Philippine dance

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The dances of the men and women are gener- ally performed to the sound of bells which are made in their style like basins, large or small, of metal, and the sounds are brought out quickly and uninterruptedly. The dance may be war-like or passionate, but it has steps and measured changes, and interposed with some elevations that really enrapture and surprise.

Recognizing the importance of these dances, the church sought to harness them for the propagation of the new faith. In this, the friars showed much wisdom, focusing special attention on the education of the young. In 1609 Morga observed (Blair and Robertson XVI:152):

At the same time that the religious undertook to teach the natives the precepts of religion, they labored to instruct them in matters of their own improvements, and established schools for the reading and writing of Spanish among the boys. They taught them to serve in church, to sing the plain-song, and to the accompaniment of the organ; to play the flute, to dance, and to sing . .. There are many dances and musicians on the other instruments which solemnize and adorn the feast of the most holy sacrament, and many other feasts during the year.

With the introduction of European culture in general, many of the old native dances disappeared or were slowly displaced by the Spanish. The rigodon, virginia, and lanceros were probably the first dances introduced by the Spaniards. They resembled much the French dances of the Middle Ages and were re- served for the aristocratic class and special fiestas. To- wards the end of the Spanish regime, the balse, the polka, the mazurka, the escotis (from schottische), and the paseo were in vogue among different social classes. It is said that the F~lipinos were so fond of the dances that no fiesta or family reunion was celebrated without much dancing among themselves. In general, the natives accepted what were performed here by foreigners or what they saw abroad. In 1846 Jean Mallat noted (Blair and Robertson XLV: 277):

The fandango, the capateado, the cachucha, and other Spanish dances have been adopted by the Indians, and they do not lack grace when they dance them to the accompaniment of castanets which they play with a remarkable precision. They also execute some dances of Nueva Espana, such as for example the jarabes, where they show all the Spanish vivacity with movements of their figure, of their breasts, of their hips, to right and left, for- ward and backward, and pirouettes, whose rapid- ity is such that the eye can scarcely follow them.

Exposed for almost four centuries to the influence of European dances, the Filipinos gradually assimi- lated these dances, evolving their own simplified ver- sions and derivations of the different forms. The ele- gance of the body and arm movements of foreign dances fascinated the Filipinos, so they adopted these. However, the sharp and fast movements of most Euro- pean dances were tempered and softened by the lan- guid grace that is characteristic of many Filipino dances. Costumes and props associated with the ori- ginal dances were either adapted or done away with.

The Jota

The jota, a dance in fast duple time and a great favorite during the Spanish regime, was originally per- formed by the Spaniards at their social gatherings, together with the polka, valse, and habanera. When- ever there were not enough Spanish nationals to do the dance, Filipinos were invited to take part in it. Upon learning the jota, these Filipinos in turn taught other Filipinos. The dance became popular, maybe because of its gay and lively tempo and the agile move- ments that went with it. The dance soon spread, first among the well-to-do and later to the rural communi- ties. In the latter, the dancing was usually started by the old people and followed by the younger ones.


HISPANIZED DANCE. This 19th-century painting depicts a gathering of Spaniards and llustrados, where Spanish-Influenced dances are performed by a native couple to entertain the guests. Accompaniment Is provided by a harp, a flute, and a banjollke Instrument. (lnframuros Administration Collection)

The early Filipinos evolved their own simple ver- sions of the jota. The jota moncadeiia, named after its place of origin, Moncada, Tarlac, combines Spanish and Ilocano movements. Its initial movements are live- ly and fast, accented by the scintillating rhythm of elongated bamboo castanets; the second part is cha- racterized by a cuntrasting slow rhythm, typically na- tive in mood and execution. The dance reverts to the fast tempo at the end. This version of the jota original- ly danced by the old people of Moncada, Tarlac, does not include the more intricate patterns of the Spanish jota. Instead, it adopted the lively tempo and the sim- ple dance steps. The jota was originally performed on special occa- sions, like the guling-guling (eve of Ash Wednesday), the tambora (eve of Christmas), or on feast days of saints. Later, it was performed in social gatherings, for weddings and baptismal parties. Almost always the



