Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Of gracefully fleet feet

Customs can be beautiful things, and dance surely is one delightful custom that every culture has.

Certain dances are physical expressions of ancient or modern legends -- legends about conflict, survival, love. And because I'm such a terrible dancer, watching people do it so well is such a pleasure. Especially when the dance tells a story.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the singkil, one of the numerous, utterly lovely folk dances of the Philippines. I get major goosebumps whenever I watch it.

"Perhaps one of the oldest of truly Filipino dances, the Singkil recounts the epic legend of the "Darangan" of the Maranao people of Mindanao. This epic, written sometime in the 14th century, tells the fateful story of Princess Gandingan, who was caught in the middle of a forest during an earthquake caused by the diwatas, or fairies or nymph of the forest.

The rhythmic clapping of criss-crossed bamboo poles represent the trees that were falling, which she gracefully avoids. Her slave loyally accompanies her throughout her ordeal. Finally, she is saved by the prince. Dancers wearing solemn faces and maintaining a dignified pose being dancing at a slow pace which soon progresses to a faster tempo skillfully manipulate apir, or fans which represent the winds that prove to be auspicious. The dancers weave expertly through criss-crossed bamboos.

When performed by ladies of the royalty of Lanao, the dancer is usually accompanied by a waiting lady, who holds a beautifully decorated umbrella over the Princess' head wherever she goes. Royal princesses to this day in the Sulu Archipelago are required to learn this most difficult and noble dance."

The grace and dignity -- and sensuality -- that the principal dancers exude are remarkable indeed. I have yet to see a live performance of this dance. It's pathetic; I have access to my own country's wonderful culture but I haven't experienced much of it.

Not that I'd dance the singkil. It requires upper- and lower-body coordination, and when it comes to dancing, my body is a sorry tale of two cities, cities that might as well be located in opposite parts of the world. It's an unholy mésalliance; they not only speaking different languages, but take perverse pleasure in the fact that they never will. Except maybe when it comes to sex.


Daddy Papersurfer said...

I bet you can dance and how come you know about sex at your tender age?

Daddy Papersurfer said...

The TG and I have just watched the Singkil. You must go and see a live performance - can you book tickets for us at the same time? Beautiful

CS said...

When it comes to sex, it all works.

Hey, how do you change the little lead in to the comments (like where yours says "2 who reacted" instead of "2 comments"?

houseband00 said...

Liz, ha. =)

kyels said...

I loaded the video and watched it. The dance is really beautiful!


Lizza said...

DaddyP: Glad you thought so. It really is special.

I learned about sex when I watched a show on Animal Planet. The things they show on the telly these days!

CS: Go to your Blogger account's layout page and edit the 'Posts' box. I sent an email your way.

HB: O, bakeeet? Totoo namang maganda ang singkil di ba? :-D

Kyels: I read somewhere that dance is one of the many similarities that we Malays have in common. That isn't hard to believe.

Wendz said...

If you hadn't given an explanation of the dance I'd have been bemused.

It IS beautiful, but to my Western eyes, accustomed to Western dancing, it looked like people just moving around gracefully and waving fans. I'd never have appreciated it as a dance with a story.

I focused on their feet. You're so right. Man how did they not trip over those bamboo sticks and not fall flat on their faces! I'd have been on my butt in no time. I have zero co-ordination.

Thanks for that Lizza. Lovely to learn more about your culture.

Lizza said...

Wendz: And they aren't supposed to look down at their feet or the bamboo poles. I'd have black-and-blue ankles if I did that. :-)

iz said...

You know, it's amazing how similar this is to Indian dance forms.

nursemyra said...

... and a little touch of flamenco. really beautiful Lizza.

Matt-Man said...

I think you and I belong to the same level of dancing acumen. Cheers Lizza!!

Bond said...

LIZZA: I will need to look at the video outside of work...But it sounds wonderful...

H said...

hahahahahha to your response to DaddyP.

But the dance is BEAUTIFUL! mesmerising! And you know, the strangest thing is, that the outfits, in the long shots look very very Indian! Actually the entire effect of the outfits .

Lizza, girl, you do realise that all this enticement is not going to serve you well.. :-D [evil grin].

And somehow I don't believe that you aren't a wicked dancer [there see I used an American teenage expression].

Lizza said...

Iz: I think I read about it being influenced by Hindu-ized Malays so many centuries ago. So there you go.

Nursemyra: Thanks! Flamenco, now that's one intense, passionate dance.

Matt-man: Good thing we aren't near enough to step on each other's toes! Cheers!

Bond: Hope you like it. :-)

H: Believe you me, I absolutely suck (to use another American teenage expression) at dancing. The slow type of dancing exempted, of course. *tee hee*

Travis said...

That was fascinating.

Lizza said...

Glad you thought so, Trav. Thanks.

eastcoastdweller said...

It's wonderful how You share the beautiful culture of Your Philippines with us.

Dancing is indeed a glorious thing, when done right.

Lizza said...

Thank you very much, EDC. Glad you appreciated it. And thanks for stopping in.