On October 10-12, 2019 Bennyroyce Dance will premiere Land, Lost, Found as part of Gibney Presents, curated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director. Curatorial Associate, Dani Cole spoke with Bennyroyce Royon on his new work, the celebration of cultural roots, and a crucial return to nature.
Photos by Kuo-Heng Huang.
“Mine your bodies for rhythm,” Bennyroyce Royon suggests to his dancers. The sound of bare feet pressing into wood floor creates a harmony of steps and creaks.
An upcoming Gibney Presents artist, Royon and his project-based contemporary dance collective Bennyroyce Dance will premiere Land, Lost, Found from October 10-12, 2019 in Studio H—The Theater. A sacred place where meditation, ritual, and performance intersect, Land, Lost, Found encourages performers and audiences alike to question identity, re-root, and find common ground.
A Filipino-American choreographer, Royon, at moments, compassionately zooms in on his cultural heritage in carefully crafted aspects of his work. He pairs elements of Maglalatik, an indigenous Filipino dance traditionally danced with coconut shells, with space-eating phrase work linked to elements of nature. Without coconut shells, Royon’s dancers use their hands to create percussive sounds on their bodies. Echoing slaps against thighs and backs that tingle the skin reawaken the body’s profound ability to communicate beyond speech and gesture.
“My Filipino community is consistently bright and hopeful.” Royon says. “Although this positivity keeps us going, I am also invested in the resilience and grit in this hope as we continue the journey to embracing who we are as a community.”
The robustness of community is fervent in Royon’s diverse collective, comprised of Marta Bianchi, A’Lexus Crooms, Mizuho Kappa, Philip Strom, and Wade Watson, in addition to photographer Kuo-Heng Huang, lighting designer Josh Monroe, and costume designer Amanda Gladu. Amidst virtuosic movement sequencing, the dancers’ engaging differences meld together in a group rhythm. Audible breath and spiraling pathways within repetitive cadences transform into unified explorations of support. The dancers share effort during relentless motion. Listening to one another’s tendencies, Royon and the dancers co-create on earth that is fertile through its receptivity to change.
Royon shares, “I’m interested in humans as a resource… Our energy, or life force, is the most precious commodity we have. I am learning to be mindful of my energy, the energy of others, and how we share energy.”
When considering his feelings of what Royon calls “the chaotic world,” he shares that Land, Lost, Found is as much a celebration of cultural roots as it is a crucial return to nature.
“We’ve lost touch with our deep connection to nature,” Royon says. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where there is plenty of nature. I’m currently at a place in my life where nature is beckoning me to have a conversation and connect with her again. It’s not so much a craving as it is a necessity.”
In addition to spending time together in the New York summer greenery, Royon and his dancers begin rehearsals in a meditative circle. Each dancer taps into what their body needs while maintaining an energetic connection around the circle, a connectivity that radiates in the spaces between bodies.
“When the audience witnesses us, there should be no introduction needed,” Royon earnestly shares with his dancers. “Through movement, we find clarity in communal intention—a natural way in which our different bodies can process together without dogma.”