Alvin Erasga Tolentino is an Asian/Canadian dance artist who brings a fresh voice to the national and international dance scenes. Tolentino began his modern dance training at Gloria Creighton’s IMMRAM studio in Vancouver during his teens and later completed York University’s dance program in Toronto. He then attended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, but left to join Lola MacLaughlin’s Vancouver-based Lola Dance. During the 1990s Tolentino performed with EDAM, Karen Jamieson Dance, Kinesis Dance, Kokoro Dance, and Mascall Dance, as well as studying at New York’s Limón Institute and SUNY Purchase. He also began performing some of his own choreographies, including his iconic Swan Diva (1998), where he donned a pair of metallic wings and used the concepts of swans, divas, and dance, embodied by Anna Pavlova’s Dying Swan performance, to reflect on self-acceptance as a gay man of colour. In 2000, Tolentino founded Co.ERASGA and has since toured works across the world and collaborated with artists from France, Uruguay, Thailand, and Germany. Tolentino is the founder of the biennial dance prize the AET Koreograpiya Award given to a young Filipino dance artist living in the Philippines.
Tolentino’s Filipino identity is a major part of his art. After moving to Canada when he was 12, he found there was far less dance in day-to-day life in Canada than in the Philippines and he missed it – this prompted him to start taking classes. His connection to traditional Asian dance forms was recharged when he visited the Philippines in 2003 after receiving a grant for professional development from the Canada Council for the Arts. His return to the Philippines became a crucial part of his artistic practice and he was also commissioned to create a new work, Field 1, for the prestigious Ballet Philippines. Tolentino frequently collaborates with other Asian artists and Co.ERASGA has toured to the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and China. Tolentino also draws on Asian philosophical themes, such as spirituality, the connection between humanity and nature, and the play of darkness and light. Many of these themes touch on the concepts of duality and hybridity, which Tolentino uses to explore various aspects of identity. His works frequently touch on sexuality, gender, race, and the concept of cross-cultural art. Tolentino also uses a multi-media approach incorporating spoken word poetry, video, music, and soundscapes. Several of his works have been filmed including Birth, and SOLA (1994-1998), which was specifically choreographed for film. Both were nominated and won the Grand Prix International Video Dance Competition for UNESCO in 2002, BC’s Leo Award 2000, and Canada’s Gemini 2001. In 2010, Tolentino was awarded the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Dance and the ExploreAsian-Pan Asian Award in 2018.
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Dance Collection Danse would like to acknowledge that the land on which we work is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Métis, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. It has been a site of human activity, including dance, for at least 15,000 years and we are grateful to all the caretakers, both recorded and unrecorded, of this land and of Turtle Island. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and dance in the community, on this territory.