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The Philippines is a wonderland of folk dances. There are hundreds of indigenous dances of perhaps as varied origins, influences and styles as can be found anywhere in the world!
Despite the tremendous influence of other nations on the cultural heritage of the Philippines, the Filipino has indubitably retained his individuality through the years by preserving his primitive dance expressions, his music, drama and architecture, his literature, arts, crafts and costumes.
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What are some examples of Filipino Dance?
According to an old epic tale, there once was a certain Princess Gandingan walking through the woods. The D’watas or spirits of the forest decided to play a joke on her by causing the earth to shake. The princess guided by a beautiful butterfly (bejewelled fans called apir) gracefully tiptoed through the crashing trees and rolling rocks. A prince traveling through the land arrived at the scene and decided to rescue the princess and court her. The clapping of crossed bamboo poles represents the shaking of trees and rolling rocks.
While traditional concepts serve as the fundamental basis in presenting this legend through the medium of dance, the added dimensions to consider ways in which the orchestration of visual elements and rhythmic patterns can intensify the complexities of moods and intensities as perceived and portrayed by the Bailes de Jose Troupe brings originality to the forefront!
Kadal Blelah Dance
A bird dance of the T’boli people of South Cotabato in the island of Mindanao. The women dancers portray the Blelah, a mythical bird which according to tradition consolidates in itself the feather coloration of all known birds. Hunters capture one of the birds.
Kulintang Music Ensemble
Kulintang is the unique gong and drum music of the Muslim people of the Island of Mindanao. It is an ancient tradition that predates the major influences of Islam, Christianity and the West. The ensemble is composed of the kulintang, dabakan, gandingan, large gongs called agongs and babandir. The Samahan Kulintang Music Ensemble was trained by Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, master artist/guru of Kulintang Music
Paseo de Iloilo Dance
Also known as Andaluz, the dance is of Spanish origin. The style of the gown worn by the female dancer was brought to the Philippines by the Spanish colonizers. The courtship and flirtation dance is usually performed by one lady and three young men.
In this dance, a number of ladies in colorful “Maria Clara” gowns carry scented fans or “papacy” and flirt with young men with Philippine rattan canes and straw hats. The dance is a “Filipinized” version of a combination of European and Spanish folk dance steps.
Jota Panderetas Dance
Filipino bamboo castanets fashioned after the Spanish castanets played by the men and panderetas played by the women reflect the almost four centuries of Spanish influence in the dances and music of the Philippines.
The best known of Philippine folk dances and a great favorite of young dancers and audiences, tinikling derives its name from the “tikling” bird which leaps and hops around the fields looking for grains of rice to eat. The dancers imitate the movements of the bird.
This particular Filipino folk dance has reached international acclaim through the efforts of the Bayanihan Dance Company from the University of the Philippines when it went on a world-wide tour several decades ago! The Bailes de Jose Troupe, here on the island of Kauai, has brought its own rendition to “contemporize” this dance as conceived by the young and energetic members of the Troupe wishing to put their stamp of originality to this dance requiring the nimble-footed dancers to step lively through the clacking of the bamboo poles!
The practice of offering wine by gracious hosts at social gatherings is the theme of the dance. The dancers dance while performing intricate balancing movements with glasses of wine on top of their heads and on their hands. At social gatherings, the dance becomes a contest among the dancers as well as non-dancers as to who can do the most daring and skillful balancing movements.
Here again, the artistry of dancers become mesmerizing as the dancers swirl and twirl their glasses of wine on their heads, and in their palms, hopefully, without spilling a drop!
The dance originated in the province of Batangas, Luzon. Originally, the dance was performed only during the month of May in honor of the feast of the Holy Cross. The name of the dance comes from the words “subsub” meaning stooped and “bali” means broken. The male dancers have a bent-forward position as if carrying a heavy cross throughout the dance.
Tribes in the mountain provinces of Luzon preserve their identity, customs and lore. Their dances celebrate important events in life such as birth, wedding, victory in war and thanksgiving. A Kalinga wedding dance is an important celebration. The bridegroom offers the bride the protection and comfort of his blanket. The bride’s friends are ready to help prepare the bride by offering “bangas” (earthen pots) filled with fresh water from the mountain spring.
Bontoc Skirt Dance
The Bontocs, one of the principal Highlander groups in the mountain provinces retain many of their customs and traditions. The old ways of weaving clothing material is actively practiced in Bontoc. The unique pattern of the Bontoc skirt makes it a favorite wear for women and is used by Samahan as a prop for a dance based in the region’s folklore.
According to Philippine tradition, the Santacruzan, a semi-religious procession, celebrates the finding of the true cross by the Empress Helena, mother of the first Christian Emperor Constantine. A popular celebration in the month of May, it involves many beautiful young girls in town as “sagalas. The Reyna Elena is the most important of the various queens of the Santacruzan
Pasko Sa Nayon Dance
Christmas in the Philippines is the happiest time of the year. It is celebrated throughout the islands and is a great time for families to get together. Homes are cleaned and decorated and “parolees” (paper lanterns) appear on the front windows or porches of every home. There are parties everywhere and the sound of caroling groups is heard in the early morning hours.
The above content was provided by Mr. Jose E. Bulatao Jr, founder of Bailes de Jose Philippine Dance Company of Kauai in Hawaii established in 1967.