THE EVOLUTION OF PHILIPPINE POPULAR DANCE AS SPECTATOR SPORT
The WEA Twins made a few forgettable movies as the token brats; they were so wholesome, they couldn’t figure in any major scandals to sustain their careers.
When Lillian Laing dispatched her daughter Zeny Zabala and their bevy of beauteous boarders to the Dance-o-Rama dance contest finals with the immortal words, “Tayo na mga ghels, late na tayo sa ating shindig,” I had my epiphany. It was my destiny to become Adoracion Luna, the provincial lass who makes terpsichorean history by doing the watusi, pachangga and the baby elephant walk. (Susan Roces was delightful as Adoracion Luna, but it was Zeny Zabala who left a lasting imprint on my personality by showing me the proper way to raise my left eyebrow.) The Sampaguita Films classic Dance-O-Rama summed up how Pinoys regard dance: as a weapon with which to trample your enemies and reign supreme over the hordes of nobodies with two left feet.
When television replaced cinema as the prime instrument of mass hypnosis in the 70s, the Aldeguer Sisters—Lally and Terry—came into the light. They graced all the top TV shows: Nite Owl, Dance Time with Chito, Seeing Stars with Joe Quirino, Ariel con Tina, Tony Santos Presents and Darigold Jamboree (list not chronological). With their signature steps—Toss head back! Pas de bourreé ! Cartwheeeel. . .and split! —they brought a new vocabulary of dance to Pinoy pop culture. They also popularized Tahitian, Hawaiian and Maori dances through their famous dance school. I remember watching their much-anticipated annual recital at the Meralco Theater, and being entranced by the Maori dance Hoki Mai. So fascinated was I that I urged my mother to enroll me at our local dance school in Cavite City, but she didn’t approve. I secretly signed on when I was eight years old, and I have my recital photo to prove it.
Fast forward to 2002: If you’re wondering where the Aldeguer Sisters are, they are alive and kicking! They have just inaugurated The Aldeguer Sisters Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, California. The school offers classes in jazz, ballet, Hawaiian, Tahitian and folk dance, plus voice lessons handled by Dianne Serrano-Pons, formerly of D’Nailclippers. They also dabble in “event planning and management,” which is absolutely essential for visits by Philippine dignitaries and fund-raising extravaganzas. Quote from a recent interview with Ricky Lo: “For as long as we can,” smiled Lally and Terry, “we’ll keep on dancing. It’s our life.”
By the way, I just remembered Lito Calzado the resident choreographer of TSP or Tony Santos presents. The last time I saw Lito was on a TV show on Channel 11 hosted by Ricky Reyes. He was given some sort of a tribute. I didn’t realized that he spawned a beautiful daughter in the person of Iza Calzado, a beauteous TV actress, in which the father claimed that she was named after the dance diva Isadora Duncan, the grand dame of modern dance. She died tragically when her 20 foot scarf got caught in the rear wheel of her top-down Maseratti while driving in the South of France.
Back to the 80’s, when the Aldeguer Sisters left for the States. A slew of dance duos, groups and whatnot emerged, literally crawling out from under the rock of obscurity. Allow me to enumerate the various dance groups that have graced TV town in the last 20 years. Let’s welcome our guests.
The Vicor Dancers. As may be gleaned from their name, they were employed to promote the products of the record company. The original members of this group were former models, boys and girls of the mestiza and jake variety: Milky Evangelista, Sonny Tanchangco, and a former Jazzie model whose name I can’t remember appeared in the step-by-step dance instruction manual which came with the El Bimbo-La Balanga long-playing album. That manual was my prized possession, framed on my bedroom wall. Other record company-spawned dance groups appeared: Blackgold Dancers, WEA Dancers, Dyna Dancers and WEA Twins. The latter shimmied to the theme from Voltes V in knee-high boots and polyester baby doll dresses, sporting anime hairdos held together by atomic-strength hair spray. They made a few forgettable movies as the token brats; they were so wholesome, they couldn’t figure in any major scandals to sustain their careers. Daily dance contests were beamed to our TV sets, from the Spanish Hustle, Salsa (The El Bimbo variety), LA Walk, Swing, the Bop Bop Girl and Cycling Punk.
Another dance phenomenon emerged when stars like Alma Loveli-Ness Moreno, Vilma Santos (Ate Vi), and later Carmi Martin and Dawn Zulueta needed to display their gymnastic skills. The choreographers to the stars, Geleen Eugenio and Miles Obra, became the brains behind the legs of the stars. They created the “helicopter” effect, wherein the star is lifted from the waist and twirled overhead like a baton by an agile male dancer. They also created the buhat-tapon (lift and throw) step, where the star dancer is lifted by three men, hurled through space, and caught by six men across the room. This has since mutated into the management workshop trust exercise where you fall backwards into space and expect your colleagues to catch you (My nails!).
Kuya Germs had his own contribution. He gave us Bella and the Bellestars, a pseudo-Follies Bergere complete with feathers, sequins and dental floss festooning their rears. They were the progenitors of the Japayuki, and most certainly will star in their own future Ukay-ukay tribute.
After the Bagets movies, the Boy Band explosion and Gary V’s insulin-driven dance routines, came the rise of the all-boy dance groups. There were Gary V’s Maneuvers, the Streetboys and the Universal Motion Dancers (UMD). UMD represented a new breed of dancers—the local version of the inner-city hip hop groups, the progenitors of jologs. UMD became so popular that they branched out into movies. Their shelf life was cut short because some of members thought that solo careers would bring them greater success. It is interesting to note that one of the members of the UMD, Miguel Tanchangco, is the son of choreographer Geleen Eugenio. Which brings us full circle. Some of the UMD went on to audition for Miss Saigon and made it to the touring company. I saw some of them in the Dublin production of Miss Saigon last September, and they demonstrated what Pinoys can contribute to a foreign production: pure talent.
The Sex Bomb Dancers started out as, and are essentially still back-up dancers for the Laban o Bawi gameshow segment of Eat Bulaga. Their generic presence in various stages of undress drew the interest not only of the television audience, but of
advertising executives expressing outrage over the fact that these girls are treated as commodities. I happen to think The Sex Bomb Dancers are the best thing that ever happened to Philippine entertainment in recent memory. They may be common, but they have raw talent. They can contort their bodies like invertebrates. They rehearse 8 to 10 hours daily to bring undiluted entertainment to anyone who wants it.
Aside from the regular television appearances, the Sex Bomb Dancers now have an album and a hit movie, Bakit Papa? a 72-hour comedy (no the film is not 72 hours long, but the story happens in 72 hours). Directed by Uro de la Cruz and produced by Regal Films, this movie is destined to be the Dance-O-Rama of this century. Young badings in 2052 will utter unforgettable lines from the film verbatim, and copy their style of dressing and rancid acting, mark my words.