musical accompaniment to the dance was a set of string instruments like the five-stringed guitar, man- dolina, and laud. The most common step found in the dance is the waltz, a step-close-step pattern executed to a triple measure. Stamp, brush, touch, and jump and their combinations and variations like the waltz turns and accented waltz steps are also done, all to liven up the dance. The slow rhythm at the middle part of the dance is typically Ilocano. To this rhythm, the figure called patay is done with slides and very slow steps, as the dancers take turns in consoling each other. For this dance, the female dancers wore and still wear the maria clara, the upper-class female costume of the 1880s named after the heroine of Jose Rizal's novel, Noli me tangere (Touch Me Not). This is a floor-length panelled skirt of silk or satin, of black and white or other colors, with floral prints or embroidery. The camisa or blouse is usually made of handwoven pifia, and has wrist-length, richly embroidered flowing bell sleeves. Over this camisa is worn a pafiuelo, a square piece of the same material as the camisa folded into a triangular collar scarf covering the back and shoulders. The footwear is beaded or embroidered slippers. The male dancers wore and still use the barong tagalog, a loose fitting shirt worn long over the pants. It has a close fitting neck with collar and long, cuffed sleeves. Its material is usually the same as the ladies' pifia, worn plain or embroidered. The pants and shoes are black. The dance is accompanied by a rondalla, a band of stringed instruments, including the bandurria, laud, octavina, guitar, and bajo. Usually, the bandurria in the ensemble has six pairs of double strings. It is played with a plectrum. The laud is similar to the bandurria except that it has a long neck, wider body, and a lower pitch. Shaped like a small guitar, the octavina has a mellow tone quality and is tuned like the laud. The five-stringed Philippine guitar is an adaptation of the Spanish guitar. The bajo de unas or bass guitar has four strings. The malaguefta from Malaga, Spain, is another lively dance adapted by the Filipinos. It is one of the favorite jota dances of the old people from San Pablo, Laguna. The dance utilizes stamps, turns, and the jaleo which is done with the partners' right elbows near each other. They perform waltz steps turning around clockwise, looking at each other over their right shoul- ders, and small running steps typical of many Spanish dances. There are other adaptations and interpretations of the jota in the different regions, performed during fiestas, usually by the elite. Their names are often


derived from the place where they originated, hence, jota cagayana from Cagayan in the north; jota guma- quefta from Gumaca, Quezon; jota bicolana from Bicol; jota cabangan, a courtship dance from Zam- bales; jota rizal, a Batangas version named after Jose Rizal; jota pangasinan from Pangasinan. The jota san joaquina from Iloilo uses castanets too. There is another beautiful jota from Samar, Ia jota samarefta. Other adaptations include Ia jota yogad and Ia jota pilipina from Echague, Isabela; and Ia sevillana from Iloilo. The costumes, props, and even the gestures and formations of these dances necessarily vary from town to town.

The Balse

The balse or waltz, a dance in slow triple meter, is seen in almost all Philippine dances. This dance form descended from the peasant landler, a dance from Southern Germany. It had spread throughout Europe and had become one of the principal dances in social celebrations in many countries, Spain included. By the 19th century, the balse was already popular in the Philippines. Typical of the waltzes is the balitaw, a lively courtship dance very popular throughout the country, particularly in the Tagalog and Visayan regions. In these areas, it was customary in the past for a young man to make known his amorous intentions to a young woman in a social gathering through song and dance. In most cases the poetic words of the song were composed on the spot, keeping to the plaintive strains of the music while the pair danced slow waltz steps around each other. This is the step-close-step pattern in rhythm. Often, other waltz steps were also impro- vised like the waltz turns, the waltz balance, and the cross waltz. If the dancers were good, the dance could last for hours. A courtship dance known throughout the Philip- pines is the cariftosa. Cariftosa, meaning affectionate, lovable or amiable, typifies the Filipina maiden's mod- esty and humility, and is another dance using the waltz step. Using a fan and a handkerchief, the dan- cers go about their courtship in a coquettish way through hide-and-seek movements, never missing a step with the music. There are many versions of this dance but the hide-and-seek movements with the fan and handkerchief are common to all. Baise was a popular dance in Marikina, Rizal dur- ing the Spanish period. It was usually performed after the lutrina, a religious procession. The participants in the procession gathered in the house or yard of the hermana or sponsor for light refreshments. During or

