Tao of Food Preparation Recipes

Tao of Food Preparation Recipes
'Living' E-book

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Femininity 6: School, Dance, Music & Movement

Picture of Males and Females Dancing a Filipino Folk Dance


Part 1 Copied
Part 2 My Mom, Grandmother and Great Grandmother
Part 3 Cooking
4 Nurture
5 Feminine Mystique

When I bring my childhood memories back here, what stands out was my experience of dancing in school during convocations or class presentations. My eyes light up whenever I get selected to dance as part of a group or alone with a male partner. The school dance performance became the platform where I was able to move my body with my partner in tune to the music and express my interpretation of a certain event in time. 

It was a reenactment of an event using movement and music which was taught to us - by our choreographer. It was not really me directing the dance. I was a willing and able participant.

The dances I participated in were mostly Filipino Folk dances. One specific dance that was easy and fun to do was one with an accompanying music called 'Magtanim Ay Di Biro' - translated, 'Planting Rice Is Not Easy'. This music and dance routine depicted the life of rice farmers who worked from very early morning to sundown, planting rice. They were being paid by the land owners to cultivate and plant rice in their land. They divide the money from the sale of the rice between themselves with the land owners sometimes paying the workers money or in kind (rice) or both.

Picture of children about to dance as part of a school presentation 

At a young age, I did not know that the dance I was doing was about the difficult life of farmers. All I know was that when I was in that dancing costume with my classmates and co-dancers, I was in a jolly mood. Somehow while wearing the costume, I imagined stepping into a new world that was all about 'f-u-n'. 
The costume was made and bought for me to use in the presentation by my grandmother or my mom. In my mind, the new multi-colored costume, the music, plus the audience watching us perform, all come together to create a new feminine experience of  'myself'.  This feminine experience was enhanced by having a boy as my partner. They do not wear skirts. They wear pants. Their dance movement is what we normally call 'male dance moves'. As a female, I was asked to hold my skirt a certain way and create flowing movements left and right while the males move to show how rice is being planted in an up and down fashion. We can see through the dance movement, the feminine and masculine roles of each gender in the community. 

In general (there are exceptions), the girls depicted the role of the women (cleaning the rice and possibly cooking it) and the boys depicted the role of the men (planting rice and possibly getting paid for their labor).

Real people planting rice under the heat of the sun 

Planting rice was real hard work. This was far different from having a costume and dancing with the 'Magtanim Ay Di Biro' music.

I realized that dancing with those flowing movements using my whole body allowed me to form an idea that those body movements were my feminine expression. I was not fully aware that those movements were taught to us by our choreographer - even if that was the case.  So it was me acting out the ideas the choreographer had on how feminine expression should be expressed in a particular dance given the parameters handed down from generation to generation.

The audience were the  people (as parents and teachers) who  were giving everyone feedback regarding whether or not this was worth the time and effort - in the form of an applause.

No one was assessing the significance of this in our cultural perception of ourselves and how the gender roles are learned in school with the parents and teachers playing significant roles in shaping our social construct on gender and movement.


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