July 26, 2014 
 
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Philippine Contemporary Dance
Basilio Esteban S. Villaruz
Articles

       Rising from the rubbles of WW II and freed from American domination, the Filipinos surged  in creativity. The '50 and '60s saw dance revival and choreographic invention.

       Schools put up folk dance troupes like the Far Eastern University, Philippine Normal University (Barangay Folk Dance Troupe) and Philippine Women's University. The Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company captivated the world at Brussels Exposition in 1958. Leonor Orosa Goquingco's Filipinescas Dance Company, Teresita Pil's Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company, University of the Philippines Filipiniana Dance Group, Darangan Cultural Troupe at Mindanao State University-Marawi, and Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group followed to win their own awards and accolades abroad. All at first capitalized on the efforts of now-declared National Artist, Francisca Reyes Aquino, to gain national and international recognition, from Manila to Broadway and across the Iron Curtain.

       In ballet, Orosa Goquingco went to stage Noli Dance Suit and other ballets. Remedios de Oteyza's abstract ballets were performed by the De Oteyza Ballet, Manila Ballet Company and Hariraya Ballet Company (founded with Inday Gaston Manosa). Rosalia Merino Santos staged and lectured with the Far Eastern University Modern Experimental Dance Group. Anita Kane toured nationwide with classical and Filipino ballets of hers called Anita Kane Ballet Company, later Pamana Ballet. Joining them was Ricardo Cassell from America, first teaching for Pacita Madrigal (staging Giselle for her and Benny Villanueva Reyes) and later his wife Roberta's school and Studio Dance Group. Trudl Dubsky Zipper periodically returned from the United States to stage ballets and operas.

       They all inspired a new group of dance-makers and leaders. Corazon Generoso Iņigo staged folk dances and choreographed modern pieces for university groups, for the films and the productions of J. Amado Araneta in Cubao, Quezon City. Maribel Aboitiz and Eddie Elejar followed up the fame of Manolo Rosado and Fely Franquelli in Europe. With Joji Felix and Cesar Mendoza, Elejar set up a school at PWU. He and Julie Borromeo and Felicitas "Tita" Layag Radaic later formed Dance Theater Philippines as the first professional company, along with the Hariraya. DTP was later solely directed by Radaic or Basilio (Steve Villaruz), carrying on Ballet at the (Rizal) Park for more than 12 years and producing ballerinas Anna Villadolid, Lisa Macuja and Eloisa Enerio. Still later, the Dance Concert Company of Vella Damian and Eric Cruz, and Manila Metropolis Ballet of Elejar and Toby Fabella served the widening audience for ballet. This was also met by visiting companies from Asia, Australia, the United States, Britain, Europe and Russia.

       With the opening of Meralco Theater and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, still later of the restored Manila Metropolitan, U.P. and Camp Aguinaldo Theaters, choreographic ambitions were no better served than in the old Far Eastern University, Philamlife and Girls Scouts of the Philippines auditorium, and the defunct Rizal Theater.

       Starting as a private group called Alice Reyes and Modern Dance Company, Ballet Philippines had the advantage as resident dancers of the CCP. Reyes (starting with Elejar as co-director) built a modern repertoire with her Amada, Itim Asu, Rama Hari, Carmen, choreographers Elejar, Fabella, Gener Caringal and Norman Walker, and the ballet classics with foreigners, especially William Morgan and the Russians. Subsequent directors were Edna Vida, Denisa Reyes, Agnes Locsin--all choreographers in their own right, and now Cecile Sicangco. In 1987, CCP accommodated Philippine Ballet Theater who came under the directorship of  Manosa, Borromeo, Elejar and now Caringal. The Company's strength had been its wide choice of local choreographers. In 1966, a splinter group from PBT formed Ballet Manila with Cruz and Macuja as directors. It espouses Russian style, although it has lately acquired works from David Campos, Vida, Fabella, Nonoy Froilan and Osias Barroso. All these companies have won merits in performances abroad. They have toured nationwide, following the pioneering work of Kane and of Fe Sala Villarica in the Visayas.

       In the idiom of jazz, Douglas Nierras and his Powerdance are the most prominent, following the groups Hotlegs, of Julie Borromeo, Metropolitan Dance Theater, etc. The new groups are Whiplash and several others dancing for television. They have graced the shows of Vilma Santos, Nora Aunor and Sharon Cuneta, following up those of Pilita Corrales, Nida Blanca and Nestor de Villa in their time. Television has also provided exposure for the popularization of ballroom dancing, earlier served by Dance Time with Chito (Feliciano) and the Penthouse editions. The Dance Sports Council has also helped standardize dance competitions and dance instructions. The Old and new dance forms are the boogie-woogie, rock 'n roll, mashed potato, twist, boogaloo, bossa nova, frug, pachanga, watusi, hustle, lambada, swing, hip-hop and the free-for-all disco-dancing.

       In dance education, physical education departments continue to teach dance (mostly folk) from the grade school  to college level. Dance degree programs are offered at University of the Philippines and De la Salle University. In addition to the workshops of the Dance Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Philippine Folk Dance Society, Dance Educators Associations of the Philippines and Francisca Reyes Aquino Memorial Foundation also offer annual workshops.

       During the leisure time Filipinos can be found dancing more. This include the battalas (choreographed skirmishes) in the moro-moro or comedia that still exist, and in many festivals around the country like the sinulog, ati-atihan, caracol, guling-guling, dinagyang, sayaw sa Obando, turumba in Pakil, etc. These may be found on the streets, the stage or the shopping malls today.

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About the Author:
Basilio Esteban S. Villaruz is a former English instructor at the University of the Philippines who danced with Modern Dance Company (now Ballet Philippines), Hariraya Ballet Company, involving himself much later with Dance Theater Philippines as its balletmaster, choreographer and then artistic director. His recent choreographic works include: "Ritual Bonds", "Oriental Fantasy", "Ay Kalisud" (1990); and "Spiritual Canticle: An Eclogue-Operatorio" (1991). He is the Artistic Director of the University of the Philippines Dance Company.
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