“Kinukumutan ka ng aking pagtitig (My stare blankets you),” is the line firstly spoken in the film. The tone, abridged by Jean Garcia’s strong performance as a feminist professor, heaps up Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of Two Left Feet) atop its ambitions.
Karen (Jean Garcia) teaches literature at Far Easter University while moonlighting as a dance instructor at night. Her stares piercing, standing on assurance yet distant and straight as an arrow with her speech. Marlon’s (Paolo Avelino) fascination of Karen testaments to this authority. A struggling student in the class, Marlon crawls up to her stature, spying on her life outside school leading to him finding out that she holds dance classes after her university work. Eager to measure up this time in her dancing class, he hires Karen’s assistant Dennis (Rocco Nacino) for an extra gig of Thursday night lessons of the basics. Karen soon finds out about this secret sessions that sparks a rift between Dennis and Marlon for which the professor is quick to fan out by hiring them as instructors for an upcoming cotillion. Later, Karen’s requests for a grant is released which commissions her to stage an interpretation of Huladapnon, a local epic dance where the lead Huladapnon (played by Marlon) is trapped in a cave full of seducing women. Buyung Sunmasakay (portrayed by Dennis) hopes to save the datu from the Taramban women under the incarnation of Nagmalitong Yawa, the shape-shifting goddess.
Earlier in the film, one of the most important joints that makes Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa intriguing is its use of deductive dialogues that span thematically throughout the picture. The assignment of roles in a dance between the male characters wherein Dennis asks, “Di ba pwedeng magkapantay na lang tayo?” (“Can’t we have equal roles instead?”) pertaining to who shall lead and follow expands to wider aspect of the film, for which the director Alvin Yapan used with gentlest care but with noblest effect. The audience is placed in Marlon’s shoes, watching the plot unfurls like how he himself has a hard time understanding Karen’s poems but with the receptive feel of Dennis, processing the situation as what his heart tells him to. The dance sequences on the film are mostly focusing Karen’s muted character. In a performance, she moves confident and assured like the Karen pictured in school and only seen with tears upon witnessing Dennis and Marlon’s interpretation of the poem by Benilda S. Santos, which the two spent days training for the audition and rendering what the poem is about.
The use of poetry and dance, boring to this generation of hypertext fiction props up the structure lying underneath its skin. The words of Benilda Santos, Merlinda Bobis, Joi Barrios, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Rebecca Anonuevo, and Ophelia Dimalanta hold the narrative like firm muscles slithering deep to the marrow and as the rhythm of the feet fleets to its dance, the harmony between the two sustains the flow of thought and feelings like blood giving the film its life.
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa tries it best to never land on the wrong foot and it succeeds greatly especially in its unraveling at the end. Yapan weaves stories of coming out, feminism and solitude in an ambitious manner of breaking stereotypes as to how figures of these are supposed to appear in screen. The characters are realistic and their realities are some of our own. Except from a few off-centered lines of Karen, philosophical and vague, Marlon’s inability to put words as to how he understands, Dennis and his quiet jealousy and unselfishness and most especially Karen’s truth in front of the mirror stripped of make up and defenses; we are them. Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa might have used poetry, music and dance to enrich the story of the three but in the end it is clear, the film takes after the lives of the Filipinos struggling not only in love but in identity. It is a celebration of a language and the conception of one, and that is what makes it hard to forget.
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa is written and directed by Alvin B. Yapan. Alemberg Ang and Alvin B. Yapan as Executive Producers. The movie will be part of Sine Gapo, check the schedule at their Facebook page.