As a student, I instinctively reduced cultural dance as something confined within the four corners of schools—as a school requirement, a performance for Buwan ng Wika, or as a part of the curriculum. Due to its lack of exposure outside my education, it is quite easy to have a nonchalant attitude toward it. However, interviewing one of the cultural dancers who performed at a recent South Korean festival has shifted my perspective.
Miss Lovie persisted despite the challenges and even seemed to enjoy both sides of her busy life. “Because of dancing, I got to travel and enjoy numerous places in the Philippines. Our batch was the first to travel overseas, to Thailand, for a cultural exchange.”
Her dancing life dwindled after graduation. But still, she performed occasionally over requests from their choreographer, and she shared that the latest one, the Dolmen festival, was the best so far. Miss Lovie gushed about learning Korean culture and the history of dolmens, seeing different flowers planted across the venue, and socializing with the Korean citizens as well as the fellow Slovak performers.
When asked how she felt while showcasing the Filipino culture to Koreans, Miss Lovie said, “I had goosebumps. But mostly, I felt proud performing it in front of many people because we catered all the dances in the Philippines. Our group had fourteen members, and we all donned different cultural attire from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.”
She shared with us photos she personally captured during the trip. She and her group were in different traditional attire, and it was quite a contrast compared to the Miss Lovie we interviewed, dressed for the office, sitting behind her desk, surrounded by paperwork.
Curious, we asked how she ended up as a government employee despite all her experiences as a dancer.
“I had been mentored by many dancers before, and been offered many opportunities,” Miss Lovie said. “But you have to be practical. You have to provide food on the table.”
With her experience as a cultural dancer, she expressed hopes to see more youth striving to promote and choose cultural dancing. “Seeing cultural groups makes my day. Although the number of modern dancers continuously rises, we also need more cultural dancers. I want the youth to experience how proud it feels to represent their country through traditional dance. It’s really on another level.”
Due to the current opportunities provided by the country to cultural dancers, people who want to try might struggle with conflicts related to education and personal finance. Still, Miss Lovie’s story is a testament to the fact that one can manage two contrasting sides of their life without too much pressure.
For cultural dancers, performing is a means to showcase certain Filipino groups and their traditions as well as a stepping stone for domestic and even international travel.
Interviewing Miss Lovie helped me see, as a student, that cultural dance is more than just learning dance steps taught by your teacher at school. For other people, it is a ticket to conquering challenges in life and a series of movements packed with Filipino history for other people to admire, understand, and celebrate.
This National Heritage Month, let us celebrate cultural dancers for their continuous effort to promote our culture through their own creative ways. (pia-ncr)