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Origin and History of Dance

Dance does not leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts such as stone tools,
hunting implements or cave paintings. It is not possible to say when dance became part of
human culture. Dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations
and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archeology
delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as the 9,000 year old Rock Shelters of
Bhimbetka paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from circa
3300 BC.

One of the earliest structured uses of dances may have been in the performance and in
the telling of myths. It was also sometimes used to show feelings for one of the opposite
gender. It is also linked to the origin of "love making." Before the production of written
languages, dance was one of the methods of passing these stories down from generation to

Another early use of dance may have been as a precursor to ecstatic trance states in
healing rituals. Dance is still used for this purpose by many cultures from the Brazilian
rainforest to the Kalahari Desert.

Sri Lankan dances go back to the mythological times of aboriginal yingyang twins and
"yakkas" (devils). According to a Sinhalese legend, Kandyan dances originate, 250 years ago,
from a magic ritual that broke the spell on a bewitched king. Many contemporary dance forms
can be traced back to historical, traditional, ceremonial, and ethnic dance.

Dance and Music

Many early forms of music and dance were created and performed together. This paired
development has continued through the ages with dance/music forms such as: jig, waltz,
tango, disco, salsa, electronica and hip-hop. Some musical genres also have a parallel dance
form such as Baroque music and Baroque dance whereas others developed separately: classical
music and classical ballet.

Although dance is often accompanied by music, it can also be presented independently

or provide its own accompaniment (tap dance). Dance presented with music may or may not be
performed in time to the music depending on the style of dance. Dance performed without
music is said to be danced to its own rhythm.
Ballroom dancing is an art although it may incorporates many fitness components using
an artistic state of mind.

Philippine Ethnic Dance

Ancient in origin but contemporaneous, ethnic dance lives on in the Philippines. The
forms and functions are many, performed by a variety of ethnic groups over the 7,000-plus

At the base of ethnic dance are those that imitate nature and life while at the social
core are performed rituals that keep an ethnolinguistic group (or a convergence of several)
which is spirited and cohesive.

With islands of mountains, hills and plains, and kilometric seashores that are havens for
many straits and seas, the Philippines is veritably an aviary and an aquarium. Many birds and
fowls easily became the inspiration for the various ethnic dances -- from the more familiar
tikling (adept rice-preying birds interpreted into Tinikling), itik (ducks, into Itik-itik), kalapati
(doves, into Kalapati and Sinalampati), and kilingkingan (swift, clicking birds, into a dance
named after them).

Aquatic life like fish and crabs, and the exotic squirrels, snakes, monkeys and fireflies
also found their way into the choreography of various ethnic dances. Such dances enliven the
games and feasts of the people from those of the simple Negrito or Aeta to that of the richly
dressed up Maranaw, Maguindanao, Bagobo, Manobo, T'boli of Mindanao and Tausug and Badjaw
of Sulu.

Many old rituals are still observed, often a composite of expressive forms and religious
orientations. The people fear and revere the spirits that dwell in nature (diwatas) including
ancestors (anitos). A community gathers around a babaylan (shaman) who officiates at rituals.

Distinct is the Pagdiwata of the Tagbanwa of Palawan which is a thanksgiving ritual and
is linked with harvest time and full-moon. A respected babaylan is endowed with an "aura of
magic-religious potential" (Robert Fox, 1982). Before an altar laden with offerings, she dances
armed with a hood, palaspas (fronds), kris or dagger, to the accompaniment of gongs. Dancing
or swaying in a swing, she goes into a trance to commune with a spirit, especially the one
called Maguindusa.

The people's life-cycle is also danced out: blessing a child among the Bago (an Itneg
group) is done in the Gabbok, where the officiating mandadawak (the north's babaylan) dances;
the coming of age of a girl is dramatized in the Pandamgo of the Matigsalug (culminating in a
deathly combat between suitors);

In the Idudo, the Itneg men raise up their babies with singing and dancing, while their
women till the fields. A musical log called udol of the Tagkaolo is beaten and around it they
dance to call on the dead spirits to come home from a distance or battle. Likewise, works in
the field to plant, harvest, or even fishing and hunting, have also been adapted into various

Folk Dance

The term "folk dance" is sometimes applied to certain dances of historical importance
in European culture and history; typically originated before 20th century. For other cultures the
terms "ethnic dance" or "traditional dance" are sometimes used, although the latter terms may
encompass ceremonial dances.

