A great part of Dumaguete as a University Town is its cultural life. The culture colors are so vivid as they are mounted with the youthful energy of the students from different campuses. And the most visible art form is dance. From folk to modern, from classical ballet to the contemporary social realism, and from festival traditions to the hip-hop and the street body language, Dumaguete’s vibrant spirit in dance is endless!
The dance history of Dumaguete, a noted cultural center of Southern Philippines, has achieved concrete forms even before balitaw and kuradang evolved with a touch of Spanish grace and romantic intensity. These folk traditions were never destroyed even when the American educators at Silliman University overshadowed the Spaniards with the square dance and the ballroom hits like line dance and waltz.
On stage, the University Town had its first local harvest of ballet productions in 1961 when a dance program had its formal offerings under the direction of Luz Jumawan.
Ms. Jumawan, a Silliman and St. Paul alumna, studied dance at the Anita Kane Ballet School in Manila, and also had French ballet training under Cassel. She founded the Silliman University Dance Troupe, which became well received critically for most part because of her creative direction. She was noted internationally when she choreographed the aboriginal dance pat of the cultural pageantry that opened the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (She’s now based in Australia.) With this achievement and a lot more, Jumawan deserves to be recognized as one of the cultural heroines of this University Town.
The Jumawan legacy reached its apex in 1968 when Shona Mactavish of New Zealand visited Silliman. Ballet and interpretative movements became the SU Dance Troupe’s popular creations.
In 1972, Mactavish came back to join the SU faculty. Under her direction, the talent of the Serion sisters , Luwalhati and Liwayway, were “discovered” and from then on became the Town’s leading dance artists.
It was through the efforts of the younger Serion, Liwayway Arabe, that Mactavish’s contributions were preserved. Arabe even had her own productive years with her original choreography in Philippine air. She then became director of the Silliman Dance Troupe. Later, she shone as the creative force behind what was then known as the CVPC Dance Troupe.
While the Silliman Dance Troupe was in silence, the MEV (Mariant Escaño-Villegas) Dance Studio kept the art of dance in this town constantly in good shape with their annual recital . Talents from the MEV Dance school dominated the different campuses who became the regular features in school programs.
Thanks to MEV, the City had its grand moment in dance when the National Dance Congress was conducted here in 2003.
Then, there was the Panaghiusa sa Sayaw in February this year where MEV interpreted in dance the kundiman classic with Lucio San Pedro’s Saan ka man Naroroon.
That event gave us so much pride and joy knowing that the University Town served as host to the country’s leading dance companies.
The Silliman University Dance troupe was recently revived under the directorship of the Makiling Art School dance teacher Ronnie Mirabuena. Folkdances from Luzon to Mindanao were in tapestry called “Tara na, Biyahe na, ” a dance concert in March.
The Foundation University Dance Troupe has also taken center stage through the years – as a regular feature in many community events like welcoming VIPs from all over the world (like former US President Jimmy Carter’s visit launch the Habitat for Humanity here). It was heartwarming to see the FU Dance Troupe do folkdances with traditional and contemporary versions and the lively blend of grace and strength.
And as the polytechnic college was renamed Negros Oriental State University, so did its dance troupe get a new name: the NORSU Kabilin Dance Troupe.
Kabilin literally means legacy, but it also connotes the values of kinship and the attitude that we carry as cultural moves.
The leadership of Dr. Vivitz Grace P. Electona achieved national recognition when Carlou G. Bernaldez’s version of the national dance tinikling won first runner-up in the National Folk Dance Competition held in West Visayas State University in Iloilo City.
The Kabilin is noted for its many Visayan dances. There’s Lapay Batigue, a dance from the Leyte-Samar provinces that imitates with so much fun the movements of the seagull.
The Ilonggo dance called Pamulad Isda is full of playful movements reflecting the fishing tradition of Cadiz City in Negros Occidental.
Negros Oriental is very well a part of the fiesta showcase with Polka Biana, a dance which actually originated in Zamboanguita.
At NORSU, Bhours and Vincent, serve as dance masters of the group, never fail to bring the audiences in awesome moments as they come in pursuit of the Filipina grace and charm of Milryn. Watching them is like bringing Amorsolo to life!
The Dumaguete folk dance tradition still has so much to offer. The Priscilla Magdamo Visayan Music Collections are rich materials for a choreography filled with authentic local colors.
Mounting Valencia’s Baling Mingawa, a duet by two mountain women, will be one beautiful body poetry that will paint nostalgia in the air.