Check out this clip from the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro on Sunday, September 9th. These young people (ages 4-14) are from Oxnard, CA, just north of Los Angeles County.
Not to the (numerical) magnitude of the Filipino version of "Thriller" or "Sister Act," but these kids kill it with their skills and technical nuances (watch the really small ones pop the off-beat!).
Is dancing in our genes?! Well, I sometimes ask myself that when I see my 3 year old family members do coffee-grinders on the kitchen floor, but it's probably more the institution and tradition of choreographed dance at universities with a critical concentration of Filipinos. In fact, the choreographer of Undeclared (the group above) is an alum of Pac Modern at Cal State Long Beach. Also, we have to consider the long tradition of theater performance among Filipino college students: Pilipino Culture Nights (PCNs) and Barrio Fiestas are staples of Filipino community-building at colleges (that and the keg). See Anna Alves and Theo Gonsalves for more on Fil Am theater in U.S. colleges.
At all of the universities that I have attended (or teach at), Filipino students seem to dominate the choreographed dance scene. At the University of Florida, our Filipino Student Association always placed first, second, or third at the university-wide dance competitions. And it seems that my friends from various campuses across the country are extremely immersed in competitive dance. Whether it be in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, or Georgia, young Filipinos are spending more time doing 8 counts than studying for midterms. Dance is a HUGE institution for Filipinos. (How many versions of the matrix or the puppet can you do!? How many times does the one or two b-boys gotta do a flare, somersault, or suicide front stage for audience reaction before it gets old?! Hip hop tinikling again!?)
Another interesting observation: many non-Filipinos love dancing with Filipino dance troupes. Whether your group is called Pac Modern, Samahang Modern, Kababayan, FSA Modern, what have you, as much as the troupe is "Filipinized," the reality is your group is probably very mixed ethnically. Many Vietnamese, Koreans, Chinese, and Caribbeans made up the FSA dance troupe during my time. This definitely added a wonderful, interesting mix.
I'm still waiting for the day when there is a nationwide Fil Am campus dance throwdown. Does it already happen? (Of course there is World Hip Hop Championships, but is there a coast-to-coast Fil Am dance championship? West Coast universities vs. FIND campuses, man!)
So why do you think competitive, choreographed dance among Filipino youth is such a national phenomenon, even transporting itself to the Philippines and other countries?
And where do non-Filipinos, particularly other Asians, fit into the Filipino dance community? Where do Filipinos fit into the tradition of street dance? The ever elusive gradient of FUNK!