after the refreshments, there was dancing and singing, and the balse was one of the dances performed. The music was usually provided by a musikong bumbong or bamboo orchestra. Other folk dances that make use of the waltz and its variations are the santa rosa from Marilao, Bulacan; the bucasoy from Alimodian, Iloilo; the magkasuyo from Quezon; the saad from Capiz; and the molinete from Negros Occidental. The dances are performed for any social or religious occasion. The .;ayaw santa isabel is performed on the thanks- giving feast after a good harvest, during balaihan or en- gagement ceremonies, weddings or religious proces- sions. For these dances, the girl wears the less formal balintawak, with tapis or overskirt, and soft paiiuelo or kerchief over one shoulder, and a salakot or wide- brimmed hat decorated with brightly colored flowers. The corcho or leather slippers with cork heels and bakya or wooden clogs are worn by the ladies. The boy wears a camisa de chino and trousers of any color, and slippers.

PANDANGGO. A kerchief Is the object used In the popular pandanggo sa par"'o. Tanauan, Leyte, 1963. (Francisco Reyes-Aqu/no Collection)


The Pandanggo

As popular as the jota and balse, the pandanggo was another favorite dance of Filipinos during the Spanish period. In Spain, the fandango is a lively Spanish dance done to a slow-to-quick rhythm. With characteristic adaptability, the steps of the original fan- dango were blended into the native dances resulting in soft but lively versions. It is usually performed for entertainment and merrymaking, with dancers keep- ing rhythm with castanets or tambourines. There are many different types of the pandanggo. The pandanggo ivatan, a wedding dance from Batanes and the pandanggo rinconada from Camarines Sur are named after their places of origin, while the pandang- go sa ilaw (fandango of lights), pandanggo sa sambali- lo (fandango of hats), pandanggo sa pafto (fandango of kerchiefs), and pandanggo sa tapis (fandango of over- skirts) are identified by the objects used in the dance. Some pandanggo are known by their characteristic movements, such as the engaftosa. The pandanggo sa ilaw from Mindoro is perhaps the most difficult and demanding of the pandanggo. Here, the dancer executes not only waltz steps but also the cross-waltz described earlier with waltz turns and sway-balance steps with a point, as the lady dancers gracefully and skillfully balance three lighted tinghoy or oil lamps on her head and on the back of each hand. The last step is done on a step-cross-step-point pattern in two measures. Originally, the dance was performed to the clap- ping of the hands of onlookers. Later upon the request of Francisca Reyes-Aquino, who discovered this dance together with her research team, a lively melo- dy in triple meter was composed by Antonino Buenaventura, a member of her team, who kept the original rhythm. Today, this melody is often mistaken as a folk song. The dance is often performed during gatherings as one form of entertainment. In Mindoro, the costumes for the dance were the balintawak with tapis for the lady and long red trousers and barong tagalog for the gentlemen. Another version, the pandanggo sa sambalilo from Camiling, Tarlac uses a hat. Here, the focus is on the male dancer who tries to pick up the hat from the floor with his head with great skill. The pandang-pandang is an extraordinary and ex- citing wedding dance from Antique. It was and still is customary for a newly married couple to perform this during the reception. Legend has it that this dance originated at one wedding dance. A newly married couple was supposed to be dancing normally, when a



gecko (lizard) happened to get into the pants of the bridegroom. In his attempt to get rid of the gecko, the groom moved about in a frenzy, hopping and jump- ing, hitting his thighs and buttocks without missing the rhythm of the music. The spectators thinking that it was all part of the dance clapped their hands to cheer him on. The pandanggo ivatan is a wedding dance from Batanes. The bride and groom open the dance, after which the groom gives his gala (wedding gift in cash or in kind) to the bride. This is the signal for the guests to offer their own gala, each of which is preceded by a brief dance by the married couple to symbolize the start of their new life together. The pandanggo rinconada is a favorite of the peo- ple of the Rinconada district in Nabua, Camarines Sur. This is a festival dance performed by young and old people during the Christmas season. The enganosa, a festival dance from Samar also popularly known as pandangyado mayor, was be- lieved to have been introduced by the Spaniards dur- ing the latter part of the 19th century. Retaining its Castilian flavor, the dance has lilting music and entic- ing movements, hence the name enganosa. For this dance, the maria clara and barong tagalog and black trousers and black shoes are worn by contemporary groups.

