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Unpacking a Cultural Festival: Iloilo's Dinagyang Ati Dance Competition on the Move

Wed, June 24, 11:05am to 1:00pm, South Building, Floor: South, S1101


This paper deals with the Dinagyang festival of Iloilo City in the Philippines, specifically its movement and dance components. The presentation raises several issues on how the movement vocabulary of the choreographic component has been influenced by a network of values and how critics and scholars view these choreographies. These issues will be unpacked and discussed in relation to diverse possible ways of looking at the competition, its socio-cultural assumptions and their implications, its role in community building, and economic strengthening of Iloilo City. Citing the Dinagyang’s success in getting the church, the government, and the private sector to work together, the ADB declared the festival Best Practice in Government and Private Sector Collaboration and was likewise commissioned by the UN Development Programme in formulating the localization of the Millenium Development Goals. The festival has likewise been recognized as Best Tourism event in the Philippines. Thus, the choreographies and performers’ bodies are part of a complex web of significations that all intersect in the notion of “Ilonggo identity” which in turn is implicated in the bigger discourse of “national identity,” particularly more pronounced when the dancers perform in other Asian countries and in the United States. By showing how movement and choreographed bodies in a festival constitute and are constituted by both secular and sacred investments, the paper hopes to contribute to a body of works on reading festivals not just in the Philippines, but also in Asia.