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

Theodore S. Gonzalves

Publication Year: 2010

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. In The 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.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

MY DEEPEST THANKS go to my first and greatest teachers, Teodoro Magallion Gonzalves (1926–2001) and Salvación Francisco Gonzalves. This book is dedicated to them. The love and support of Rudy Gonzalves has sustained me throughout our journeys. Annabelle G. Cortez and the Cortez family have always made me feel welcome. The future of the funk...

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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....

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pp. 9-28

THIS BOOK TRACES a genealogy of the Philipino 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 ...

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1. The Art of the State: Inventing Philippine Folkloric Forms (Manila, 1934)

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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...

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2. "Take It from the People": Dancing Diplomats and Cultural Authenticity (Brussels, 1958)

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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...

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3. Dancing into Oblivion: The Filipino Cultural Night (Los Angeles, 1983)

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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 ...

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4. Repetitive Motion: The Mechanics of Reverse Exile (San Francisco, 1993)

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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’s...

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

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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...

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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...

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Epilogue: Memoria

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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....


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pp. 151-184


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pp. 185-209


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pp. 211-215

E-ISBN-13: 9781592137305

Publication Year: 2010