Get To Know Fifth Wall Fest Founder Madge Reyes

Erwin Canlas

The ballet dancer was once compared to prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn.

The first and only dance film festival in the Philippines—Fifth Wall Fest—is opening its third run on October 7, 2022, and artist and professional dancer Madge Reyes is the driving force behind it.

Reyes has been dancing for over two decades, since she was three years old. When she returned from a research fellowship in New York under the Asian Cultural Council in 2020, she found herself faced with the onset of the pandemic. Theaters and other dance venues closed. Reyes then decided to launch the first-ever iteration of Fifth Wall Fest in October of the same year.

Erwin Canlas

On the event’s official site, the “fifth wall” is described as “the imaginary barrier that guests pass once they exit a venue after a cultural experience and return to their everyday lives.” The 10-day festival starts with an inaugural screening of Happy Days Are Here Again, a 1974 film that introduces the history and importance of dance to Filipino television and cinema. International dance films will also be screened at various locations, including UP Fine Arts Gallery, Sine Pop, Tarzeer Pictures, and online on the Fifth Wall Fest website.

At the Samsung Performing Arts Theater, live performances will be held by Steps Dance Studio and AMP band along, coinciding with an exhibit by photographers Koji Arboleda and Renzo Navarro. Alongside the interactive viewings and performances, Fifth Wall Fest will be facilitating discussions between speakers, movers, and listeners to allow individuals to experience dance like never before—from all perspectives.

Fifth Wall Fest Founder and Director Madge Reyes gives an introduction to Fifth Wall Fest and its 3rd Edition Festival. Courtesy of Fifth Wall Fest

As the groundbreaking festival approaches, get to know five facts about the Fifth Wall Fest founder and cultural wave-maker, Madge Reyes.

A Classic Beginning

Reyes has been dancing for almost her whole life. She got her start at just three years old when her mother enrolled her in a classical ballet class as a means to make sure that Madge wouldn’t develop scoliosis. Today, she describes herself as having a “maddening dedication” to the art form.

Heightened Senses

Though blessed with a talent for movement, Reyes developed poor eyesight early on. By her teens, Reyes had an eyesight grade of 1,500 which mandated a thick pair of lenses that she would have to remove before performing or risk them flying off. Rather than see her visual impairment as a limitation, Reyes learned to “feel” the stage early on, allowing her to move within it more naturally.

Filipino Margot Fonteyn

At only eight years old, Reyes was already competing on an international level in other countries. When she was 16, she received a special award from UP Dance Company director Steve Villaruz, who said she reminded him of ballet legend Margot Fonteyn. She went on to pursue a Fine Arts degree at The University of the Philippines Diliman and became a soloist at the prestigious Ballet Philippines Company at 21 years old.

Erwin Canlas

A Penchant For Dance Films

Reyes’ penchant for dance films began after a major foot injury during a performance at the Ballet Philippines 44th seasonal show. The incident forced her to pause and rethink her relationship with dance, ultimately leading her to integrate the craft with visual arts. She created a dance film for her thesis at UP, which was recognized as the top project of her batch.

Breaking The Fifth Wall

Thanks to Reyes, the country now has its first-ever platform to celebrate dance through film. Creatives of all backgrounds are welcome to celebrate movement through interdisciplinary storytelling, discussion, and community engagement. Dance, particularly ballet, has its origins and history as an upper-class activity. As such, with its hybrid nature, Fifth Wall Fest also aims to make dance more accessible to a wider audience, particularly those without the means to pay to see professional performances or tuition for lessons.

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