Storytelling Through Movements Instead of Words’
An Interview with Versatile Dancer Alberto Garcia

English Text: Kelvin U, UM Reporter Cheila Alexis C. Pangan │ Photo: Senior UM Reporter Ivonne Lao, with some provided by the interviewee │ Issue 69 May My UM 

As a guest solo artist at the world’s best festivals, such as Imaginarium in Portugal and the Supercell Dance Festival in Australia, Alberto Garcia, a fourth-year undergraduate student of communication studies, believes that dance is a hidden language of our soul.

Aim High – Dance Around the World

Born and raised in Macao, Garcia started to learn drama theatre in high school. There he met a couple – Maíra Belati and António Martinez, directors of the Black Sand Theatre, who introduced him to physical theatre – a performance art that combines drama and body movements. Ever since then, he has been curious about all forms of dance that translate thoughts into movements.He has been trained in ballet, Chinese dance, and modern dance with Tao Dance Theater, the National Dance Company of Spain, and Hofesh Shechter Dance Company. So far he has performed as an actor, a stilt performer, and a dancer both in Macao and overseas.

Alberto Garcia performs physical theatre in Portugal

‘Dance pushes me to my limits,’ Garcia says. ‘If you engage in ballet or Chinese dancing, you’ll have to twist, pull, and stretch your body to your limit – which I like to do.’ He obtained the Certificate of Examination of Artistic Level Chinese Dance Grade 11 issued by the Beijing Dance Academy Graded Examination Committee. In 2017 he received a full scholarship to attend the European Ballet Intensive Course. Also, his choreographed dances Nilalang and Four Legs Is Good, Two Legs Is Better became finalists at Bauhinia Cup International Dance Championships 2016 in Hong Kong and Choreographers’ Competition 2016 in the Philippines.

‘Dance is a medium that carries messages and conveys emotions. It involves communication skills, just like what I am taught in my major: how to disseminate a message effectively,’ Garcia says. ‘I see myself as a storyteller – articulating a story through body movements, instead of words.’

   Alberto Garcia thinks that dance is a medium that
messages and conveys emotions

Connecting Audience Through Improvised Movements

Lights dim. Two dancers rise up, wiggle, and bust a move smoothly, swiftly and simultaneously, to perform a duet in Isthmus, the first story of To Each Her Own City at the Macao Cultural Centre. A vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated into action thrives at once on the dance floor. The duet, gracefully performed by Garcia and his partner, Annette Ng, transforms something from an ordinary life or experience into an artistic symbol that exists and is to
be appreciated.

To Each Her Own City was inspired by a poem written by Agnes Lam, assistant dean and assistant professor of the Faculty of Social Sciences. ‘This is a contemporary dance, in which we ponder how to live in the present,’ says Garcia. ‘It involves improvised movements – an impulsive form that draws inspiration from the daily dance practices and influences. For me, the dance techniques are not that difficult. The dance is more about expressing emotions than it is about refining techniques. The most powerful way to reach the audience is speaking through the characters’ emotions. We hope to evoke dramatic and thought-provoking content through dance improvisation.’

A duet in To Each Her Own City

Embrace Like a Lover

Garcia sees contemporary dance as more than just physical movements. To him, dance is a meditation, a passion, as well as a connection to, and an interaction with, other souls. One month before the show, Garcia and Ng went to Taiwan for intensive training, and they were told to live together in a house for two weeks.
‘Experience as a duet plays a big part in this,’ says Garcia. ‘This is a dance in particular choreographed for a couple. So we are very often asked to date, but in real life we are sad to
admit that we don’t have much experience in dating. For us, it is definitely something new and it was quite embarrassing at the beginning.’ The choreographer advised them to watch movies and go on a date. ‘We watched La La Land but it just could not change it overnight,’ Garcia says with a laugh.

Adventure in Portugal

Stella Ho director of Stella and Artists, introduced Garcia to contemporary dance. He has learned to explore how movements from classical dance could be employed to express a particular emotion. Soon, opportunities knocked. Garcia made his dancing debut in the local art scene.

Alberto Garcia hopes to become a professional dancer after graduation

In 2015, he was invited to perform physical theatre in Portugal – a chance to dance outside of his birthplace for the first time.  ‘I managed to collect enough money to stay in Portugal for a month. I was alone throughout the whole journey and was quite scared. But nothing could stop me,’ Garcia recalls. He performed with Projectos de Intervenção Artística for two weeks in Portugal and was so touched and thrilled to hear people call him a dancer because of ‘the way he moved’. ‘I feel overwhelmed every time I perform abroad, because I get to see professional dancers and they inspire me to work harder on my craft,’ he says.

Shapeless Like Water

Just as doubts and obstacles are inevitable in everyone’s life, Garcia also faces challenges in the pursuit of his dream. One challenge that Garcia is currently working to overcome are his parents, who strongly believe that dancing can neither guarantee a bright future nor get him a ‘normal’ job. Luckily, after seeing his performances abroad and the media coverage, his parents gradually became more supportive.

‘Every time I give a performance, I send them photos, and they always say to me, “I’m so proud of you”, and I feel like, maybe they’re okay with it. Sometimes, we have to be more flexible in life,’ says Garcia. ‘Just like how one of my favourite sayings from Bruce Lee goes: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. When you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Be water my friend.”’