The world-renowned Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company brought a glimpse of the rich and diverse Filipino culture to the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre Friday night. Through five distinct suites Bayanihan used its collaborative talents to enchant the audience by combining elements of traditional dance, music and elaborate costumes with vibrant enthusiasm.
The opening suite, "Birds of Bright Plumage," focused on the lives and practices of the people of the Cordillera Mountains. The energy of the forceful, warlike dances captured the audience from the first moment and the presentation of involved rituals aroused wonderment.
The Spanish influence on Filipino culture was also celebrated in one of the suites. Clicking castanets, Spanish fans and dancing senoritas created a seductive eloquence throughout the six songs and dances.
Not merely dancers, members of Bayanihan played the music on the stage, creating a more complete performance than if they had been dancing to recorded music.
The impressive costumes, particularly those of the women, augmented the beauty of the pieces, lighting up the stage with color. Gorgeously embroidered gowns, full skirts in rainbow shades and flirtatious accessories were all part of the festivities.
The third suite, "Mindanao Mosaic," was based on the Muslim Filipino culture found in the Southern Philippines. The music, the costumes and the dance transferred the stage into another part of the world, forcing the audience to go with it. The power of the male dancers' bodies was shown in the fast paced piece, "Kuntao." An amazing adaptation of martial arts into dance, "Kuntao" set the pace for the next piece.
Said to be the group's signature number, the dance "Singkil" requires skill and confidence. A relentless prince chases a princess in and out of colliding bamboos, which were being played as a type of instrument. There is no mystery as to why this has been an award-winning piece for Bayanihan.
The performance allowed many chances for the women to show off their superb balancing abilities. From dancing with water jars on their heads to dancing while on top of narrow bamboo stalks high in the air, this display of masterful art induced feverish applause from the audience.
Their abilities of balance were further demonstrated in the beautiful dance of the lights. The dance, set at dusk with the use of soft lighting, exudes loveliness while oil lamps are delicately balanced on the women's heads and hands. As the night's darkness becomes complete, the oil lamps are wrapped in bright cloths and swung above the dancers' heads, causing the stage to glow.
The finale, danced at the end of all of Bayanihan's performances, was pure magic. The dancers moved with speed and intense precision. A perilous maze of striking bamboo stalks brought the dancers feet to a lightning pace.
As the dancers took their last bows, there was a sense of immense gratitude in the applause of the standing audience. After delivering a mind expanding portrayal of Filipino traditions and history, the dance company showed its appreciation to and sympathies with America by singing an emotional rendition of "America the Beautiful."
This gesture drove home the idea that international understanding is not something that should be ignored but instead promoted and embraced. Bayanihan, which means working together for the common good, is certainly doing their part while managing to astonish audiences across the world.