Showing My Roots: Kalinangan Dance Company

When I was a high school freshie, my sister's dance trainer told my parents that come December of 1998, he would want to have me join the dance troupe as well like my sister did a few months ago, despite knowing deep down I wasn't really the dancer in the family. I was more drawn to singing than dancing, and would rather be in the choir than learn dance steps and do the polka. Nevertheless, I joined the Kalinangan Dance Company (Kalinangan Dance Troupe then) with the thought that it would be cool to do something with my sister.

As an underdog in elementary, I wasn't really the most 'bibo' in the bunch. I was very shy, although I must admit; I never had stage frights in my life ever. Once I joined the dance troupe, i never imagined how much it would change my life. Not only did I become more confident, it also taught me a lot about self-discipline and time management.
Katsu: A Muslim Dance
Photo c/o Likha.org
In our group, almost every newbie's first performance was a dance called 'Katsu' - a Muslim dance performed by women with the use of a scarf, portraying elegance and grace. My case was different. Instead of a Muslim suite, I was tasked to perform 'Habanera de Jovencita' - a Maria Clara dance usually performed by small girls (or what we call 'liliputz) - as my 'initiation' during one of our shows at a hotel in Manila. It was dreadful; not because I was scared it was my first performance, but because I had to wear long Maria Clara gowns for the dance. Even now that it's been years I've been performing, Maria Clara suits never became my favorite repertoire.
One may think that Philippine Folk Dance is easy, but it's not. It's more than just about learning the routine and putting on the Maria Clara dress, the Balintawak, or the leotards. It's about understanding what you are dancing about, and putting emotions into it. People may think that it's as easy as A-B-C, but it's not! Anyone must not underestimate Philippine Folk Dance because it's harder to learn and dance as it looks.

Habanera de Jovencita (Performed by the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company)

The summer of 1999 became the (first) turning point of my dancing career, though. Barely a 'Kalinangan' regular in 1999, my sister and I, together with some of the seniors in the group, attended the Summer Dance Workshop at the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company - the country's National Folk Dance Company. During our workshop, I have met a lot of students from different schools in the Metro, apparently taking the lessons so it would enhance their skills. I did it because it seemed fun, and because our trainer told me so. I was right. It was fun. I learned a lot from our teachers (who, one of them later became my 'nanay-nanayan'). As our workshops go, we were invited to watch a Bayanihan concert at the CCP for free, so that we would get to see how a professional dance company performs and moves. From that moment on, I was a convert. I learned to love dancing like it has been my dream since I was a little girl.
Me performing Malong (fast)
Downtown Italy, 2000
One thing I like about our dance group is that we don't focus on just one thing. Next to the Philippine Folk Dance, contemporary was my favorite. It was easier for me to do, and also because it requires some acting, which I like because it kinda made me feel like I was a Broadway actress. We've joined different competitions left and right on Folk and Contemporary Dance categories and bagged the trophy easily, which landed us a spot at the International Folk Dance Competition in Italy. That, without a doubt, was the next turning point of my dancing career and one of the best highlights of my high school life.

I said the best because it was the tour when you don't need to spend anything on plane tickets, boarding, lodging, and everything else (except pocket money, of course). It was simply a free roundtrip ticket to one of the most beautiful countries in the world, only you have to do your best to win and represent our country. Auditions for the tour were held a few weeks later, and we were joined by two other dance troupes in Quezon City – E. Rondon High School’s Sining Lahi Dance Troupe and the PAMANA Dance Troupe of San Francisco High School. At first it was uncomfortable, because they were practically two of our biggest competitors. But thank God they journeyed with us in Italy, and our goal to successfully represent the Philippines became a reality. At the end of the competition, we were named Champions and the Most Behaved Group out of how many countries. We returned back home a week later with a big smile on our faces, feeling triumphant and proud.
Three Dance Troupes, One Goal (Italy, 2000)
It's not just dancing 24/7 in Italy, we had fun on the side, too!
Perhaps the only set back about being a dancer was being a 'high school student' itself. While my schoolmates and friends from outside the dance troupe were so busy with having their first romantic relationships, drinking, forming cliques, and other things a 'normal' high school students go through, I was busy with everyday rehearsals, being a senior dancer (once all my successors have graduated), keeping my grades up (and making sure I'm on class top 10), and keeping my communication with my barkada outside dance troupe open. It wasn't easy being part of the Kalinangan. If your grades went down, you'll get suspended. If they found out you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you'll get suspended. If you were caught having an affair INSIDE the group, you'll definitely get sacked. We also have some minor rules. If you were late at rehearsals on weekends, you have to pay P20. If you made mistakes during a show, you gotta have to pay P5, 10 or P20 per mistake. These little things taught me a lot about keeping my head in the game.
My 'sisters' outside Kalinangan
(Fr L-R) Raffy, Me, Ganjhing, and Christian
On the other hand, being in Kalinangan Dance Company has its perks, too... Lots of them! Ever since I joined the group, I never had to take P.E. classes (was exempted from it for four consecutive years), Home Economics (which saves me an hour and twenty minutes, giving me time to do whatever I want), and C.A.T. training during my Senior Year. I also didn't have to enroll in any other electives, as Dancing was also one of them. Plus, we also often get exempted from quizzes (and given special treatment at exams) whenever it interferes with a show outside school (especially if it's a competition we're preparing for).

It is also because of the group that I was given the chance to join my first ever professional dance company - the Karangahan Philippine Dance Company. I was a high school senior when I started joining the group and was fortunate enough to have been part of the group’s (1st RCBC) concert, which was held at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza. But because of my love for studies, and because I was graduating in high school then, I chose to focus more on my studies, as well as our school dance company. Even if I didn’t get the chance to continue performing for the group, it was such an honor to have been part of a professional dance company, even for just a while.
'Karangahan' on Tour
Yes, my sister is the better dancer!
If only there's a school in the country that specializes in Dance, Music and the Theatre Arts (like The Julliard School), I would have pursued it after graduating from high school. But we don't so instead, I took up Mass Communication that entails not only the theater arts, but also journalism - my first love initially. When I started my college life, it became harder for me to perform with the group again (although, at one point, after finishing College, I joined yet another professional dance company – the Manila Folkloric Dance Ensemble).

Last May, we celebrated our trainer's 50th birthday, which turned into a grand alumni reunion of all the dancers since 1985. It was a great feeling to come home to the group that taught me a lot about dancing and professionalism. And even now that I'm not as active as I used to before, I still feel proud to be in this group, and probably forever will be.

"Imitating may be the best form of flattery, but not the best form of writing."

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