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Like their brothers from central and northern Philippines, Filipinos in the South are avid lovers of dance. The dances, particularly of the Maguindanao, the Maranao, and the Taosug, are largely ceremonial and  are often accompanied by percussion instruments such as gongs and drums.  The presence of Indian influences, introduced no doubt by Hinduized Malays, is prominent in the dance called Kandingan, a Taosug wedding dance; in the Lanao dance Singkil, performed in the presence of the Maranao royal family; in the Sagayan, a Maranao and Maguindanao war dance recalling the exploits of the great Muslim warrior Bantugan; in the Pangalay, performed with expressive hand movements in varied versions among the Tausog, Badjao and Samal; in the Tahing Baila, a Yakan dance for a bountiful fish catch; and in the Lunsay, a popular Jama Mapun community song-and-dance number performed during wedding celebrations.

(Source: Pobre, C.P., et al, 1978. Tuladan, The Philippine South.  Metro Manila, Philippines: The Executive Committee; 160pp.)

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The Maranao dance called Singkil is in the repertory of all Filipino dance troupes.  There are many interpretations of this dance.  In 1958 the Bayanihan Dance troupe started with a simple version and has since developed it into a theatrical and stylized spectacle to the point of its becoming the troupe's signature piece.  

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According to Maranao legend, the Singkil derives its name from the feat of a certain Princess Gandingan.  While she was walking in the forest, diwatas (fairies) caused the earth to quake and shake the trees and rocks; Princess Gandingan, however, skipped nimbly from one place to another so that her feet did not touch the fallen trees and rocks.  Originally, in Singkil (Maranao word for "getting a leg or foot entangled in an object") a solo female performer danced in and out of crisscrossed bamboo poles, keeping time to the syncopation of the poles, at the same time manipulating two fans (apir).  The dance had no music other than the beating of the poles and had a moderate and static rhythm.  In today's versions of the dance a retinue follows the star performer skillfully skip in and out of crisscrossing bamboo poles that are rhythmically clapped to the beat of an ensemble of kotiyapi (bamboo guitar), insi (bamboo flute), kobing (harp), and tintikan (metal sticks). 

Source: Alejandro, R.G., 1978. Philippine Dance: Mainstream and Crosscurrents. Manila: Vera-Reyes, Inc.; 254pp.)

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Performed at Tausog weddings in Jolo, the Kandingan consists of figures and steps based on classical and traditional Indian dance forms.  Dancers perform with slightly bent knees turned outward, fingers held stiffly together with the thumb outward and apart.  There is no definite number of steps, no sequence of figures, no lines of direction, no particular foot and arm movements--only a total dependence on the ability and mood of the individual dancer.  Whereas Maranao society has no sanction for men and women dancing together, the Tausogs in Kandingan require mixed dancing.   The name of the dance is derived from gandang, a musical instrument similar to a drum.

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Lunsay, a game song-dance among the Jama Mapun of Cagayan de Sulu, is performed during wedding celebrations.  A group dance, it features a coil or spiral of handholding male and female dancers who join in and drop out as the dance goes on.   An essential element of Lunsay is the clicking sound of a bamboo floor laid crosswise over the original floor of the house in which the dance is performed.

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Vera-Reyes Inc., 1978

There are various versions of the dance called Pangalay, popular among the Badjao, Samal, and Tausog groups.  The basic dance, with its expressive hand movements, is sometimes performed with long silver or golden nails (called janggay) attached to the dancers' fingers.  Among the Badjao-Samal groups, a Spanish-influenced Pangalay, a dance called Bulah-bulah, employs shell or bamboo castanets.  Another variation of the dance is one in which a girl performs atop two bamboo poles borne on the shoulders of two men and is called Pangalay sa Patong.


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