The Habanera

Introduced during the Spanish colonial period, the habanera, a piece of music named after Havana in Cuba where it originated, is a dance in slow duple meter with step-dose-step pattern, similar to the tan- go. The Filipinos interwove into their own version elements from the original dance. Most of the habanera dances come from the Pan- gasinan and Ilocos regions. The habanera de soltera is performed by a betrothed couple during one of seven ceremonies before their wedding. This very expressive dance is performed during the fifth ceremony in the home of the bride-to-be. After the feast in which the relatives of both the bride and groom take part, the couple express in their dance the love and happiness they expect in their marriage. The dance is called habanera de soltera, because this is the last time the couple will dance in their single state. Besides the basic habanera step, slides, knee bends, and hops are also used in the dance. A varia- tion of the habanera step features the double-cross habanera step. This is done in two measures with two cross steps before the habanera step. Also used in the dance is the typical kumintang of Pangasinan called


kewet, which means turning the hand outward from the wrist, with the fist loosely dosed and the thumb sticking out. For contemporary performers of this dance, the girl wears a maria clara, preferably in white as this is the dance of a betrothed couple, and slippers, while the boy wears any old style barong tagalog and trousers and any colored shoes. The habasinan, another Pangasinan dance, is a gay and beautiful habanera. Derived from the word "haba" from habanera and "sinan" from Pangasinan, the courtship dance is both expressive and romantic, and is usually performed during weddings and other social gatherings. The habanera from Ilocos Sur, as performed by the Ilocano peasants, depicts the modest and retiring traits of traditional Ilocano women.

HABANERA Originating from Havana, Cuba, this Spanish-Influenced dance has several variations, like the habanera de jovencita, here performed by the Bayanlhan Philippine Dance Company In 1964. (Bayonlhon Philippine Donee Company Collection)

From Botolan, Zambales comes the very colorful and lively dance habanera botolefta. In the early days, this was supposedly performed in honor of a depart- ing parish priest. Later, the dance became a festival dance performed during social gatherings for various occasions. Capiz has its own version of the habanera called habanera capisefta which is one of the most popular court- ship dances, performed during social gatherings at bap- tisms, weddings, fiestas, and other important occasions.

The Mazurka

Competing with the other dances in popularity is the mazurka, one of the national dances of Poland. After the subjugation of Poland by Russia, the mazur- ka was naturalized by Russia. When the dance form was introduced in the Philippines, the Filipinos readily integrated it in their repertoire of folk dances. As usual, there are as many versions of this dance as there are localities that accepted it as part of their folk dances. The step pattern is a slide, cut, hop step to a triple measure. The mazurka boholana is a traditional ballroom dance popular in Bohol during the Spanish period. This was originally performed by couples informally gathered in the ballroom, with no definite sequence of steps and figures. What makes the dance interesting is the combination of mazurka, redoba, and sangig steps.


POLKA MAZURKA. A couple perform the polka mazurka which Is a hybrid of two traditional dance$-the polka and the mazurka. VIllareal, Samar, ca 1960. (Francisco Reyes- Aqulno Collection)

For the contemporary performers of the mazurka, the costume used is the maria clara for the girls and barong tagalo~ and black trousers for the boys. Almost always the mazurka are ballroom dances and they are. performed in both open and closed ballroom dance positions. The mazurka val is a variation from Pangasinan. The steps are a combination of mazurka and valse, hence the name. One interesting feature of this dance is that figure where the boy exhibits his skill in dancing and both partners display coordination in movement as the boy carries the girl on his feet while dancing. The girl wears a Maria Clara or a turn of the century costume with a long train, the end of which is carried or tied to the middle finger of her right hand. The mazurka visaya from Negros Occidental com- bines folk and ballroom dance movements. According to the old people familiar with the dance, only a few could perform the dance properly because of its diffi- cult and intricate step patterns. From Mindoro comes another version, the mazur- ka mindorefta. This beautiful festival dance was the premier dance of the elite of Mindoro. Don Antonio Luna, considered one of the best dancers of his time, popularized the dance.



