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Culture, Music and Dance

Philippine Cultural Center, Felipe Padilla, kundiman, warrior song, Antonio Molina

Filipino classical musical compositions in many ways epitomize the blending of multicultural influences. The compositions often embody indigenous themes and rhythms in Western forms, such as symphonies, sonatas, and concertos. Several composers and conductors in classical music have achieved international recognition, including Antonio Molina, Felipe Padilla de Leon, and Eliseo Pajaro. Jose Maceda is considered the first Filipino avant-garde composer, liberating Philippine classical music from the traditional constructs of Western forms.

Traditional types of music are played on wind, string, and percussion instruments made from local materials. These include the kulibit, a zither with bamboo strings and tubular bamboo resonators; wooden lutes and guitars; and the git-git, a wooden three-string bowed instrument. The Muslim peoples use these and other instruments to play complex musical compositions that have been passed by memory from generation to generation.

Most Filipino communities remember the tunes and lyrics of traditional folk songs. Tagalogs, for example, have more than a dozen folk songs for various occasions, including the uyayi or hele, a lullaby; the talindaw, a seafaring song; the kumintang, a warrior song; the kundiman, a love song; and the panambitan, a courtship song. Some songs are accompanied by a specific folk dance.

Formal training in classical dance has been available in the Philippines since the 1930s. The first noted Filipino choreographers in classical ballet were Leonor Orosa-Goquingco, Remedios “Totoy” de Oteyza, and Rosalia Merino-Santos. Orosa-Goquingco is most noted for her staging of Filipinescas: Philippine Life, Legend and Lore in Dance, which toured the world in the 1960s. Merino-Santos later turned to modern dance and founded the Far Eastern University Modern Experimental Dance Troupe. Other dance companies include Ballet Philippines (formerly the Modern Dance Company), Hariraya Ballet Company, Dance Theater Philippines, and Pamana Ballet (formerly the Anita Kane Ballet Company). Several Filipino ballet dancers have achieved international fame, including Maribel Aboitiz, Eddie Elejar, Lisa Macuja, and Anna Villadolid.

Choreographer Francisca Reyes-Aquino is recognized for pioneering research in the documentation of Philippine folk dances and founding the Philippine Folk Dance Society. She codified the folk dances into steps, directions, and musical arrangements that are taught in physical education classes in most schools. Among other folk dance troupes, the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company (formerly the Bayanihan Folk Arts Center) and the Far Eastern University Folk Dance Group perform stylized adaptations of folk dances in local and international tours. Informal folk dancing is performed for a variety of occasions, such as harvests, weddings, and religious celebrations.

The Manila Symphony Orchestra accompanies many dance performances. The Philippine Cultural Center in Manila provides an important venue for the performing and applied arts.

Article key phrases:

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