By Maria Ana Olaguera
How do you find your way back to a country you left behind many years ago…or maybe have never even seen?  Some people do it by cooking and eating the traditional foods of that country.  Others read the literature and poetry, listen to its music or sing its songs, or make a special effort to preserve the language by speaking it at home.

And still others dance their way there.

"Sulyap" (Glimpse) - 15th Anniversary Performance

“My parents left the Philippines for Canada in the ’70s,” says Marion Buan.  “I was born here.  Like most first-generation immigrants, all I knew about being Filipino was the food and the words that my grandparents would say to me.” Her interest in dance combined with a desire to learn more about her roots drove her to join Kababayang Pilipino, a Vancouver-based performing arts group dedicated to promoting and preserving authentic Filipino dance, music, song, and drama.

Kababayang Pilipino (KP) was born in 1993 with precisely that goal: to put young Canadian-born or Canadian-raised Filipinos in touch with their heritage.  Through the years and after many performances both at home and abroad, the group has become a significant presence in the British Columbian cultural community.

2006 performance in Belgium

Along the way, KP has also become a family.  “Some people who joined us when they were ten to thirteen years old are still with us,” says Cristina Pernia, who began with KP as a volunteer and is now a musician and dancer as well as music co-director.  “Now they’re bringing their own kids to the workshops and performances.”

“I couldn’t stay away,” agrees Christina Florencio, one of the senior dancers.  “I joined KP in 1997 then left for Toronto in 2001.  When I came back to Vancouver in 2006, I started dancing with KP again the following year.”

"Katzudaratan"

Family is what happens when people work together on a labour of love.  “And it really is a labour of love,” says Randy Romero, KP’s artistic director and choreographer.  “Everybody involved with KP is there as a volunteer.  We give up many nights and weekends when we’re practicing and getting ready for a show.”

KP’s last show in May 2010 was called Padayon (Moving Forward).  The title is a reminder that folk dance doesn’t have to be a form set in stone.  Dance, after all, is about movement, and therefore should be something fluid and dynamic – even more so when the choreographers and performers themselves are young, talented, and adventurous.

"Bangko" (Bench) dance from the Padayon show

Padayon had a lot of theatrical and dramatic elements as well as dance and live music,” says Romero.  “We’re exploring new ways to interpret Filipino folk dances while still keeping them traditional and recognizable.”

Kababayang Pilipino will be conducting dance and music workshops for children and adults at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver. They are opening their doors to anyone interested in learning about Filipino dance, music and culture.  New dancers are always welcome– so check out their free workshops! Find out more: info@kababayangpilipino.org.

Photo credits:
“Sulyap” cast photo taken by Phil Planta
“Bangko” performance photo taken by Ron Sombilon
Maria Ana Olaguera is a freelance writer who lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada and blogs at mariasdinnertable.blogspot.com

 

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