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An Empire Stages Back: Nationalism, Post-Coloniality, and the Canadian Diaspora in Philippine Dance

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


Cultural production that defines Filipino identity does not only occur in the Philippines but also in the various elsewhere where Filipinos have moved and settled. My paper focuses on various Philippine dances, which are understood as folk dance traditions Filipinos simultaneously embody in the Philippines and in the diaspora.
It narrates the experience of Filipinos learning foreign folk dances American teachers taught them during the American Colonial Period in the early part of the twentieth century. It is followed by the formation of folk dance groups Filipino nationalists founded after the country gained independence in the middle of that century. A section is devoted to performances of these groups outside the Philippines to announce their country as a "young" nation ready to be a major player on the world's cultural stage. My paper ends with an illustration of the ways in which Philippine folk dances have played a crucial role in the immigrant identity of Filipinos in Canada’s Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
As a case in point, I report the archival and ethnographic research I had conducted on Francisca Reyes Aquino, who received the first National Artist Award in Dance for her contributions in folk dance research; on the Bayanihan National Philippine Dance Company that adopted on stage Aquino’s body of works and that first gained international prominence at the 1958 Brussel’s World Exposition; and on four GTA-based folk dance groups Bayanihan inspired and that had represented Canada at international folk dance festivals.