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Singkil as the Elaborate and Colorful Dance of the Maranaos

If an expert is to name one of the most beautiful and difficult to learn Philippine dances, then 'Singkil' will be high up on the list. This dance also known as the 'Sayao sa Kasingkil' is a famous Philippine dance in the south, more specifically in Mindanao region. This is a dance of the Maguindanao people and was popularized too by the Maranao from the Lake Lanao. This Philippine dance has gained an important and a critical following in urban areas since this dance was popularized by the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company.

There are a number of stories about the history and the evolution of the Singkil dance. And since this dance is a dance of style, creativity a lot of people pay attention to the evolution of the dance. Legend tells that the 'Singkil' dance that people now know today originated from the day the 'diwatas' or the nymphs has played the joke on then Princess Gandingan as the princess was taking a walk down the woods.

According to stories, the diwatas caused an earthquake the made the trees tremble and made the rocks to roll and to knock at each other. It was stated that the princess was not affected by it all as she skipped the rocks nimbly and no trees nor rocks touched her feet. The more recent literature about the dance narrates that this dance s also known as the Princess Dance or the Royal Maranao Fan Dance. And this dance is also based on the 'Darangen' which in turn is an interpretation of the ancient Indian epic called the Ramayana. The dance steps of this famous Philippine dance will narrate the scene where 'Sita', the Putri Gandiangan escapes her abductors the demon King Ravana and she is lost in the forests of the Alangka. It was here when 'Sita' was found by her husband, Prince Rama.

There is another set of literature that says that the Singkil dance is taken from the name of the bells that are worn on the ankles of the Muslim princess. These bracelets or anklets that are worn in that area are usually made of

. Silver

. Nickel or

. Brass

And the movement of these metals will create that chiming bells. As it was narrated earlier on, the dance was inspired by the epic legend that tells the story of the 'Darangan' of the Maranao people. This epic was written in the 14th century tells the story of the Princess Gandingan who was in the middle of the forest when the earthquake made by the nymphs happened. It was said that the rhythmic clapping and the criss-crossing of the bamboo poles which can be observed in the dance represents the trees that are falling in which the princess gracefully avoids. In the dance that roughly follows the said epic; the princess is accompanied by her slave throughout the ordeal. And in the end, the princess is saved by his prince.

There are many versions of the dance that can be seen in the country. And when this dance is performed by the ladies that belong to the royalty of Lanao, the dancer here is often accompanied by a lady and the lady dutifully holds the heavily decorated umbrella and follows the dancer wherever she goes. In this dance the dancers will wear their solemn faces and they maintain their dignified pose whole dancing at a slow pace and this slow pace then progresses into a faster tempo. The dancers then nimbly move through the criss-crossed bamboo. The dancer will perform their steps while she is holding a beautifully adorned fan. This dance that is originally from the Maranaos are usually performed during special events and celebrations and festivals. And traditionally the dance was performed by the girl that belongs to the royal family that is intent on advertising herself to her would-be suitors. The dance was performed in preparation to her future marriage.

The dance has become popular in modern times since this dance is being performed during cultural nights or during the 'Linggo ng Wika' a celebration of the Filipino language. And during these celebrations, the 'Singkil' will always be one of those that generates some of the loudest appreciation.



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