In Disney’s “empire of happiness”, animals are anthropomorphized and formatted with US-American values and ways of being. Lions are kings and fish, monkeys and crickets become sidekicks to humans. Filipino performers often undertake these roles as the highly favoured workforce in the Disney theme parks and shows—They are the energetic “happiness machines” who tirelessly bring these mascots to life for entertainment.
In Manila Zoo, choreographer Eisa Jocson, along with four Filipino performers and German-based musician Charlotte Simon (Les Trucs), hijacks the Disney experience by embodying the intersections and politics of humans and animals, of spectacle, labour and isolation. Rejecting established entertainment routines, they tackle the mental effects of isolation shared by man and beast, expressing a collective desire for change. In Jocson’s version of the zoo, the private and public, real and virtual, happiness and horror intertwine. Humans and animals share the psychosis of isolation.
As a work that was shaped during the pandemic, Manila Zoo has taken on a heightened relevance and urgency and confronts the audience with complex issues relating to freedom of movement, exploitation and cultural identity.
Manila Zoo is a unique hybrid production featuring a live Zoom performance designed intentionally to be screened to a theatre audience attending in person. This third and final instalment of Jocson’s HAPPYLAND series makes its official premiere here in Singapore’s Esplanade da:ns festival. Princess, the first of the series, was presented at da:ns festival 2019.
Manila Zoo is a production by Eisa Jocson and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt am Main (Germany) in the frame of Tanzplattform Rhein-Main. In coproduction with BIT Teatergarasjen (Norway), Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (Singapore), Kaserne Basel (Switzerland), RISING Melbourne (Australia), Tanzquartier Vienna (Austria), Taipei Performing Arts Center (Taiwan) and TPAM Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama (Japan). Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media of Germany within the framework of the Alliance of International Production Houses, International Coproduction Fund of the Goethe-Institut. Tanzplattform Rhein-Main is a cooperation project of Hessisches Staatsballett and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, enabled by Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain and supported by the Department of Culture and Science of the City of Frankfurt/Main, the Hessian Ministry for Science and the Arts and the alliance of foundations [Aventis Foundation, BHF-BANK-Stiftung, Crespo Foundation, Dr. Marschner-Stiftung, Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft Frankfurt am Main, Hans Erich und Marie Elfriede Dotter-Stiftung]
Artistic Direction, Choreography, Performance: Eisa Jocson
Musical Direction: Charlotte Simon
In collaboration with: Bunny Cadag, Cathrine Go, Russ Ligtas, Joshua Serafin
Creative Presence: Arco Renz
Dramaturgy: Anna Wagner
Light Design: Jan Maertens
Live Stream Video Design: Yap Seok Hui | ARTFACTORY
Choreographic advice, movement coach: Rasa Alksynte
Production Management, Coordination & Distribution: Anne Kleiner
Artistic Production Management Frankfurt: Andreas Jahnke
Production Management Manila: Perky Parong
Technical Manager: Yap Seok Hui | ARTFACTORY
Live Stream & Video Engineer: Stev.e Kwek | ARTFACTORY
About Eisa Jocson
Choreographer, dancer and visual artist, Eisa Jocson exposes body politics in the service and entertainment industry as seen through the unique socioeconomic lens of the Philippines. She studies how the body moves and what conditions make it move – be it social mobility or movement out of Philippines through migrant work. In all her creations – from pole to macho dancing and hostess to Disney princess studies – capital is the driving force of movement pushing the indentured body into spatial geographies.