Choreographing in Color: Filipinos, Hip-Hop, and the Cultural Politics of Euphemism
In Choreographing in Color, J. Lorenzo Perillo investigates the development of Filipino popular dance and performance since the late 20th century. Drawing from nearly two decades of ethnography, choreographic analysis, and community engagement with artists, choreographers, and organizers, Perillo shifts attention away from the predominant Philippine neoliberal and U.S. imperialist emphasis on Filipinos as superb mimics, heroic migrants, model minorities, subservient wives, and natural dancers and instead asks: what does it mean for Filipinos to navigate the violent forces of empire and neoliberalism with street dance and Hip-Hop?
Employing critical race, feminist, and performance studies, Perillo analyzes the conditions of possibility that gave rise to Filipino dance phenomena across viral, migrant, theatrical, competitive, and diplomatic performance in the Philippines and diaspora. Advocating for serious engagements with the dancing body, Perillo rethinks a staple of Hip-Hop’s regulation, the “euphemism,” as a mode of social critique for understanding how folks have engaged with both racial histories of colonialism and gendered labor migration. Figures of euphemism – the zombie, hero, robot, and judge – constitute a way of seeing Filipino Hip-Hop as contiguous with a multi-racial repertoire of imperial crossing, thus uncovering the ways Black dance intersects Filipino racialization and reframing the ongoing, contested underdog relationship between Filipinos and U.S. global power. Choreographing in Color, therefore, reveals how the Filipino dancing body has come to be, paradoxically, both globally recognized and indiscernible.