There are a number of modern dances, such as hip hop dance, that evolve
spontaneously, but the term "folk dance" is generally not applied to them, and the terms
"street dance" or "vernacular dance" are used instead. The term "folk dance" is reserved for
dances which are to a significant degree bound by European tradition and originated in the
times when the distinction existed between the dances of "common folk" and the dances of the
"high society".

A number of modern ballroom dances originated from folk ones.

The terms "ethnic" and "traditional" are used when it is required to emphasize the
cultural roots of the dance. In this sense, nearly all folk dances are ethnic ones. If some
dances, such as polka, cross ethnic boundaries and even cross the boundary between "folk" and
"ballroom dance", ethnic differences are often considerable enough to mention, e.g., Czech
polka vs. German polka.

Not all ethnic dances are folk dances; for example, ritual dances or dances of ritual
origin are not considered to be folk dances. Ritual dances are usually called "Religious dances"
because of their purpose.

Philippine Folk Dances

Mountain Province
1. Flight of the Idaw. This dance is an artistic combination of mountain courtship wedding
comes from the northernmost section of the Mountain provinces. Here, the couple raises and
wave their arms and hands like the wings of a bird in flight, and the ceremonial blanket worn
by the woman is lightly wrapped around her. The man's movements resemble those of a fighting
cock in the preening, strutting and flying -off-the-ground gestures.

2. Ragragsakan. Literally means happy, is a work-dance of the Kalinga women as they carry
baskets on their heads skillfully balancing them while traversing the narrow trail to the river.

3. Idudu. The Itneg men rise up their babies with singing and dancing while their women till the


4. La Jota Moncadena. The jota encompasses a variety of Spanish-influenced dances

accompanied by the use of bamboo castanets, held loosely and unstrung. There are many forms
of jota in the Philippines whose names are derived from their regions of origin. A common
progression in the jota is a quick and lively verse, followed by a slow bridge, and ending with a
verse in the same lively tempo as in the beginning. A combination of Spanish and Ilocano dance
steps and music.

5. Aray. A dance whose words are sung in "Chabacano-ermitense," a hybrid of Spanish that was
only spoken in the Ermita district before the turn of the century and today is extinct. The
dance itself is a flirtatious one that involves graceful use of the panuelo, or shawl, and
tambourines. Aray means "ouch" in Tagalog.

6. Sayaw sa Bangko. This dance is native to the barrio of Pangapisan, Lingayen, Pangasinan, and
demands skid from its performers who must dance on top of a bench roughly six inches wide.

7. Sakuting. A dance of the Ilocano Christians and non-Christians from the province of Abra,
Sakuting was originally performed by boys only. It portrays a mock fight using sticks to train for
combat. The staccato-inflected music suggests a strong Chinese influence. The dance is
customarily performed during Christmas at the town plaza, or from the house-to-house. The
spectators give the dancers aguinaldos or gifts of money or refreshments especially prepared
for Christmas.
8. Subli. From the province of Batangas comes the ancient dance, originally performed in
veneration of the holy cross of Alitagtag, referred to in the vernacular as "Mahal na Poong Santa
Cruz". The word subli is derived from two Tagalog words, subsub (stooped) and bali (broken).
Hence the men are stooped throughout the dance and appear to be lame and crooked, while
the women dance with hats.

9. Pagtatanim, Paggapas, Pagbabayo, Paggigiik. Pagtatanim (rice planting) displays the tedious
work of bending the body and stooping forward for almost the entire day while planting rice,
Paggapas (harvesting) is danced when the palay (rice) is ready for harvest, Pagigiik (threshing)
is also a dance done by threading the harvested palay to separate the grain from the stalks,
Pagbabayo (pounding rice) where all barrio folds gather to celebrate and taste the fresh grain.

10. Maglalatik. This mock-war dance, originating from the Spanish Regime, depicts a fight
between the Moros and the Christians over the prized latik, or coconut meat residue. This
dance, originally performed in Binan, Laguna, is also performed as a tribute to the patron saint
of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador. Maglalatik is a four-part performance: the palipasan and the
baligtaran showing the intense combat, and the paseo and the escaramusa, the reconciliation.
The Moros of this dance usually wear red trousers, while the Christians don blue trousers. All of
the men use harnesses of coconut shells positioned on their backs, chests, hips. thighs.


