For as long as I’ve been creating with my hands, the rest of my body has been accustomed to perform. I grew up exploring the arts, passionately throwing myself into an assortment of disciplines, which I eventually abandoned for singular focus. I did this in both fine and performing arts.
I spent summers at art camps for traditional drawing and painting classes, I represented my school and competed in poster-making and photography contests. I took a college degree in graphic design but in high school, I was dancing for several musical productions — performing Filipino folk (at one point representing the country in Hawaii), competing on provincial highways for the quintessential Filipino streetdance and baton twirling for the school’s drum and lyre band. In Manila, I even tried out college cheerleading before joining a contemporary dance troupe. Suffice to say that I tried everything until I found footing in graphic design and contemporary dance, like these two had the leading roles in my own microcosm. In retrospect, I never got to fuse the two in a way that satisfied me. Design and dance were always two parallel lines that moved with the direction of my life, but never intersected.
Design and dance were always two parallel lines that moved with the direction of my life, but never intersected.
Comparing the two, I’ve always had confidence in calling myself a graphic designer because of the legitimacy that came with taking it as a degree and eventually practicing it professionally. Although I had choreographed a few pieces and staged three productions with a dance troupe I was truly committed to, I could never say the same for dance. My insecurity towards dance came from the fact that I was never classically trained for it, unlike most of my companions back then. I found comfort, however, in the young me who wouldn’t hesitate and would always just plunge into any opportunity that pushed me towards my full creative potential.
At the start of 2021, Fifth Wall Fest (FWF), the country's first international platform for dance on camera, approached me to design a wordmark for their "Movement in Focus" campaign. The campaign invited artists from different disciplines to capture movement in their respective forms. I gladly accepted the commission because I rarely come across a project that combines two of my deepest interests in the world of the arts — design and dance. On the first Zoom call I had with the team, I hesitated to confess: little did they know that I also dance.
For years I split my time between a design studio during the day and an underground dance studio at night. In those times I always felt the desire to merge the two. But that opportunity never came, at least not on the terms I wanted. With the ceaseless challenges that came with being a Filipino creative in Manila, I could no longer afford to do both. Even if I was equally passionate towards the two disciplines, I had to choose the one that would allow me to earn for my future.
I didn’t succeed in stopping. My body yearned for more, so I enrolled in numerous classes and it was during this period that I started to realize new terms for myself and movement. With my own body as the medium, I myself was a work in progress. Because what does a “draft” of a dance even look like? If I’m “drafting” in dance, isn’t that considered a dance still?
In working closely with the two, I realize they have a lot in common: both dance and design aspire to attain visual pleasure, not just for the intended audience, but also for myself as the creator. In my head I imagine a clean piece of paper as an empty stage, blocking and timing the appearances of each shape on an invisible grid with precision, choreographing the flow of colors, patterns and words, bringing out the story or message the design wishes to convey. In both graphic design and dance, I have the ability to lead the audience — ushering their eyes from one act to another until the show concludes altogether. Even before I could fuse the two with purpose, my relationship with movement and dance experience had seeped into my design process.
To view the two not as isolated disciplines but as fields that coexist and enrich each other is creatively liberating. The intersection of design and dance is new territory and the uncertainty that comes with merging the two is invigorating. Even as I venture more into letterforms, I further reflect on how type is a kind of performance, or how a type specimen is a show. There is the showcase of movement and rhythm through letters atop baselines, text that isn’t just meant to be read, but to be seen as well.
Fifth Wall Fest does more than provide a platform for dance films — I could tell by how they embrace a more diversified approach into producing their events and other activations. Because FWF has been very interdisciplinary, it only makes sense that I first heard about it from reshares of fellow creative friends, none of them professional dancers but a handful of graphic designers, illustrators and film producers. In a country where securing financial support for creative endeavors is difficult, we creatives turn to each other and fuse disciplines together just to get the show going.
I presumed that my work for this campaign was going to be inspired by my personal musings between the two, because typography and graphic design are incredibly emotional. I can reveal how I feel through my body’s movement and the work of my hands. Most people don’t think of graphic design this way, but as someone who lives deep in the worlds of design and dance, I propose a redesign, a shift in perspective and the way we view these disciplines: embrace the beauty of this intersection and the tensions and uncertainty that come with fusing the two. It is in marrying your passions that you get to create your most genuine self.