The Polka

The polka, considered as the national dance of Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), was among the first dances introduced by the early European immigrants to the Philippines and by Filipinos who had been to Europe. It was popularized in the Islands not later than 1859. It was usually performed as a ballroom dance during fiestas or grand social affairs. The basic dance step of the polka is executed to a duple meter with a step- close-step pattern following the one-and-two rhythm. Other polka steps used in the dance are the heel-and- toe polka, the hop polka, the gallop, chasing steps, and the hop step. Every locality would have its own version, but the basic steps, the plain polka, and the heel-and-toe polka were always included. The Quezon polka is performed in sets of four pairs in square formation. In Bataan, the dance is called polka tagala. In one figure of the dance, the ladies kick their voluminous skirts forward and backward to show off their beautiful lace petticoats. In Batangas, the dance was called polka sa nayo n, while in Mindoro it was known as polka sala. Among the Visayans, the dance was called polka antigo, and in Negros Occidental polka italiana. In Ilocos Norte, there is a courtship dance called sileledaang, which means laden with sorrow. Interes-


tingly, the dancers here show their fondness for each other using the basic polka step to a tempo. The maliket-a-polka is another version of this dance form. Maliket in Pangasinan means happy, therefore, happy polka. This is danced during fiestas in honor of the Santo Nifto, patron saint of a barrio of Pangasinan. When this dance is performed today for the stage, the balintawak with tapis and soft paftuelo draped over the left shoulder is used by the girls while the camisa de chino and any pair of colored trousers are used by the males.

The Rigodon and Other Quadrille Dances

Other dances introduced during the Spanish period were the quadrille dances, most important of which is the rigodon. To the Filipinos, the rigodon or rigodon de honor is the best ceremonial dance. Intro- duced to the French court by a dancing master named Rigaud, it was first known as Rigaudon. In Britain, it was later called the Rigadoon. The dance got to Manila in the 19th century and was called Rigodon.

RIGODON. The grand finale of this ball, held by the National Assembly for Pres. Manuel L Quezon In 1938, was the stately rigodon de honor. (Foto News 7938, Ell Gu/eb Ill Collection)

The rigodon is performed to orchestral music with a lively rhythm. The most popular quadrille dance in the country, it is usually performed at state functions with high government officials and people of high social class participating. In the square formation, dis- tinguished or important personages are the cabeceras or head pairs, and the less important ones the costados or side pairs. Although there are many versions of it, the dance is always in quadrille formation. The cabeceras always perform the dance steps first, followed by the costa- dos. After the saludo or anuncio, the dance starts with the figure of ladies meeting, followed by the zeta, casa- miento or abanico, visita, cadenilla, cambio . pareja, and finally the cadena. In all the figures the dancers walk in a stately manner following the rhythm of the music. An interesting facet of the rigodon is its music. It is composed of at least five numbers, each one com- plete in itself and usually taken from popular operas of the day. The last musical theme is the work of a Filipi- no composer, Jose Estella. Before WWII, the male dancers were requested to wear formal mess jackets or white tuxedo, black pants and black tie for the rigodon. The women, except Mus- lim and foreign women, were requested to come in traje de meztiza or terno, the native formal attire for women, characterized by butterfly sleeves, stiff paftuelo, and long train. Other types of quadrille dances are the lanceros from Pagsanjan, Laguna; the pasakat from Santa Rosa, Laguna; the los bailes de ayer or maharlika from Tar- lac; the lanceros de lingayen of Pangasinan; and lan- ceros de negros from Silay, Negros Occidental. The Silay version of the lanceros is in linear formation, not in quadrille formation like the others.

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