Ea Torrado choreographs loss, grief, and healing

‘Ballet is so different from what I am doing now.’ The FilAm Photo

‘Ballet is so different from what I am doing now.’ The FilAm Photo

Playing Sisa at the Lopez Museum in 2014. Inspired by the ‘loss of identity of mothers and the Motherland.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

How many stages of grief are we allowed to have? Four? Seven?

In Ea Marie Torrado’s 32 years, the grieving came in waves and stages: The father she knew nothing about, her struggle against bulimia, the death of the grandfather who brought her to ballet school, the dancers who left her company over artistic differences, the friendships that did not flourish.

It seemed endless, the loss in Ea’s life. Through it all, she turned to dance to calm the tremors in her emotions. It was her body’s expressive movements – sometimes slow, sometimes convulsive, but always with a storied meaning – that always healed her heart.

“I grew up dancing,” said Ea when interviewed by The FilAm one blustery morning in a Midtown sushi café.

She was raised by her grandparents in Quezon City, and went to ballet school at age 7. Ballet, as we know, is dance discipline usually associated with rich village girls not those living in the strapped neighborhood of Bago Bantay. But Ea’s mother was an OFW in Japan and could afford that luxury for her daughter, even as she subsisted on one leotard and a moldy pair of pointe shoes. It was her ‘lolo’ who diligently took her to ballet school and waited – together with her classmates’ maids and nannies — to take her back home.

“Lolo was always there,” she said. “I was lolo’s girl.”

She learned to navigate the fear and pain of abandonment at an early age. Her parents separated right after she was born, her father bequeathing only his name. She never met her paternal kin. When she was 1, her mother left to work in Japan. Growing up, she saw her only once a year, sometimes once every two years.

Throughout her coming of age, ballet sustained her. She trained with Effie Nanas, won a scholarship to Liza Macuja’s Ballet Manila at age 12, and became a professional ballet dancer at 16.

The grandparents who raised her while her mother worked abroad. ‘ I was lolo’s girl.’

The grandparents who raised her while her mother worked abroad. ‘ I was lolo’s girl.’

“I was earning my own money,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to college.”

Although she was of brown ‘kayumanggi,’ not mestiza, complexion, her childhood dream of playing a princess materialized in lead roles in “Carmen” and “Black Swan,” and as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.”

Her mother, who insisted on a “fallback” career, as a nurse, maybe, or a call center agent, prevailed. Ea went to computer school, a three-year course she finished in five. She never worked in computers.

At various points in her life, she continued to dance, taught ballet and modern dance, and studied dance more vigorously. Not so much its technique but its ability to communicate emotions and to heal.

From her artist statement, she described: “I spent many years adhering to the belief that my body exists to serve an art form. But the exhilaration from endless striving for beauty and perfection in my 15 years of classical ballet didn’t hold up. When I was 24, I hung my pointe shoes. I needed to find ways to move and be (onstage, and in the world) that are more organic and authentic to myself.”

With her training in contemporary dance, performance art, theatre work, she formed Daloy Dance Company in 2014 where she is currently the artistic director. Daloy, based in Manila, encourages collaboration between regular folks and artists from diverse backgrounds, produces and tours Ea’s choregraphed pieces. What those pieces are, she explained in her artist statement: “By uncovering what has been suppressed/repressed/oppressed in the body, are what motivates me to create my dance theatre pieces.”

Dancer, choreographer, healer

Dancer, choreographer, healer

Some of her socially relevant works include “Wallflower,” inspired by people who committed suicide from bullying and presented on World Suicide Day; “Mga Babae,” a statement on trafficking and violence; and “Two of You,” about a gay man struggling to come out of the closet.

Further studies brought her to the Asian Cultural Council in New York — a program that promotes “transformative cultural exchange” — where she is currently a fellow. Ea’s research on dance as a healing art is being given the support it needs. “Wailing Women” is the name of her project, loss and grief its impetus.

Ea explained how the concept of “Wailing Women” came about.

“Daloy Dance Company has an ongoing project called, Ugnayan or the Community Outreach Program through immersions, dance performance and workshops. One of our projects was, we gave Movement Workshops for the families of EJK (extra-judicial killings) victims. We were in partnership with Resbak and Rise-Up, coalitions of artists, social and cultural workers aiming to help these families get legal support, recover from pain and trauma, and regain a sense of stability in their lives through different forms of art.

“In line with this immersion with the EJK families, I created and performed a one-woman show called Wailing Women inspired by their stories of injustice and bereavement. Wailing Women was performed at Pineapple Lab on July 27 and 30, 2017, and at The Goyang International Dance Festival in South Korea, also at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, Bronx Academy of Arts and , and Colombia Journalism School in NYC.”

As a concept, the “Wailing Women” project is still being sharpened. Her idea is to enlarge its reach and bring together many different women, including trans women, going through grief in their own way.

Abandonment, loss, grief. They paved the way for what Ea is today: an artist with a social purpose, Type A in a spectrum, competitive, a woman who does not easily back down.

“It’s been a painful life,” she said, “maybe that’s why I’m drawn to stuff that heals.”

© The FilAm 2017

Battling bulimia as a young ballet dancer: ‘I’d look at myself in the mirror and see a fat woman.’

Battling bulimia as a young ballet dancer: ‘I’d look at myself in the mirror and see a fat woman.’

A Daloy Dance Company ‘Sayaw Galaw’ (Dance Move) workshop

A Daloy Dance Company ‘Sayaw Galaw’ (Dance Move) workshop

One Comment

  1. rogers wrote:

    There are numerous exception people like Ea who succeeded in their lives through pain, perseverance, dedication to her ambition.I think there is a hidden spiritual aspect to her healing motive of her dancing. Thnks

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