Folk dance doesn’t immediately come to mind when one thinks of the popular dance genres. It doesn’t showcase the gravity-defying stunts in street dance nor does it resemble the elegant finesse of contemporary dance. Folk rather, is more intuitive than it is primal, and more symbolic than it is subtle. It combines the raw elements of its successors.
Ironic as it is, the La Salle Dance Company Folk (LSDC-Folk) is the newest dance arm of the Culture and Arts Office (CAO) of the University, considering that the folk dance genre traces its roots to ancestral heritage that pre-dates hip-hop and contemporary dance. Even more so is it unfortunate that folk dance has been seen by most as simply a relic of our past. Little do they know how much it has contributed not just to culture, but also to the development of the more modern styles of dance.
The LaSallian goes behind the scenes with LSDC-Folk members Bea Vargas (III, AB-OSDM, ), Jake Gratil (II, BS-IT), and Jess Gano (II, BS-CS), as they talk about their experiences in the company.
Difficulty and rarity in folk dance
The common misconception people have when thinking about the folk genre is that it is a simple form of dance that is relatively easy to do. However, contrary to this popular belief, it is far from a simple art form. Gratil, who initially joined the group for the experience, explains, “There are people who just mystify art where they just think, ‘Oh, okay, this is folk I guess it’s easy.’ but it’s not.”
According to Vargas, whenever they have an event such as a concert, they train for months before the performance night. Specifically, they train for five to six hours every day even on Sundays, which is an exemplification of how difficult folk dance is.
For Gano, who has been dancing folk since her elementary days, folk dance tends to be overlooked most of the time and it makes her happy whenever they surprise people with their performance. “Maraming dances na people don’t expect when they see it. They [say] ‘Wow, they can balance that kind of stuff.’, ‘They can dance it.’, and ‘They can dance tinikling, they don’t trip.’ You don’t see that every day so I think it’s very rare,” she shares.
In addition to their training, the trio also involve themselves in administrative work. “Aside from practicing all the dances, we also do admin work especially if you’re part of the EB (Executive Board). “Paper works, [having] to raise the funds […] and juggl[ing] that with all the dances we have to do”, Vargas explains.
The pressure is big on Gano, who as head of marketing, has had to balance the manifold tasks of getting sponsors, taking pictures, and handling publicity, all while balancing dancing and academics. Gratil, on the other hand, is a member of the production committee, who sacrifices his free time during Saturdays and Sundays to go to Divisoria to buy props, while also managing to make them in time for the concert.
Passion over talent
Each member of LSDC-Folk possesses a passion for a genre that is often underappreciated. As Gano admits, “Nakakabuhay ng loob [knowing that] people still actually love [folk] and the fact that they’re staying in the group says something.”
Similarly, Gratil noticed that there’s a different bond members have as opposed to his regular friends, given the countless hours they spend with one another training and performing together. “You pursuing what you want to do, you pursuing folk dance, it’s really nice to feel that you belong,” he says.
Likewise, as the group’s Company Manager, Vargas explains that the Company values a person’s passion for dance and their willingness to learn rather than his or her dance background. And upon one’s commitment to the craft, one may soon learn the inherent beauty of folk dance.
“We are part of the few people who can appreciate folk dance in the University,” Vargas mentions.
Whenever they step on the stage to perform their piece, the members see it as a privilege to be able to perform a genre that is intrinsically linked to their cultural heritage.
“The feeling of performing on stage feels good [..] when you know the piece by heart. People get to watch you and you get to inspire other people,” Gratil says when asked how it feels to dance their piece in front of a live audience.
Plans after college
When asked about their plans after college, each saw themselves venturing in their respective fields of study. Vargas hopes to pursue further studies, Gratil is keen on landing a job akin to his course in information technology, and Gano plans on taking a sabbatical abroad before working.
Given their hectic schedules and different academic backgrounds, they all see themselves stepping out of the stage after college. However, they insist that they will dance for recreation and as a sideline act should the opportunity arise.
As Vargas admits, “Once you’re a dancer, you never really get it out of your system. You’re always looking for a way to dance your feelings out!”
Ultimately, for LSDC-Folk, much like their fellow dance groups that make up LSDC, dance is considered as an art form that bends without breaking one’s ability to express through movement.
This is the last of a three-part series on the different La Salle
Dance Company dance division of the Culture and Arts Office (CAO) in the University.