April 18, 2014 
 
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Philippine Dance Education
Basilio Esteban S. Villaruz
Articles

       Dance Education involves the teaching of tradition, technique, style and the methodologies of teaching dance itself.

       Tradition is taught in and out of school, in academic disciplines and in social practices or customs.  The school teaches formally with syllabi and systems while the society teaches in communal activities, from rites to games, from work to celebrations.  Both serve to perpetuate tradition, by both hows (from steps to dressing up) and whys (for causes of men and of gods). Schools can codify folk dancing, while society can continue to change this in real-life circumstance.  Tradition may not be static but evolve according to the environment and beliefs of a people.

       Technique is generally taught in school, which in Asia may be built around a village teacher or guru.  Skill is honed to conform to established ways of moving and motivating.  In ballet and now-traditional modern dance forms, e.g., of Martha Graham or Jose Limon, this skill is strictly codified and monitored.  Progression is patterned in time so that virtuosity or expressiveness may be achieved at the optimum.  Both ballet and folk dance may proceed from centuries-old practice and performance, although folk dance may have the leeway of allowing a greater number of persons to participate, depending on its classical mold, expected agility or participatory purpose.

       Style is very much a refinement of technique and interpretation.  It is both a consciousness of tradition's perfection and nuances, and a personal style that can positively enhance or promote that very tradition.  It is both past and present, favorably seen in a performance.   Style is both taught and intuited, both a study and a gift.

       Out of the village where rituals like the ati-atihan in Aklan, the sinulog in Cebu, the pagdiwata in Palawan and buklog in Zamboanga, and other festivities like weddings, child-blessings, death commemorations and many Christian and non-Christian feasts, folk dance has also been increasingly formalized in schools, seminars and workshops.  When Francisca Reyes Aquino did her research in Philippine folk dances, she also introduced these into the physical education courses and safe-guarded them through dance clinics and the establishment of the Philippine Folk Dance Society.  Practices were codified into steps, figures, directions and musical arrangements.   To the present day, it is the physical education departments that are the main guardians of these folk dances, documentations of which have been expanded by further researches, theses, books, musical recordings and video-films.  To a limited extent, these P.E. departments have also introduced ballet and modern dance courses, but these are mainly confined to metropolitan centers.

       Studio type of schools mainly teach ballet and, in some, like the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School, modern dance.  Russian and English teachers initiated these schools, the most significant of which was Luva Adameit's Cosmopolitan  Ballet and Dancing School   from where subsequent serious teachers came from, among them Remedios de Oteyza, Leonor Orosa Goquingco, Rosalia Merino Santos, etc.  Other notable ones were Anita Kane, Ricardo and Roberta Cassell who again developed career teachers like Felicitas Layag Radaic, Fe Sala Villarica, Eddie Elejar and Benjamin Villanueva Reyes.  Ideally ballet training lasts from eight to ten years from ages eight or ten to finish at sixteen or eighteen.  Various international schools of thought may prevail; lately there has been developed a Philippine ballet syllabus.  In professional dancing, learning continues  through much of a dancer's career.

       Although studied at a later age, the same happens in modern dance which began with individual artist's motivation and mode of motion, like that of Mary Wigman, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, etc.  Today, modern dance may be taught in a more mixed mode, including some ballet technique.  Jazz and other forms of vernacular dance be incorporated, or taught on their own.  Early Philippine pioneers were Kaethe Hauser, Trudl Dubsky Zipper, Manolo Rosado, Rosalia Merino Santos and Alice Reyes.

       In the academe student are taught in several techniques and styles, forms and traditions.  They also study theoretical aspects of dance, like its history, aesthetics and signification, criticism, sociology and anthropology of dance, anatomy and kinesiology, movement notation, music, theatrical designs (costumes, sets, lighting and make-up) and dance production.  They are developed in both theoretical and practical expertise in dance.

       In the Philippines, Philippine Women's University started a now defunct dance degree program, .  The University of the Philippines ran two dance programs at the College of Human Kinetics and at the College of Music, the second one still prevailing in both diploma and bachelor degrees.  De la Salle University's Benilde School has also worked out a degree program with the CCP Dance School and Ballet Philippines.  Abroad, there are masteral and doctoral programs, some of which Filipinos have taken.

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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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