As I sit here at the computer, I am looking at the front cover of the souvenir booklet provided by the Kauai Community Council on Art and Culture which presented: KAUAI GARDEN ISLE DANCE CONCERT on Saturday, April 8th – 8:00 P.M. at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall. It’s a miracle that I still have this memento, still intact!
I flipped to the first page which contained an introduction written by Kathryn Hulme, author of “The Nun’s Story”. Ms Hulme had recently moved to Kauai and she was the “celebrity” in our midst, adding stature to this auspicious event. She wrote: “This first Dance Concert is another example of what the Kauai Community Council on Culture & the Arts can do for our island. From among our own people the performing talent has been drawn, trained and infused with the spirit of creativity by the Council which sponsors the program. The aim of it all is not only to bring Art to the people, to performers as well as the audience, but also to aid in the preservation of those cultures whose heritage provides the springboard for our future society.”
Looking back, I see this concert as the pivotal point of transition of showcasing the diversity of ethnic cultural aspects which were abundant throughout the island, yet not quite realized and appreciated by a larger audience with any degree of consistency. Here was a group which listed the following disciplines: Dance * Hawaiian Culture * Japanese Culture * Filipino Culture * Theater * Crafts * Bonsai * Humanities * Education * Music * Photo & Film * Visual Arts * Museum * Environmental * . The consciousness of the breadth and depth of Culture and the Arts had taken shape and form with this bold step to showcase our island’s talent!
For me, this was going to be a one-time deal! There was an empty slot which needed to be filled and that was a way to showcase the dances of the Philippines. Previously, my mother, Guadalupe Bulatao, was instrumental in gathering groups of youngsters to present some of the familiar folk dances of the Philippines like the “Carinosa” and “Lawiswis Kawayan”. Occasionally, she would attempt to do something creative like presenting an ensemble number of girls dressed in flowing gowns waltzing with floral accessories and forming different patterns through their graceful movements. Now, the responsibility had fallen into my lap.
This occasion provided a challenge to get dancers who could do the following: Something from the primitive tribe of the Philippines; something to reflect the Spanish heritage; something that showcased the Muslim influence; and something that evoked the country-side flair of village life in the Philippines. With no formal training, I started the Troupe with an appreciation and awareness of what was being presented in Honolulu through “Filipino Fiesta”, hosted by Faustino Respicio. There was also the consciousness of what the Bayanihan Dance Company from the University of the Philippines brought to us with their mesmerizing performance of showcasing the regional varieties of Filipino Folk Dances. So, we had our work cut out for us. The Bailes de Jose Troupe was formed with a dozen students from Waimea High School (where I taught). Henry Taeza, Milling Canon, Dennis Bisano, Nelson Hashimoto, Joseph Kruse, Michael Pagala, Clesson Aipoalani, Jane Valdez, Leila Valdez, Christine Ulanday, Lois Kaneyama, Evelyn Valdez, Glenda Valenciano, Joyce Mizukami made the commitment to perform the following dances; “Sagayan”, “Singkil”, “Sakuting”, “Itik-Itik”, “Alcamphor”, “Jota Rojana”, Mazurka Boholana”, “Binasuan”, and “Tinikling”.
So, we practiced when and where we could. My mother, being an entrepreneur and designer took charge of providing all of the costumes. We had a group of students who were Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Puerto Rican to begin with because we wanted to exemplify the universality of dance belonging to ALL who love to dance, so we started with that premise, something
that we have upheld to this day. What was going to be a one-time deal has lasted to this day because the Troupe members themselves are the ones who have wanted to keep on dancing. Although the Troupe was first retired in 1976, dance efforts continued under the directorship of Troupe members who kept the fires burning, so to speak. An opportunity to revive the original Troupe’s existence came about in the mid ‘90’s, and after a few more years, I went into retirement, again. But, the call to come back arose once more, and so the Bailes de Jose Troupe was revived once more in preparation for the centennial celebration of the arrival of Filipinos to Hawaii in 2006. The Troupe has continued to flourish!
Back in 1975, in conjunction with the Miss Kauai-Filipina Pageant, the Bailes de Jose Troupe presented it’s FIRST Mabuhay Concert held on April 35-26, 1975. At that time, I served in the capacity as president of the Kauai Filipino Community Council, and continued in my role as Founder-Director-Choreographer of the Bailes de Jose Troupe.
The souvenir booklet contains these parting words: “REFLECTIONS OF THE BAILES DE JOSE TROUPE The rehearsal rooms are now silent…the records no longer spin….the seemingly endless hours of mastering steps and formations are but added memories to a treasury of experiences shared by the members of the Bailes de Jose Troupe….The Troupe thrived on diversity. There were full on concerts staged at the Convention Hall and aboard the SS Lurline as well as the state-wide tours under the sponsorship of the Lyceum Series…The Troupe performed in parks and pavilions; hotel dining rooms; patios and garages, porches and lawns; gymnasiums and classrooms, and once, even on the portable floor of an in-door swimming pool…there were those priceless moments in “show-biz”…hair pieces and skirts falling in mid-performances…having to go on to the restroom seconds before a cue on stage…being bitten by a thousand mosquitoes and maintaining one’s composure throughout the ordeal…smiling at toads that hopped into the performance area to join in the limelight….changing into the next set of costumes frantically backstage, but appearing on stage with such grace and ease.
Through it all, it is interesting to note that some of the dancers in this 1975 souvenir booklet are STILL dancing with the Bailes de Jose Troupe in the year 2016. That is FORTY-ONE years and still going, folks! And, what is equally intriguing, is how new dancers continue to find their way to become a part of the Troupe’s endeavors! With the veterans of such impressive longevity and expertise, students from the Bayanihan Club at Waimea High School have become new recruits in the efforts of the Troupe. They bring their vim and vigor to the creative dynamics of the Troupe’s repertoire with their hip hop version of the world-famous “Tinikling”, done in the 21st Century style!
Troupe members have come and gone. Some have passed on to the next life, and we hold them dear to our hearts, cherished throughout our lives. Some have returned intermittently when Time permits. For all, there is a space for them to be a part of us, forever.
In this narrative, I have deliberately left out the names of ALL of our dancers because there are TOO MANY and I don’t want to inadvertently miss anyone’s name by mistake! A list exists, but it will need to be reviewed by our dancers to be sure that ALL the names are included!
Suffice it to say, ALL of the Troupe members, know and feel how much they have made the Bailes de Jose Troupe “special” through their efforts, their presence, their talents, their creativity, their willingness and dedication to contribute their individuality, sparkle, and dazzle to the collaborative endeavors of what we do!
Jose E. Bulatao, Jr.
P.O. Box 640
Kekahaa, HI 96752-0640