26 October 2007

Dance Dance Revolution

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that dancing is a huge, GINORMOUS part of Filipino culture. Kids in the Philippines start dancing as soon as they can walk. We dance at school, in neighborhood Christmas shows, heck, we even use dance as prisoner therapy. I myself started participating in werdance numbers as early as Kindergarten, when I performed with a select group of equally hammish kids to "Kung Fu Fighting," complete with a karate uniform as costumes. Good times.

Dancing and performing were such large parts of my childhood that they became as natural as breathing. Kids in the Philippines sing and dance all the way to adulthood that as grown-ups, practically no one balks when they are tapped to perform at office parties. And every child, and I mean every child, learns to dance at least one of the traditional Filipino folk dances. I have yet to meet a little boy who grew up in the Philippines who hasn't danced the maglalatik at least once in his life.

So imagine my shock when my family immigrated to the U.S. and I enrolled in the nearby all-girls Catholic school to find that not every person, not even a majority of the students, heck, not even a significant minority, found dancing to be a natural joy. I still remember the first talent show I attended where I thought it extremely weird that only one group chose to do a choreographed dance number as their talent.

Things got significantly better in college when I found fellow compatriots who not only enjoyed to dance as much as I did, but who were genuinely interested in learning and dancing traditional Filipino dances. I went to the George Washington University where I performed the tinikling and the singkil on a regular basis for different university and citywide functions. What fun! And what sense of pride and accomplishment we all got from performing and introducing our traditional dance to a larger audience. I'm proud to see that my fellow PCS members continue to perform culture shows, and have even expanded their performance repertoire.

I continue to dance now that I'm out of college (mostly hip hop and jazz), but I'm saddened that I don't belong to any organization that performs traditional Filipino dances. I miss dancing the tinikling! And the pandanggo sa ilaw! And of course the very flashy, very wonderful and very tricky singkil! But worse, I want my kids to learn the dances and there is no one for them to dance with, to learn from. I can teach them of course, but it's so much more fun to learn with their peers and perform for an audience. For kids in particular, public performance teaches them discipline (from practices), enhances their confidence, brings pride in their heritage and rewards them with instant gratification from audience appreciation. Plus wearing those costumes are fun.

Here in the U.S., I believe one of the easiest ways to initiate Fil-Am kids to Filipino culture is to get them to join a Filipino dance troupe. It's an effortless way to introduce them to other like-minded kids, gives them exercise, and introdcues them to the benefits of dance as I mentioned above. And if they are introduced to it at a young enough age, they won't fight you on it or think that it's weird or resist you because their friends aren't doing it.

A quick search on YouTube netted me the following clip from the Filipino student association at Stanford. I like what they've done to the tinikling! Very creative indeed. The wave of the future. Now, if I can only find a nearby dance troupe or a traditional Filipino dance class for my 4-year old and 6-year old. My boy in particular would look so cute with all those coconut husks strapped to his chest.

Modern Tinikling at Stanford University:

Maglalatik by the Bayanihan Dance Company


daddy in a strange land said...

Too bad you're not in Boston. The families of some friends of ours, who now have kids of their own, started in the '70s, and it's still going strong, with music, dance, and language classes for kids.

That Stanford video brings me back, though. :) Back in the day (pre-YouTube!), our college club, Brown's Filipino Alliance, would do some craaaazy shit with tinikling. At conferences (national FIND and FIND District 1, New England), they'd have "tinikling-offs," competitions between the various colleges. Off the top of my head I can only remember the swing-dancing one (at the height of the Gap's swing ad campaign), the Mortal Kombat techno fighting-in-the-sticks one, and the traditional-music-and-steps one with the added feature of the dancers actually playing the music on rondalla instruments while going in and out of the sticks. Good times... :)

daddy in a strange land said...

D'oh! Blogger made my comment all wonky. Obviously, only the name of the organization in the first paragraph was supposed to be a hyperlink--and instead, it turned everything after it into one, while actually deleting the words that were meant to be linked. So, just to clarify, the link in my previous comment is to a Boston-area community organization called Iskwelahang Pilipino.

mom2amara said...

Brilliant! Simply amazing that video from Stanford!

I was going to suggest that we find a summer program to send our kids to. But now I'm even more determined to find one after seeing them bust out tinikling to Ciara!

Hey, K, I didn't know if you'd see my note in the other post, but wanted you to know that I learned so much from your comment in "name" post! That's where Kalay comes from?!?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Karmela!
The modern tinikling sure doesn't look like our dance programs at St. Scho, does it? Do you remember me? (Big Mela, Little Mela) I've been getting reacquainted with our former classmates on Friendster and noticed that you have an account on there also. I sent some grade school photos to the batch of 1988 page --
Take care,
Pamela Trainor