Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rigodon de Honor

The coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century brought a new influence in Philippine life. A majority of the Filipinos were converted to Roman Catholicism. European cultural ideas spread and the Filipinos adapted and blended to meet the local conditions.

The Maria Clara Suite is so named in honor of the legendary Maria Clara, who remains a symbol of the virtues and nobility of the Filipina woman. Maria Clara was the chief female character of Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere. These dances reached their zenith in popularity around the turn of the century, particularly among urban Filipinos. Displaying a very strong Spanish influence, these dances were, nonetheless, "Filipinized". Typical attire for these dances are the formal Maria Clara dress and barong tagalog, an embroidered long-sleeve shirt made of pineapple fiber.

The Rigodon de Honor is an elegant dance which was brought to the Philippines by the Filipinos who returned from their travels abroad during the Spanish era. This dance takes its name from its opening performances at formal affairs such as the President's Inaugural Ball. Members of government, including the President and First Lady, diplomatic corps, and other state officials usually participate in the Rigodon. Traditionally, a ballroom waltz dance would follow the Rigodon. This particular dance is a form of quadrille which is a historic dance performed usually by four couples in a square formation.

This dance has a format, it is not merely a dance but a story as well, and containing about four to six parts (depending on the choreographer). The dance itself has a romantic nature. Where, like most dances, the male or rather gentleman leads, while the lady follows. Whatever one’s biological gender is, is what one’s role in this dance is. Personally I have participated in this particular dance.

Breathing is important it is what one uses to count. The dance is very rigid in the way steps are performed, as well as the proper timing as to when a step is to be performed. The dance when performed must be perfect.

The posture of the dancers is very important, one must always stand straight. The posture is almost the same as centering. In order to stand upright, one must find one’s center of gravty.

When meeting at the center of the square during the dance, men must give a slight bow to the woman opposite them, while the women curtsy. All participants are required to smile.

More than being just a dance, the Rigodon de Honor is can be likened to a parade, where the men parade around, or show-off the women (their partners). Even though the music of the Rigodon (a.k.a. the quadrille) has a festive tune or melody, there is an underlying marching tune to it as well. The dancers may easily rely on the music to do the counting for them.

Today there are not that many who are competent enough, or are even capable of teaching how to dance the Rigodon de Honor.


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