A Princess from Two Worlds
“Sayaw sa Kasingkil”, or commonly known as “Singkil” is a famous Philippine Folk Dance that expresses hierarchies of royalty and power. Belong in the “Moro Suite” of Philippine Folk Dance, Singkil originates from the north Mindinao region of the Philippines and is derived from Muslim culture. There are two known versions of Singkil-- the classical version and the modern Indarapatra version. Both version deliver very similar performances of choreography. Both versions consists of a princess, prince, court of fan girls, and male bamboo tappers all in which are clothes in colorful, silk malong embellished in jewels . What differs the two dances, however, is the power behind the characters and story. The biggest difference in these powers lies within the character of the princess of each dance. Both the classical and Indarapatra version of the Singkil dance illustrates different levels of gender, class, and sexuality through the different presentations of power the princesses in each dance holds.
The historical background story of the two Singkils greatly contrast from each other. The classical, original version of the Singkil takes place in the land of Bembaran. It is about a beautiful princess, being courted and rescued by a hero prince. The “diwatas”, the guardian spirits of Bembaran, had kidnapped the princess and placed her in a forest where the prince discovers her. The diwatas caused an earthquake and the princess ran for safety. Despite the fierce earthquake causing boulders to fall and all of nature to shake, the princess “gracefully stepped, hopped, jumped, and hurdled the little rocks and swiftly passed through the trembling trees” (hiyas.org). Thus, the Singkil dance mimics the trials and gracefulness of the legendary princess as she avoided entangling her feet in the obstacles of the cursed forest until prince saves her. Indarapatra’s Singkil was originally a play that was made into a dance by the Bayanihan Dance Company, a modern day Philippine Folk dance troupe. The dance depicts a prince fighting a mythical bird princess that brought destruction to his kingdom. The princess, unlike in the classical version, is depicted as a monster. This version of Singkil illustrates the prince and princess’s battle. As said, both the classical and Indarapatra version of Singkil contain the characters of a princess, prince, male bamboo tappers, and fan girls. The continuous tapping together of the bamboo poles represents the forest and dangerous obstacles. Through physical similarity of the dances however, the separate princesses in each represent different qualities of power.
The classical Singkil begins with the male bamboo tappers entering the stage. The “asik” (the umbrella slave girl) runs through them, acknowledges the audience, and introduces the princess and her royal court of fan girls. As she is unseated from her throne, she stomps her foot, a signal she uses throughout the dance to command the other dancers. The music switches from slow bells to vicious drumming as she dances through the up and down alternating bamboo sticks. Her main object is her fans, which she gracefully waves around the entire dance. The male tappers then set into “X”-shaped formations with the bamboo sticks. The princess slowly starts moving into the tapping bamboo obstacle, maintaining her grace although the contraptions are constantly opening and closing. She summons her court of fan girls as they, too, go through the dangerous bamboo obstacles with her as they wave their own fans around. The presence of her court in the dance expresses her high prestige and royalty. They are protecting her. Her actions here reflect the awareness of her high class because she treats all the other dancers strictly as servants. The prince then enters the stage with his sword and shield and begins to walk into the bamboo sticks, signifying his search for the princess. The music slows down again and the court reveals the...
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