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Filipino Folkdance, Contemporary Ballet, and Motherhood: Annielille Gavino Kollman’s HERstory

Posted August 11th, 2017

Annielille Gavino Kollman in HERstory.

What do you get when you combine modern choreography, folkdance polyrhythms, and a baby? The dances of Annielille Gavino Kollman bring together eastern and western styles, while incorporating many other disciplines, and using a group of dancers diverse in both race and generation. Her newest work, HERstory, is a three-part production that investigates the theme of motherhood and culture, and is supported by the Small But Mighty Art Grant. Annielille’s dance is about her homeland (the Philippines) as a mother and acts as a celebration and portrait of the women there and around the world. She first learned dance as a folkdancer, and now incorporates the styles from her country into contemporary movements. Much of the work is autobiographical, expressing her experience as a mother and as a Filipina woman, but it also includes the backstories of the other dancers, who contribute vibrant rhythms by clapping, stomping, and yelling. Additionally, HERstroy features spoken word through poetry written by the dancers and Lenora Howard, film projection by Jasmine Lynea Callis, and music composed by Maya Simonee.

Born in the Philippines, Annielille lived there until coming to New York after college. She attended the The Ailey School of dance in 2000, which caters to minorities who were often overlooked in the world of ballet and modern dance. She left the country “on impulse” but she also left to escape extremely difficult circumstances. She was tired of being silenced as a woman, and of experiences of abuse by men.  “I was too vocal. I think that was the problem for them. I was too strong to be a submissive wife.” She had been dancing since she could remember, and was a highly skilled folkdancer. “It was just a way for me to get out of the country so I just followed that, because I was good at it. It became cathartic to me, too, so I just kept doing it.”

After studying at Ailey, she danced around the United States for different companies, touring in Colorado, and then in Texas. Later she moved to Virginia, where she found very little creative dance, and a society that was less accepting of her than they had been in New York. “It was very segregated,” she says. “Being in a place where I saw Confederate flags every day of my life, I started to make art. I became a political artist at first, and more of a performance artist.” She had her daughter, and started teaching her dance. “When I didn’t have an outlet for dance, I started teaching her texture, colors, and letters through dance.” She also started choreographing for a Filipino folk dance group, and began teaching her folk dances. She moved to Philadelphia two years ago, a welcome change. “I liked the grit, and a little bit of a faster pace. I love the row houses, and the little streets, where people can connect easier than in wider, suburban space. I feel more at home in cities like this.” Once in Philadelphia, she started dancing for Kun-Yang Li/Dancers, and soon, creating her own projects.

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