Aaron Kaiser Garcia is a performer and performance maker. An alumnus of the Dance Program (Folk Dance) at the Philippine High School for the Arts with a strong background in folk and contemporary dances, he has gone on to explore contemporary performance-making.
Aaron has been training as an artist-facilitator and has conducted works in various communities in the Philippines. He was a production manager for Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s productions Are You Ready to Take the Law Into Your Own Hands (which he choreographed for), and Nagwawalang Gubat (2018). He was also the youngest festival project manager for Karnabal Festival: Performance and Social Innovation PerYaKToi (2016) and Edukasyon Artist Residency (2017).
As a performer, Aaron has represented the Philippines in several international festivals in Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and China. He also performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Choreographers Series: Neo-Filipino and Koryolab. His work, Dakel Saday: The Unpublished Philippine Folk Dances of the Tasaday, Volume I, was featured in CNN Philippines Life: 2018 in Philippine Art.
Post-graduation, Aaron will be continuing his practice with Komunidad X, an anti-disciplinary collective committed to creating “life” performances for civic engagement and social development, based in Manila under Sipat Lawin Inc.
Aaron is a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund, which provides loans for actor-students.
What were you doing before coming to ITI?
I went to a dance program at the Philippine High School for the Arts specialising in Philippine Folk Dance, and performed locally and internationally. I was also part of Sipat Lawin Inc. and was the production manager for Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s productions in 2018. I was also a facilitator and the youngest festival manager for Karnabal Festival Performance and Social Innovation: PerYaKToi 2016 and Edukasyon Artist Residency. Aside from managing projects, I choreographed and conducted workshops in various communities.
Tell us how you found out about ITI. What made you choose to come here?
I heard about ITI from an alumni and checked the website. I felt the need to venture into a new discipline to support and expand my knowledge for performance-making. ITI fit that need because the school trains not only actors, but independent artists who work towards creating contemporary works.
Think back to your first day here: what were some of your thoughts and emotions then?
I went to the compound and entered the White House, but no one was there. So I explored the campus and came to a flight of stairs that led me to a group of energetic people from different parts of the world.
My first day at ITI was also accompanied by a lot of uncertainties, because I left my country, my work, the connections with people I’ve worked with, to gain more knowledge and develop myself to become more independent. So that I have a bag of knowledge to bring back to my home country. However, the uncertainties were temporary, and I was excited to dive into the unknown world.
What is it like to train here at ITI?
Coming from a dance background, I didn’t expect myself to become an actor. I had this idea in my mind before I came to ITI, that I wanted to come here to become a performance maker. So I was really diving into a new world. But it’s fun. It’s fun to experience the unknown, to play with the actors around you, to deal with the complexities of theatre. It’s great.
In ITI, there’s a whole range of vocabulary to learn. Not just to master, but to understand the forms, to understand the meaning behind the craft. The training here allowed me to fail, acknowledge the mistakes and evaluate myself at every step of the journey. I learnt to compromise in order to shape myself, to become better both in my work and as an individual.
How has it been working with your classmates from various countries?
I’m really glad I found ITI and its open community. Because of the small community we have, we can talk to anyone anytime.
Working with people coming from different parts of the world is tough. It takes time and requires tons of openness and understanding. I needed to take the time to understand the differences of each person and once I achieved that I got closer to understanding the notion of the intercultural. I learnt a lot from my classmates — their strengths and weaknesses, how they think and how they work.
Any particularly memorable experiences you've had at ITI?
Tasting different delicacies while blindfolded in Beto’s class; yelling at the park for Simon’s class; movement exploration outside the studios with Chin Huat; 6 PM to 6 AM Body Pilgrimage with Besur; exhausting but fun wind dancing in the morning with Guillermo; rehearsing under the sun for Wan Ching’s acting presentation; creating my solo work for the Final Year Individual Project; working with amazing directors — Li Xie and Aarne — in my final year.
How has what you’ve learnt here shaped you as an actor?
It changed me a lot as an actor and an individual. I’ve learnt how to work more efficiently, be more decisive and be open to different training methods and possibilities.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to venture into a solo practice creating performances. I would like to direct plays and give back to different communities through teaching. If there’s time and resources, I’d like to build a farm to sustain the local community and its artists.
I also want to create a platform to support artists who don't have the resources to create works. I’m inspired by the vision of this school; you can’t replicate ITI anywhere else in the world. What inspires me is that this is a space where we are allowed to focus on actor training. Where we don’t have to worry about anything else because we’re supported by ITI. Looking at ITI as a platform, it has inspired me to think about what I want to do when I go back to the Philippines, what kind of platform they need there.
What would you say to a new student or someone thinking of joining ITI?
Don't be afraid of unlearning and relearning, and always be open to every possibility along the journey.
Any special thanks or words?
I would like to thank my family for supporting me in every step of my decisions; my teachers — Sasi, Beto, Simon, Chin Huat, Wan Ching, Karen — and the rest of the teachers who came and went, thank you for opening my mind in the world of theatre and guiding me in my journey; special thanks to Raka Maitra and Chowk Productions for allowing me to train and immerse myself in the world of Oddisi; ITI admin and staff for your continuous support; the Möbius Fund for funding my studies; my friends in WAAPA and my classmates — Kewal, Sandeep, Sonu, Jiarui, and Marvin — thank you for embarking on this rough but enjoyable journey together; and to all my friends in Singapore for the support!
The training here allowed me to fail, acknowledge the mistakes and evaluate myself at every step of the journey. I learnt to compromise in order to shape myself, to become better both in my work and as an individual.
Profile photo by Bernie Ng