The Bailes de Jose Kauai Philippine Dance Troupe has been involved in community performance dance development activities since 1967.
The initial arrival of Filipinos to Hawaii dates back to 1906 when a handful of Filipinos set foot onto the piers at Honolulu to become a part of the workforce on sugar plantations. As such, the joined the Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese imports which preceded them because of the demand for labor to toil in the fields and mill-sites which had become the economic base in the Territory of Hawaii. As such, the opportunity to focus on the “kayumanggi” of the faceted, flamboyant Filipino from the Pearl of the Orient (the Philippines) who came in plane and shiploads over the years to the Paradise of the Pacific, (Hawaii).
Over those decades of toil and sacrifice, the Filipinos arrived with their nimble fingers plucking at guitar strings; their sturdy backs carrying loads of cane stalks from the acres of fields they toiled in under the merciless sun; their love of music, festivals, and special occasions where they could gather their loved ones to celebrate a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, or a baptism….
In whatever ways possible, they contributed to the rich tapestry of Hawaii’s history with…the dignity of honest toil….the culinary delights that made their flavorful foods cuisine to kill for….the flair of oratory…and the indomitable strength rooted in their religious commitments. With such diversity, the Filipino could be noted for elegance laced with finesse…regality… the fiery intensity of a priceless
gem glittering in a rhine-stone studded tiara…or an angel’s song sung in the sweetest tones you’ve ever heard.
Mind you, there were no training grounds, dance academies, or professional outlets one could find in cosmopolitan cities; but only, the willingness to dream and dare to bring into realization the flair and the fantasy of stemming from the creative arts!
Such was the case for the Troupe members who dared
to “audition” in hopes to be among the chosen to perform! They came from the tiny communities and campsites in the rural-areas of the island of Kauai. At the beginning, for several years, no one had any professional training, whatsoever! But, they came, anyway, with stardust in their eyes…..dreams of accomplishment whirling in their heads….and the heart and soul of becoming committed and dedicated dancers come hell or high water!
They rehearsed once a week wherever there was space! Sometimes at the high school gym (when it was available); in someone’s backyard or patio if there was enough space; in a church hall, when ever we could find one available; or at a pavilion or a park when the hot, glaring sun gave way to the cool evening breeze, and we could practice “outdoors”!
Rehearsals would last for nearly nine to ten months—-relentlessly, painstakingly, and arduously—-with focus on developing confidence, grace, familiarity, precision, mood, and attitude as required by the “type” of dance being learned and what the appropriate approaches should be to the particulars of that dance! Was it time for exactitude, balance, and skill? Was it time for the rhythmic movements, being debonair and divine, or an occasion for being playful and carefree? With each dance came different disciplines. With each dance, new costumes, props, and accessories. With each dance, the fundamentals and/or the application of creative approaches combined!
But, the group, persevered! Each member developed that innate sense of commitment and being responsible for being in the right place doing the right thing, at the right time! At first, the Troupe committed to “audition” in hopes to be among the chosen to perform!
To prepare a full-on concert with guest stars appearing to allow time for costume changes. So, at the Convention Hall, not only were the Troupe members responsible for learning ALL of the dances, but they also assisted with putting up the stage decorations; sold tickets to friends and family members; helped with creating the props, accessories, and the myriad of countless details to be responsible for “all-of-the-above”, forwards and backwards.
One thing led to another! Feeling confident with the several concerts the Troupe sponsored, new opportunities arose! Trips to Honolulu to appear on television on the Fiesta Filipina program hosted by Faustino Respicio became part of our anticipated schedule. Soon, invitations to be a part of the Miss Kauai-Filipina Pageant arose. Then, there were requests from the hotels on Kauai and other interested groups wanting t o have the presence of something “Filipino” in their offering of cultural programs. A big highlight was being chosen by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to become exponents of the art of
Filipino Folk Dances, traveling to the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai to present our program to school and community groups. This honor was extended over two years! Also, opportunities to travel to Seattle, Washington and Redlands California were also actualized!
As we look forward to our 50th year of existence, plans are now pending for possible trips to Washington DC and to Las Vegas, Nevada.
The dream continues!
Jose E. Bulatao, Jr.
P.O. Box 640
Kekahaa, HI 96752-0640