NEW YORK – Pagbabalik: Tracing the Path Home by Kinding Sindaw, the New York-based southern Philippine performance troupe, entwines a contemporary story of the modern Philippines with a dramatic adaptation of the third chapter of the epic Derangen.
The Derangen is a Mindanao epic shared by the Maranao, Maguindanao and Iranun tribes of the southern Philippines which celebrates episodes from regional history and stories of the tribulations of mythical heroes. This splendorous new work of dance theater is conceived and directed by Potri Ranka Manis, the daughter of a Sultan of the Maranao people of Mindanao, a true modern-day princess and tradition-bearer.
La MaMa E.T.C. will present the piece April 24 to 27 in its Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East Fourth Street. Contemporary Filipinos, both natives of the Republic and its expatriates, are familiar with the tug of war between the region’s verdant past and the forces of modernization which are encroaching steadily on the land and its inhabitants. People have been widely displaced from ancestral lands by foreign corporations who manipulate local conflicts.
In Pagbabalik: Tracing the Path Home, this process is expressed metaphorically by a Sorceress turning an old Sultan into stone in order to usurp his throne and install her adopted brother to become the new King. Their battle morphs into a mythical battle between the generous royal family of Bembaran and the sorceress Pirimbang of Dinalima o Rogong that is set out in the third chapter of the Maranao epic, the Derangen.
The Derangen Epic of the Maranao People was declared by UNESCO in 2005 to be a Masterpiece of the oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The dances of Pagbabalik are from the Maranao and Iranun tribes in Mindanao, each of whom has its own style of dance. While both copy the movements of nature, particularly the movements of water, Maranao dances reflect the serenity of the lake, with gentle waving and hand work, whereas Iranun dances convey the movements of the ocean with buoyant, up-and-down movements. Both forms use fans and scarves to enhance their storytelling, whose medium is the chant.
Instruments of musical accompaniment include the Kulintang (graduated brass gongs), Dabakan (drum), Sarunay (miniature Kulintang), Agong (gong), Babandir (Metronome), Gandingan (talking gongs), and Kubing (jew’s harp).
The Maranao dances are choreographed by Potri Ranka Manis and the Iranun dances are choreographed by Nodiah Biruar. Silat martial arts, with their graceful movements, are choreographed by Guro Frank Ortega. Silat is an ancient Malayu martial art form that is shared among Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. In the Philippines, it is also known as Kali.
The wardrobes of the piece are authentic to the region, being woven by people from the tribes represented. Kinding Sindaw commissions them directly from the weavers in order to advocate for the continuity of the weaving and to inspire the craftspeople to continue in this art.
Artistic Director Potri Ranka Manis, who founded Kinding Sindaw (Dance of Light) in 1992, was trained since childhood in the traditional dance, music and martial art forms of her people and of other Philippine indigenous groups. As a child, she accompanied her father to gatherings with other tribes.
At these festivities, she learned numerous social dances, mostly from other children. She now lives and works in New York, carrying with her a rich wealth of cultural experience from traditions that are now facing extinction. Her choreography is developed partly from her own memories and partly from artists of the various tribes whose traditions are being enacted. All of Kinding Sindaw’s dances are created in collaboration with authentic members of the tribes they are drawn from.
Pagbabalik: Tracing the Path Home is conceived, choreographed and directed by Potri Ranka Manis. The performers are Amira Aziza (dance captain #1/assistant choreographer), Nodiah Biruar, Diane Camino (dance captain #2), April Caravaca, George Circo, Shri Gleen Baun Cueto, Viktoria Danyiuk, Carmita Depasquale, Mohammed Zebede Dimaporo, Renia Gardner, Chelsea Kwon, Mark Malik Limasing, Monette Limasing, Potri Ranka Manis, Stephanie Mendez, Guro Frank Ortega, Lisa Parker (kulintang musician), Amira Rasoulpour, Tatiana Romero, Grace Asagra Stanley, Angela Torregoza, Rose Yapching (dance captain #3) and Kat Yew. The musicians are Lisa Parker, Amir Rasoulpour, Malaika Queano, Nur Nonilon Queano and Jonathan Lao. Lighting design is by Federico Restrepo. Sound design is by Tim Schellenbaum. Set design is by Mark Tambella.
Kinding Sindaw (Dance of Light), founded in 1992 by Potri Ranka Manis, is renowned for its majestic dance theater productions which recreate the traditions of dance, music, martial arts, storytelling, and oratory of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines. Its repertoire is taken from the arts of the Iranun, T’boli, Maranao, Maguindanao, Yakan, Higaoonon, Tausug and Bagobo peoples of the southern Philippines.
In addition to La MaMa, the troupe has performed at the Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, the World Trade Center, Theatre of the Riverside Church, the Alabama International Festival and various community and grass-roots events.