Craft. Technique. Elegance.
It was indeed a night worth remembering; an aesthetically pleasing array of performances that when witnessed, definitely adheres to one’s mind. The group of artistically inclined individuals that is the La Salle Dance Company-Folk (LSDC-Folk) showcased phenomenal performances of folk and tribal dances in Gunita, a celebration of their sixth year anniversary, last Thursday, November 29, at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium.
With only around three months of preparing and struggling to find resources to supplement the show, the circumstances did not hinder the possibility of something outstanding. “It wasn’t a school sponsored event, therefore there was no funding from the school—all the costumes were rented or made with most of them coming from the pockets of the students or from personal sponsors, since we didn’t have any cash sponsors,” said Sir Peter Alcedo Jr., the program director and company trainer. He expressed that the preparation for this whole event was not easy but they eventually came around with the help of people from outside, as well as the alumni of the folk dance group.
Onto a bigger stage
The art of dance is a widely spectated bustle of innovation. However, folk dance isn’t always one of them. Folk dancing still continues to fight its way forward with the hopes of a bigger spotlight.
“We started with small groups and small shows. Most of the dances here came from previous concerts,” Sir Alcedo attested. He mentioned that while folk dancing isn’t as popular as the other genres of dance, it is slowly finding its way into general interest. “This time, it was finally put on a bigger stage, with the props completed with the use of live instrumentation—and it came out grander,” he added. And even though a lot of people have seen or are familiar with the different cultural dances, he pushed his belief that “they (audiences) still can’t tire from watching Tinikling.”
Being a 12-year formator in the Lasallian performing industry, Sir Alcedo is very proud of how the population of folk dancers on stage have definitely grown. “It’s the first time, we know that folk dancing is not as popular. But now we can see that we were able to instill in these students the value and excitement of performing cultural dances,” he said.
As the company is composed of student artists, the time will come that members will have to don the costumes and perform on stage for the last time.
Being one of the senior dancers, Renzo Libosada (IV, MKT) mentioned that it took him three years of being in the group to get a part in a dance, apart from joining the opening and final numbers. “It just so happens to be my last concert while being a member. [It is] an achievement, which showed my improvement despite the limitations due to my health,” the graduating member remarked. He furthered that he will not be able to fully embrace the feeling of accomplishment as he realized that “there won’t be a goal to do better and have more dances in [upcoming] concerts.”
Showcasing the Filipino
Beyond the preparations and the promotion of the event, the concert rendered by LSDC-Folk did not fall short of color, grandeur, and cultural appreciation. Like in most folk dance concerts, Gunita allowed both dancer and audience to flow in sync with the live music accompaniment. The flurry of the Cordillera natives, the colors and energy of Lumad Mindanao, the energy of the rural lowland people, and the elegance of the Western-influenced dances paved the way to both representation and appreciation of the Filipino culture.
For each of the concert’s partitions, a closing group performance highlighted the culmination of the characteristics, the utilization of music, and likeness of the costumes worn for each suite. Bendian, a dance native to Benguet, allowed for the first of the seemingly many finales. It brought to the stage the strong and precise jerking movement of the hands and arms, the utilization of bangas and blankets, the singing of tribal chants, and the imitation of animal-like movements commonly observed in Cordillera dances.
Synonymous with fierce portrayals and vibrant costumes were the pieces enacted to showcase the culture of Mindanao. Closing with the skillful delivery of Singkil of the Maranao people, the suite accented the manipulation of lighting to best suit the already colorful beaded costumes, which were accompanied by props such as fans, bamboos poles, malongs, shields and swords, and the intensity in facial expressions of the dancers and the music.
Although a bit toned down and more relaxed than the preceding ones, Western-influenced dances of the Spanish suite presented both elegance in delivery, and the urbanization of Filipino culture through folk dance. Finishing with Jota Quirino, the third partition of the concert, the performers enticed the audience with the Barong Tagalog and the Maria Clara gown worn during the dances, the graceful and simplistic movements derived from Spanish dances, and depictions of courtship traditions.
Lastly, the four suites concluded with Karatong, which showed the typical Filipino celebration and the energy of rural folk dances—festive, colorful, and happy. Here, the camisa worn by the men, the baro’t saya of the women, balanced the gaiety of the dances performed; namely, Pandanggo sa Ilaw, Lapay Bantigue, and Sayaw sa Bangko.
The portrayal of each dance relied heavily on the interpretation of the dancer, and such is considered “challenging” even for the trainer himself. “So they already have their own characteristics, the problem is how the dancer [will] embody that character. It’s a very hard process; it’s like acting,” said Sir Alcedo. Before perfecting the dance, the concert director also mentioned that he had to introduce the skill set of acting to his dancers, which to him made it more difficult, as he says that the performers were “shy and aren’t very outgoing.”
In hopes of creating an impact from their recently concluded concert, LSDC-Folk Company Manager Christine Ceñidoza hoped that others would be more inspired to help preserve the Filipino culture through dance. “Becoming a part of this dance company has taught me many life lessons and skills that I will surely bring along with me,” she cited.
A deepened sense of identity
An alluring set of performances brought about by the adept craft of these young individuals, the downplayed wonder of folk dance was illuminated. The evolvement of folk dancing is slowly granting it the attention it deserves. Yet, such an ambition goes beyond the usual aims of popularity as this underrated form of dance actually wants more than just to entertain.
“We wanted to promote the looking back into the history and culture through cultural tourism; we’re asking people to go out there not just to see the sights,” The LSDC-Folk trainer explained and adds that though this concert is a way to further expose folk dance, it is also a form of encouragement for the Filipino people to see beyond the confines of the familiar and to delve deep into our cultural heritage. “That’s why we showed them what they’re going to see if they go out. We want them to look for it and to experience it so that it would deepen their sense of identity as a Filipino,” he concluded.
For Documentations Division Head and Assistant Company Manager Ty Flores (IV, PSM), due to the research involved in preparing for what she dubbed as the “biggest and most daring set of performances,” their knowledge of the Filipino culture increased substantially. “Our culture is embedded in the art we attempted to portray. Through this, [I] learned to appreciate the history, the individuality, and the belongingness ingrained in our culture,” Flores shared.
Indeed, we should always learn to embrace and strengthen the diversity of our cultural ancestry, to deepen our sense of being Filipino in ways not limited to just research and academic learning.