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The Day the Dancers Stayed

The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora

Theodore S. Gonzalves
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    The Day the Dancers Stayed
    Book Description:

    Pilipino Cultural Nights at American campuses have been a rite of passage for youth culture and a source of local community pride since the 1980s. Through performances-and parodies of them-these celebrations of national identity through music, dance, and theatrical narratives reemphasize what it means to be Filipino American. InThe Day the Dancers Stayed, scholar and performer Theodore Gonzalves uses interviews and participant observer techniques to consider the relationship between the invention of performance repertoire and the development of diasporic identification.

    Gonzalves traces a genealogy of performance repertoire from the 1930s to the present. Culture nights serve several functions: as exercises in nostalgia, celebrations of rigid community entertainment, and occasionally forums for political intervention. Taking up more recent parodies of Pilipino Cultural Nights, Gonzalves discusses how the rebellious spirit that enlivened the original seditious performances has been stifled.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-730-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-8)

    The U.S.–Philippine war began with a fantastic performance: the American hero, a veteran commander taking control of a crew of fresh-faced sailors in a corner of the Pacific few back home had heard about; the nemesis, a Spaniard at the helm of his empire’s last stand in a far-flung colony. Both were aided by an efficient Belgian consul who brokered a plan to save Spanish honor, guarantee a bloodless victory, and, most important, keep the revolutionary native general in the dark about the entire operation. But before we get to the main attraction, the fanfare.

    By the time U.S....

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 9-28)

    THIS BOOK TRACES a genealogy of the Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN), a cultural form made popular by Filipino students in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Every performance of the PCN is ultimately about one evening—as if no others will follow or, at least, no one else will bring it off in quite the same way. You hit your mark, recite the lines, and execute the action as directed; now you make your way to the exit. In pulling back from the cellular experience of playing one’s part well, there are, in fact, more than...

  6. 1 The Art of the State: Inventing Philippine Folkloric Forms (Manila, 1934)
    (pp. 29-61)

    Luis Borromeo began his musical training at an early age in the central Philippine region of Leyte. He caught the performing bug and traveled to San Francisco to see the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Recognized by fellow Filipinos, he was later asked to perform at the Dutch Pavilion, where he was discovered. He signed a three-year contract to perform on the Orpheum Circuit, a large chain of vaudeville and motionpicture theaters.¹ Borromeo saw the United States from the inside of those venues, while scores of other musical acts from the Philippines with names like the Filipino Collegians, the Varsity Four,...

  7. 2 “Take It from the People”: Dancing Diplomats and Cultural Authenticity (Brussels, 1958)
    (pp. 62-88)

    A young university-trained musical scholar and composer based in Manila traveled with her fledgling dance company to Dacca in the winter of 1954 to perform at an international festival. Most of those taking the trip—six dancers and a guitarist—were students from the Philippine Women’s University. The troupe joined companies from other countries, including Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Forty thousand attendees took in more than thirty-five shows. But not everything went as smoothly as planned, as the musical director and her students were accustomed to using a piano for accompaniment. The festival’s organizers apologized for not having...

  8. 3 Dancing into Oblivion: The Pilipino Cultural Night (Los Angeles, 1983)
    (pp. 89-111)

    THE PILIPINO CULTURAL NIGHT is the most popular mass-based expressive form of culture organized by Filipino American students. Starting with a modest estimate of the number of participants—say, one hundred cast and crew members multiplied across two dozen campuses and mounting shows for at least twenty-five years—that conservative figure still represents a dramatically large cohort that has shared complex performance experiences and a largely improvised kinetic education in Philippine and Filipino American cultures. Some casts and crews swell into the hundreds while the number of campus student organizations no doubt exceeds my calculation, especially given the sprawling network...

  9. 4 Repetitive Motion: The Mechanics of Reverse Exile (San Francisco, 1993)
    (pp. 112-126)

    IN THE SAME YEAR that Filipino students helped to launch a popular performance genre, two academic works were published that would change how we think about the relationship between repertoire and cultural identity: Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’sThe Invention of Traditionand Benedict Anderson’sImagined Communities. Nations—and the repertoires associated with them—have very specific histories; are bound to specific times, cultures, and places; and have been subjected to endless amounts of editing, meddling, and experimentation. The essays in Hobsbawm and Ranger’s volume challenged seemingly ageless cultural practices, especially claims to authority that had long been enjoyed by...

  10. 5 Making a Mockery of Everything We Hold True and Dear: Exploring Parody with Tongue in a Mood’s PCN Salute (San Francisco, 1997)
    (pp. 127-140)

    WHEN DARIO FO, the Italian playwright and performer, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997, he heard not only cheers but also jeers. “I doubt that Fo is an author of the first rank,” said Mario Vargas Llosa, wryly adding, “Even in the Nobel, as in other prizes, mistakes happen.” Maurizio Gasparri, a member of the Italian Parliament, referred to Fo as “a clown who is worthy of a circus, but not of a prize of this significance.” In the pages of the Vatican’sL’Osservatore Romano, a writer noted that “Fo is the sixth Nobel from Italy after...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 141-147)

    MY AIM has been to trace a genealogy of an expressive form of culture developed by Filipino Americans against a century of Philippine–American “special relations.” In each of the periods, I place the voices of the actors at the center of large contexts: the anticipation of Philippine sovereignty (1930s), the reconsolidation of American hegemony in the Pacific (1950s), the conservative, “fear-of-falling” reaction from California’s middle-class whites (1980s), and the development of rigid performative conventions and the creation of parodic critique (1990s to the present).

    These performances have not always confirmed what we have known or wanted to believe about...

  12. Epilogue: Memoria
    (pp. 148-150)

    PHANTOM PAIN. My interest in this topic began as a dissertation for a doctoral program, while my fascination with performances of all types has a much longer history. My father served twenty-six years in the U.S. Army, retiring in the early 1970s as a staff sergeant. His tours of duty included the Korean and Vietnam wars, with training that took him to Guam, Hawai‘i, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Germany. His health was never an issue until he retired. He found work years later operating a forklift on an Army base in Central California. One afternoon he drove the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 151-184)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-210)
  15. Index
    (pp. 211-215)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)