>BAYANIHAN PHILIPPINE DANCE COMPANY in the Singapore Arts Festival '98

>reviewed by sherrie lee

>date: 3 jun 1998
>time: 8pm
>venue: kallang theatre
>rating: not rated

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.

>>>>>Philippine Panorama

A spectacular opening set the right tone for the Festival of Arts. The bright costumes and polished movements, together with live music, invited the audience to a mostly unfamiliar but nonetheless captivating world of the Philippines. It was both a visual as well as an aural experience as the dancers and musicians took us through a journey, from the remote mountains of Luzon to Spanish colonial influence to the adjacent islands of the Sulu archipelago; from the highlands of Mindanao to the countryside.

The opening set of dances, 'Cordillera', displayed celebratory rituals practised by the tribal peoples who inhabit the northern-most island of the Philippines. The first dance, Idaw (the name of a small brown bird which portends the outcome of any impending battle), contained such a forceful energy that one could not help but to sit up and pay attention. In 'Banga/Salidsid', women carried jars known as banga on their heads in the ritual performance representing the fetching of water. It was an amazing feat as the main dancer balanced several jars while still executing her footwork.

>>'It was wonderful to see dancers not only display skill but also reveal their humanity.'

'Aires do Verbena', the second set of dances, moved completely away from rituals. Instead, the medley of songs and dances displayed four centuries of Spanish colonial influence. The 'Canto Patriotico' was beautifully sung, articulating every nuance of the stirring poem written by Dr Jose Rizal. The dances in the rest of the set were fabulous displays of swirling skirts and dazzling footwork.

This was followed by 'Mindanao Tapestry' which reflected Arabian and Indo-Malayan influences while capturing Muslim Filipino culture.

After the intermission, we were treated to more rituals performed with great precision and energy. 'Tribal Images' portrayed primitive religious rites, celebrations of the hunt and matrimonial joy.

The concluding set of dances was probably the most familiar to the audience. 'Sa Kabukiran' ('In the Countryside') captured the idyll of country life. There was singing to the accompaniment of guitars, as well as scenes of fishermen, picnics and the best known of Filipino dances, 'Tinikling', where the performers dance in and out rapidly clapped bamboo poles.

The dance company ended with song as they sang their own local song, as well as rendering their own version of our local song, 'Singapura'. I saw lovely people on stage brimming with good cheer and extending their warmth to the audience. It was wonderful to see dancers not only display skill but also reveal their humanity. If this is the tone set for the rest of the festival, then we will be entertained and invigorated by talent, as well as be reminded of what it is to live.