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Reviewed by:
  • The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora
  • Kathy Foley
The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora. By Theodore S. Gonzalves. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010. 215 pp. Cloth $74.50; paper $27.95.

Theodore Gonzalves chronicles and probes the phenomena of Filipino cultural performances in American colleges since the late 1970s from a cultural studies perspective in this book that began with his performances in student years and grew into a topic of research as a professor of American studies. The book argues that students perform primarily for each other "in a ceremony that invents community against the backdrop of a culture that expects nation, ethnicity, and identity to be languages of the past" (p. 12). The performers "are interpreters and inventors of their own histories—Philippine and American" (p. 13). The book gives insight into a number of important topics for those interested in the rise of folklorio style dance in the Philippines in the 1930s as figures such as Jorge Bocobo, then president of the University of the Philippines, looked for elements to stop the juggernaut of Americanized entertainments like bodovil. Francesca Reyes Acquino's work in dance at the university led to the research and choreography of the Filippinana Dance Troupe, which turned students back to local culture. The politics and cultural thinking behind the valorization of local arts is put in an appropriate nationalist frame in chapter 1. Acquino's training in the United States and the rise of physical education within a pedagogical structure in the United States and its Filipino colony is detailed.

In chapter 2 the development of the Bayanihan model is traced to the need to find an artistic face for the independent nation in the post-World War II environment of Asia. Gonzalves poses the predicament artists faced at a 1954 performance in Dacca when student groups from throughout South and Southeast Asia gathered to share performance. The need for a piano and the costumes that showed the Hispanic influences gave the unpleasant aura of an artistically colonized group. Such events helped figures such as Helena Benitez of the Philippine Women's University conceptualize Bayanihan, which was founded in 1957 and toured to Broadway by 1959. The group's mission under choreographer Lucrecia Urtula was to take dances from Acquino's model of participational performance toward theatrical display choreographed for the proscenium stage. Gonzalves highlights the politics, from the global situation of the country to the local rivalries between companies. [End Page 330] He shows the formulation of the prototype for representations of the nation, which would be adopted by children of the diaspora when they came of age in the 1980s. Chapter 3 uses a Pilipino Cultural night at UCLA in 1983 to show the standard format of university performance with a combination dance and theatre to promote a nationalist ideology, romantic nostalgia, solidarity with the rural groups, and assertion of a Filipino identity. The performances were staged on campuses where representation in curriculum of the Filipino was and remains limited. Using ideas from Turner and others, Gonzalves sees the performances as a rite of passage for college aged Filipino Americans. He acknowledges that Culture Night is an invented tradition. The formulaic presentation has become a "static and seemingly unchanging and unchangeable artifact" (p. 116). But this does not diminish its representational importance to the performers.

Chapter 5 lightens the tone by showing the self-awareness of the community through a parody of the genre, PCN Salute, by the San Francisco comedy group Tongue in a Mood. The three-person group presents the program, which normally involves a cast of a hundred, complete with Bontoc and Spanish dances, student protagonists searching for identity, and Jose Rizal.

In his conclusion Gonzalves argues that the nostalgic manipulation of history here is an act of surrogation that allows participants to question their personal and group history as Filipino Americans. While the Banyanihan formulas may be the norm, the performances are not about the Philippines, but about the American students' ethnic identity in American society.

The text takes an American studies approach to the history, and therefore long passages address the 1898 acquisition of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2109
Print ISSN
0742-5457
Pages
pp. 330-331
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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