Bayanihan Dance Group Mesmerizes Toronto Audience

Ushering in a new wave of cultural awareness of things Philippine, Bayanihan Dance Group, the National Dance Company of the Philippines, once again proved itself as a wellspring of national pride through “A Celebration of Dance with the Bayanihan” at the Cardinal Carter Theatre in Toronto.

Calling the Bayanihan the country’s ambassadors of culture and dance, Philippine Consul General to Toronto Junever Mahilum-West likened the promotion of Philippine culture to a virtual trip to the Philippines and thanked the performers for energizing the Consulate’s tourism marketing and economic diplomacy program, a Department of Foreign Affairs statement said.

Philippine Ambassador to Canada Leslie Gatan said that the show was a foretaste of the beauty of the Philippines’ world-class attractions and invited the audience to “bask in the warmth of the friendliest people on earth.”

Performing in Canada for the first time since 2006, the Bayanihan were eagerly awaited in Toronto as tickets to the show ran out weeks before the scheduled performance. Filipino-Canadian culturati joined the crowd of the uninitiated who swamped the theatre as soon as its doors opened. Filipinos from Montreal and Ottawa took the long drive to Toronto for a highly anticipated dazzling performance by the world-renowned dancers. True to Bayanihan form, they did not disappoint.

Bayanihan Dance Group of the Philippines

For two hours, the company brought the sun from the Philippines to shine in Toronto. In the opening suite entitled “People under the Sun,” Bayanihan transported the audience to the Philippine countryside with the enchanting Pandango Oasiwas, the lively Maglalatik, the charming Sa Kabukiran and Subli, the beloved Tinikling and the breathtaking multi-leveled Bangko.

The Company’s Mindanao Mosaic demonstrated the richness of Filipino culture by way of music, costumes and dances reflecting Arabian and Indo-Malayan influences that culminated in the majestic Vinta Singkil while their Filipinized jotas evoked memories of Intramuros in the Spanish era.

And just when the audience was marveling at Bayanihan’s new repertoire, the refreshing rendition of ancient rituals and traditions of highland Mindanao and the Sulu islands were presented and the novel Amorsolo’s masterpieces were creatively brought to life before an enthralled audience. The show ended with an extravaganza showcasing Filipino thanksgiving traditions in a rainbow of tropical colours and intoxicating rhythms that shouted Fiesta time!

“Beholding the beauty of our dances brought tears to my eyes. The Bayanihan has grown in excellence for today’s audience,” gushed a beaming Eleanor Calbes, Toronto-based soprano and member of the Bayanihan 1960 World Tour.

Romel Masalunga, president of the Philippine Artists’ Group of Toronto echoed a common sentiment after the show. “Just when I thought I had seen it all, the Bayanihan proved there was a lot more to see,” he enthused.

“A Celebration of Dance with the Bayanihan” was staged by a 26-member group led by Executive Director Suzie Moya Benitez, Dance Director and Choreographer Ferdinand Jose, and Music Director Melito Vale Cruz.

The Toronto production was made possible by the Philippine Consulate-General of Toronto, the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, Western Union, the Philippine Department of Tourism, GMA Network, Philippine Airlines, Bank of Nova Scotia, Dr. Solon Guzman, Dr. Vicky Santiago, Body Bliss, UMAC/FOREX, Dr. Eric Domingo, Tristar, My Remit, Dr. Jorge Jose and Dr. Francisco Portugal. Arrangements for the show were made a la bayanihan by a core group of dedicated volunteers led by Beth Vasquez, Eddie Lee, Joseph Alillo, Norma Carpio and Rosemer Enverga. (DFA)

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