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Review of the Leyte Dance Theater’s “PADAYAW: Padayon Pagsayaw

By Felicitas F. Santiago, MD UPMASA NJNYCT Chapter, Past President, 2019-21

After a five-year dance drought aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the internationally

recognized and multiply-awarded LDT- Leyte Dance Theater of Jess de Paz Foundation, Inc is back on to

its 9th US tour. PAFCOM- Philippine American Friendship Community, Inc’s sponsorship on May 13, 2023

was a pre-Mother’s Day visual and auditory celebration, a welcome back to social circulation. The timing

was reminiscent of our homeland’s traditional fiesta times of May, plus the significant US national

recognition of the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Also embraced was PAFCOM’s

additional homage to the LGBTQIA, the disabled, the young and the elderly.

And a “Wow” did the LDT deliver, fully showcasing the vision of its founder, Jess de Paz, from

our northern indigenous pre-colonial, “Dawn at the Highlands” suite to its post-modern nationalistic,

“Bayan Ko” in a historical amalgam of five dance suites. With renewed vigor, strength and lots of

coordinated choreography, the dance execution showed focused discipline to look breezy in their

coordinated highly challenging moves. Classical ballet incorporated to story-tell our local flavors delivered

a seamless appreciation of fusion-dance genre. The leaps and bounds, from solo, pas de deux to company

pirouettes were seen throughout the many figures of their movements. There was liberal use of local

Philippine ethnological home-decorative and functional basketry. Martial artsy props, colorful outfits and

headgears brough to the fore the deeper density of the visual story line. The balance from the sky-high stack

of earthen pots, crowning the Igorot tribal-dancer’s head, was supported by her sturdy neck and delicately

swaying hands and arms. It definitely brought the tribe a few dainty steps closer to their highland heavens.

The second suite, Mardi Gras de Principalia, in quick-figures’ succession was a vow to the Castilian

influence during our colonial acculturation. The scarf, umbrella, fan, cane and hat gave a romantic run for

the altar, in a bamboo-castanets-sleigh-of-hands tap-dancing signature and romantic melody.

The Uncharted Sari-Manok Trail was a definite awe-provoking Maranao dance suite. The simple percussions

of Muslim time-signatured homophony with a mythical Sarimanok bird-song could tell a very nuanced

story. Who could have conjectured how those eight colorful bamboo poles in their myriad reconfigurations

could be a stretcher to transport a sick princess, totem pole to climb up to a prize, a tribal prince’s pyramid

pole to reach up heights, and a bird trap and cage to ensnare a cure? This, was in addition to the final

clacking celebratory multi- geometric foot works permutations of their newly recovered-beloved princess.

Back to Terre Firme, the fourth suite, “Life at the Rurals”, was reminiscent of the halcyon days of our

simpler lives, the daily lives and the bario menfolk’s’ love of cock-fighting. The cacophony of banters,

shrieks and final barrio dance fest to rondalla music confirmed that it took just a little nudge to break to a

dance. The final “Bayan Ko” suite reminded us that through dance, the fight for freedom across obstacles

needed no words. A mother’s gnawing scream of “anak ko”, as her son fell, was its denouement as he was

soon lifted and marched up by his compatriots to his monumental pantheon via a pillar of bamboo poles.

I have enjoyed many genres of the ethnic and classical dance performing arts in the Big Apple, with

some travel sights of the Ballet Folklorico Mexico, Thai, Chinese, Indian folklore dances, and some

European homespun dance shows, like in Vienna’s Rat Haus. The dance repertoire of our thirty-year young

Leyte Dance Theater has definitely leaped and bounded to its global caliber and glory. It befits the accolades

and recognition in those numerous awards it has received. It transformed and produced our rich history,

folkways, myths and lore to movement and local music. Let us nurture more highly disciplined devoted

Phil-Am students and alumni-dancers to a global audience. Hopefully, beyond the marquee, across, our new

generations of Phi-Ams and others in the audience, will have more chance and opportunity to really

appreciate and support such Philippine ambassadors of artistic global goodwill. Hep hep, hurray, Mabuhay.


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