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Sagayan: What Makes This Filipino Dance Special?

Sagayan is a unique ‘war dance’ from the Philippines. It is mainly performed by the Maguindanao and the Maranao tribal community. And so, the question that arises is, what exactly makes this dance style so unique, that it is worth writing about? Here is then presenting a few facts about this dance which will explain to you the reasons that make it special.

Despite being a war dance, the Sagayan does not represent feudalism; rather, it demonstrates the Maguindanaoans’ zeal to defend their communities from any kind of exploitation or conquest. Additionally, it is intended to demonstrate the communities of Maguindanaon’s resiliency and their capacity to quickly rise or recover from any catastrophe.

What is Sagayan ?

‘Highly dramatic’ would be the best way to describe Sagayan. Considered, to be a ‘war dance’, it is mainly performed during festive occasions such as marriages. Furthermore, this dance form was mainly created by the Maguindanao tribal community to protect themselves from possible invaders. It is mainly performed as a tribute to the nobility, gallantry, and honor exhibited for centuries by the tribal communities mentioned above.

The costumes worn in Sagayan dance:

‘Colourful’ would be the ideal word to describe the costumes worn by the performers for this ‘war dance’. It includes: three tiered skirts, and an extremely bright coloured headgear. Furthermore, props such as a blade weapon known as ‘kampilan‘ and a shield called ‘klung‘ that have beads on them that make different noises when you move them. The sound diverts the enemies’ attention and is also part of the costume.

How is the Sagayan dance performed?

The basic step of this fascinating ‘war dance’ is extremely dramatic in nature. It mainly involves imitating the moves that Prince Bantugan (a hero) made while at war and after victory was achieved. The dance is described by male dancers portraying fierce warriors rolling to defend their master while holding a double-bladed sword in one hand and a shield with shell noisemakers in the other.

Furthermore, this style also involves the use of movements such as leaping, turning, jumping, kicking, and rolling. Additionally, the performer needs to ensure that he/she moves in a ‘trance’, since that would help in driving away any evil spirits present.

The Sagayan Festival History, how did it originate?

It was to celebrate an environment filled with ‘Joy and unity’ within the Philippines, that the  Sagayan Festival was for the first organized in 2010. Additionally, it was also with the intention to boost tourism in the Maguindanao province that this festival was organized. One of the highlights of the yearly Inaul Festival, which takes place in Buluan, Maguindanao, every month of February, is the Sagayan Dance Competition. The main attraction in this festival is the performance of this ‘war dance’.

The Sagayan Dance YouTube Video: 

Having read a few facts about this ‘war dance’ above, if you intend to watch how it should be performed. Then here is presenting to you a YouTube video illustrating just how it is actually done:

Therefore, what makes Sagayan is simply the fact that this dance form combines elements of dancing with those belonging to the martial arts.

Image Credits:  Wikimedia Commons


Also Read : 5 Most Popular Portuguese Traditional Dances

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