, to make every man, woman (and everyone on the gender spectrum) getting turned on, gasping for more.
Language of sexuality
It’s hard not to feel anything as she performs to the beat of Canadian electronic performer, Peaches’ ‘How you like my cut.’ Her movement brings one back to days when one only starts to discover the curves of the body, how it is meant only for private pleasure for fear of social displeasure.
Her quest began, surprisingly, with the ultra-feminine pole dancing. “I was very impressed with how the dynamics of pole dancing changed from red light district entertainment to a fitness regimen,” Eisa noted.
“Women who did pole dancing suddenly spoke a different vocabulary of the dance. It wasn’t just sleazy entertainment; suddenly it was performance that made women feel good and confident about themselves. Women who did pole for fitness suddenly became a community with new appreciation to the dance, so much so that even if we do watch it in a bar, we can’t help but admire that woman who do difficult moves.”
Eisa’s performances as a female macho dancer are part of her continuous pursuit to learn the different language or ‘narratives’ of dance. A trained classical dancer who learned ballet for seven years, Eisa’s inherent instinct for art allowed her to see what she calls as another vocabulary of dance. It has allowed her to discover a whole new dimension: a sub-context of a nation’s culture and identity formation, and she is on a personal mission to ‘speak’ these various narratives.
With a new found perception to pole dancing, Eisa travelled to Europe to perform different aspects of the dance. Her first show in Belgium, Stainless Borders, made use of different poles found in public space, signifying a different kind of freedom by performing guerrilla pole dancing.
Another pole performance, which she did in Berlin called ‘Death of a pole dancer’ used the practical rituals of a pole dancer as part of her routine. Her pole preparation became her actual performance and it challenged her viewers’ notion of what true pole dancing is really about.
Meant for manly gestures
With macho dancing, Eisa declares that she challenged her own awareness of gender as a woman to ensure that she performed the dance flawlessly.
“I literally had to step into their shoes to master this dance. Movement is my entry point so I can empathize with real macho dancers,” she said. It took her one whole year to learn macho dancing, religiously watching stage performances in popular male strip clubs in Manila so she can learn every step, drop and turn.
At one point, she even invited these male exotic dancers to teach her at home, much to their surprise and skepticism.
“At first, they didn’t take me seriously,” she revealed with a laugh. “I guess they thought I invited them for something else other than learning! It took a while for some of them that I meant business. Eventually there was this guy who became a dedicated mentor. He knows that I was bent on learning it seriously.”
Eisa admits that macho dancing is hard. “I literally had to tweak my body to get attuned to it. I had a body meant for ballet dancing, which meant a thin frame that is light and dainty; it wasn’t what macho dancing called for.”
She adds that there had to be a shift not only in the body but also in the mind. “My years training in ballet and pole meant that my sense of balance relied on the pole. With macho dancing it was just me and the floor. Pole gave me a sense of weightlessness and macho dancing needed that I be rooted to the stage. With macho dancing, it was all about volume and tonicity.”
Being masculine requires a lot of hard work: Eisa had to perform gym routines that most men do like weight-lifting. “Women tend to gravitate towards the treadmill or do Zumba, I opted to do weights,” she revealed. When her biceps and calves began to form, that was the time she was able to do much of the dance and the projection.
“One big difference between men and women is the flick of the wrist. When I developed muscles, I saw that it was time that I could already do their dance.”
Next, Eisa had to work on the attitude. Macho dancers project a certain kind of confidence and aloofness to their performance. They had to make women want them. The cultural significance wasn’t lost to Eisa, citing that macho dancers tend to gravitate towards power ballads or song from strong women such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, maybe because these songs often pine for a male hero to rescue them from the throngs of consuming love. Even their outfit is culturally significant.
“Macho dancers love wearing cowboy boots. I think it’s a Western reference, that the real macho men are cowboys.”
From pole dancer to princess
These days, Eisa is busy producing another show, this time with well-known dance company Ballet Philippines to once more try to interpret yet another narrative of dance. Through a dance concert called ‘Your Highness’, she will be using classical ballet and references to Disney princesses as her way to portray its subconscious connection to OFWs.
“Using the princess archetype, ‘Your Highness’ aims to show that our fascination with princesses, particularly Disney Princesses, is actually preparing us for life abroad,” she explained. “It entreats us to observe the colonial narrative and embodiment of the princess archetype which hosts and re/produces contemporary Filipino servility and mobility within the global empire.”
Reversing the princess figure, Jocson sees our fascination with the magical world of Disney princesses and the inclination of Filipino dancers to go abroad and work as these characters in environments such as Disneyland, as a subconscious effort to make these fantasy, a reality.
Performance over seduction
Do women fall for her performance? Definitely.
“Women and even gay men approach me and say how much my dance turned them on,” she revealed. “Actually, even straight guys get attracted.”
It is safe to say that her art of macho dancing deconstructs people’s concept of attraction but the idea of straight men enjoying a very ‘male’ performance from a female dance performer was a big reaction that she much appreciates.
“It just says that it’s not the gender that people are attracted to but rather the behavior,” she intimated. “It is the performance of the gender – the moment – that attracts us.”