11. Sinulog. Sinulog is a ceremonial dance performed by the people of San Joaquin, Ilo-ilo
during the feast of San Martin. It originated in a barrio of San Joaquin called Sinugbahan. It was
believed that the image of San Martin was found at the edge of a beach, and that it could not
be removed until the people dance the Sinulog. From that day on every November 1Oth on the
feast of San Martin the Sinulog would be danced before the procession comes out or else, it
was believed, the church would be burned. The dance itself was patterned after the Suluan
war dance of the Sulu people, the native name of Sulu being Sulug which means strong ocean

12. Paseo de Iloilo. Also known as Andaluz, for its province of origin, this is one of the most
sophisticated courtship and flirtation dances of the Spanish era. The gentlemen compete
among each other to win the heart of the dalaga (young lady), by exemplifying chivalry, grace,
and confidence.

13. Tinikling. Honored as the Philippine national dance, Tinikling is a favorite in the Visayan
islands, especially on the islands of Leyte. The dance imitates the movement of the tikling
birds as they walk between grass stems, run over tree branches, or dodge bamboo traps set by
rice farmers. Dancers imitate the tikling bird's legendary grace and speed by skillfully
maneuvering between large bamboo poles.

14. Quadrado. This is a popular square dance found in many regions in the Philippines, it must
have been brought here by the Americans for some of its movements, figures and music
resemble the American square dance.

15. Cebu. An ethnic jazz depicting the cebuanos way of life.

16. Pandanggo sa Ilaw/Oasiwas. After a good catch, fishermen of Lingayen would celebrate by
drinking wine and by dancing, swinging and circling a lighted lamp. Hence, the name "Oasiwas"
which in the Pangasinan dialects means "swinging. This unique and colorful dance calls for skill
in balancing an oil lamp on the head while circling in each hand a lighted lamp wrapped in a
porous cloth or fishnet. The waltz-style music is similar to that of Pandanggo sa Ilaw.

17. Pandanggo sa Ilaw - This popular dance of grace and balance comes from Lubang Island,
Mindoro in the Visayas region. The term pandanggo comes from the Spanish word fandango,
which is a dance characterized by lively steps and clapping that varies in rhythm in 3/4 time.
This particular pandanggo involves the presence of three tinggoy or oil lamps, balanced on the
head and the back of each hand.

18. Pasigin. A dance interpreting toil in the life of the fishermen in the river called Pasig.
Manifesting the native means of catching the fish.


19. Dugso. The Bukidnon from northeastern Mindanao perform this dance as an entertainment
for the deities to make them feel more comfortable during the fiesta that has been organized
for them and consequently more open to the requests of the celebrants women would mean
colorful feathered headdresses, plaid costumes and anklets.

20. Kapamalong-malong. Also called Sambi sa Malong this Maranao dance shows the many ways
of donning the malong, a tubular circle of cloth used as a skirt, shawl, or mantle.

21. Kahimunan "Merrymaking" is a dance of celebration during harvest time, weddings and
other special occasions.
22. Pangalay ha Pattong. Also called Vinta, this dance is named for the picturesque boat with
colorful sails which glide across the Sulu Sea. Central to this dance are the Royal Couple who
each balance atop a pair of swaying bamboo poles, simulating their ride aboard a vinta.

23. Singkil. This dance takes its name from the bells worn on the ankles of the Muslim princess.
Perhaps one of the oldest of timely Filipino dances, the Singkil recounts the epic legend of the
"Darangan" of the Maranao people of Mindanao. This epic, written sometime in the l4th
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 of the forest. The crisscrossed 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 skillfully
manipulate a pair of fans which represent the winds that prove to be auspicious. Royal
princesses to this day in the Sulu Archipelago are required to learn this most difficult and noble

There are other versions of Singkil. Perhaps the version more widely performed by dance
companies is the "Garden Singkil". The story goes that the princess goes into her garden,
accompanied by her slave, and plays with the butterflies, which are represented by the fan
dancers. The movements of the fans supposedly represent those of the butterflies, as opposed
to the diwatas. In another popular version, the prince uses a scarf instead of a sword.