Review: Kularts with Brava presents “Nursing These Wounds” Oct. 21 - 30, 2022 Brava Theater Center
We begin with a ritual. Figures dressed in white descend a stair and pass between the audience members lining the alley behind the theater. Each performer carries either a lantern or a carved wooden boat filled with flowers. They rock back onto their heals before moving forward. This creates the swaying motion of a boats’ journey through waves. The audience becomes part of the processional into the Brava Theater Center Cabaret, where the remainder of Kularts’ Nursing These Wounds (NTW) unfolds.
Alleluia Panis, Kularts’ Director and the show’s creator and choreographer welcomes us. She notes the show is a prayer, a gift, and art meant to honor healers in the past, the present and the future. Throughout NTW Panis balances the artistic content with education as the program includes facts surrounding the impact of colonization on Pilipinx health and caregiving. Her goal being to ensure that we leave better educated, as well as entertained. She accomplishes this by alternating documentary film sections with dance and biographical performance sections.
“Why Are There So Many Filipino Nurses in the U.S.?” a seven-minute video by Al Jazeera (AJ+) summarizes the role of America in the Philippines. It explains the policies and programs which manipulated and incentivized so many Pilipinx people to choose healthcare professions and to become migrant nurses.
As the video concludes, the stage fills with performs in nursing garb. We hear a modern version of the Florence Nightingale Nursing Pledge. Dancing in unison, washing and gloving hands, the dancers’ demeanor is serious and thoughtful. Using their pointer fingers, they draw a square, creating a monitor at face-height, into which they gaze, tapping away.
NTW includes four biographical narratives, which add specificity to the statistics about the disproportionately large number of Pilipinx nurses in the U.S. Soloists perform choreography they created for themselves based on these anecdotes. Frances Teves Sedayao uses her graceful, petite form in support of a story of a young woman, longing to be a nurse in America. Her father exchanges the deed to the family farm for her plane ticket to the United States. We feel the weight of this responsibility on her expressive face and drooping shoulders.
Kao Sebastian Saephanh moves with confidence as his feat beat in the air, entrechat. He is dancing the story of a man, who began his career as an Army Corpsmen, and who later becomes a nurse, graduating at fifty-two.
Allegra Bautista portrays, with athleticism, the strong-minded woman, who follows her family’s nursing tradition. Bautista fills the space with long running strides, a jump onto the small side stage and even a cartwheel.
Sydney Leong’s poetic choreography is well-suited to the account of a girl from a poor rural setting, dreaming of a better life. As the narrator reveals her choice to marry an American twenty-five years her senior, Leong’s arms form a heart over her head. When the woman contemplates whether she loved him, Leong shrugs, her face a mixture of emotions.
After a long set change, nurses in scrubs enter holding a wine glass or tumbler, some play Mahjong, while others sing Karaoke. Jess DeFranco belts out a marvelous version of Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” selling it with her body, as well as her voice. The group joins in for a rousing sing-along, in Tagalog, of a Filipino pop song. This scene reminds us that the nurses have each other for company, but are perhaps isolated from their families.
With COVID lingering, it’s a bit overwhelming to see faces covered in oxygen masks, yet the stage fills with them as dancers enter clad in hospital gowns. They writhe in agony. Nurses Dre “Poko” Devis and Bautista try in vain to provide care, spinning from one patient to another. We feel the overwhelming weight of the task as they lift patients into their arms.
The evening’s final video uses text, and images of natural settings, to teach us the concept of a kadua, a twin being, or a spirit guide. Devis is onstage alone, when her kadua appears in the rafters. Feathers sprout from Jonathan Mercado’s shoulders; he sways and gestures with other-worldliness. She is exhausted. It isn’t clear if he is helping or hurting her, but the connection is real. Sirens sound as the two dance together, their fists pounding into their palms, their resolve strong. The duet becomes a trio, as a doctor enters. Devis lays down, the spirit at her head, and the doctor at her feet. The message clear, that both the spiritual and the physical must be honored for healing to take place.
The show, which has performances through October 30, ends on a high note, with a rap song. It reminds us the essential function of nurses, who give us comfort when we are low. Photos of nurses, family members of the performers, scroll by.
KULARTS WITH BRAVA PRESENTS THE WORLD PREMIERE OF
Nursing These Wounds
A SITE SPECIFIC, IMMERSIVE DANCE PERFORMANCE INVESTIGATING THE IMPACT OF COLONIZATION ON PILIPINX HEALTH AND CAREGIVING THROUGH THE LENS OF PILIPINX NURSES’ HISTORY.
Conceived, Choreographed, and Directed by ALLELUIA PANIS
Composer and Music Director JOSHUA ICBAN
Media Artist and Editor ALVIN ‘CAS’ CASASOLA
Costume Designer LADISLAO ‘JUNE’ ARELLANO
Lighting Designer and Technical Director GRISEL ‘GG’ TORRES
Installation Artist O.M. FRANCE VIANA
Dramaturg JOYCE LU, PHD
BRAVA CABARET 2773 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
WEEKEND 1 7:00 PM • Friday, October 21 (PREVIEW) 3:00 PM + 7:00 PM • Saturday, October 22 3:00 PM • Sunday, October 23
WEEKEND 2 7:00 PM • Friday, October 28 3:00 PM + 7:00 PM • Saturday, October 29 3:00 PM • Sunday, October 30