Philippine dances are hard to describe. Americans can (proudly?) say they invented the “Electric Slide” and the “Soulja Boy,” but what is truly a Philippine dance?
For one evening in Tampa, its Philippine Performing Arts Company answered that. For one evening, I shared in that country’s celebrations and expressions through movement. It’s no mistake the evening was called “Dances” of the Philippines…
“[The Philippines has 1107 islands] our dances show how diverse our country is.” answered Melissa B, PPAC dancer who also plays the ‘princess’ in its most popular routine—the Indian-derived singkil, “It’s a fusion of a number of other cultures ranging from Muslim, to Chinese to European.”
The stage of the Straz Center was decorated minimally. Flimsy house fronts and draped flags directed the attention towards the dancers. The dances were divided by regions of the Philippines as well as time in history.
My favorite dances (a thought shared by those around me) were those from the Mindanao area. Filled with movement, it’s also easy to see how those dances were heavily influenced by the Thai, Hindus, and Muslim in the angled movements of the dancers, the deep vibrant colors, and the music performed by simple percussion.
I wished more of the background music had been live. Slight distortions in other dance music sometimes broke my illusion of transport. The recorded music also seemed to flatten the performance as opposed to lifting it. PPAC boasts a talented group of dancers that represent the fun and youthfulness of the country, but was it ready for the theatrics of the big stage? I believe the group was better made for the spontaneity of small events.
It’s no mistake the evening was called “Dances” of the Philippines. “Philippine Dances” would’ve been too limiting—a misleading description that would’ve claimed sole creative rights for the country. But the Philippines is a patched quilt of East, West, old and new and these are the dances found IN the Philippines. Thank you PPAC for showing us the “Dances of the Philippines.”