Northern Philippine Highland Dancing as Indigenous Knowledge: Enculturation, Embodiment, and Performativity



Since the late 1950s, metropolitan Manila and other urban-based dance groups elsewhere have created “Cordillera dances” as part of a Philippine nation-making project underscored by the perspectives of some Philippine National Artists about notions of “fading” or “lost” indigenous dances. Social media video postings of Manila and other metropolitan artists performing “Cordillera dances” typically garner strong and terse responses from commentators, each of whom self-identify as a person of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in the northern Philippines. This article foregrounds the contemporaneity of performative practices in the CAR as Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and the ways that movement is manifested in dance through a process of enculturation and embodiment. Referencing comments on metropolitan videos on “Cordillera dances”, this article interrogates related discursive practices of nation making such as the seminal book on Philippine dance written by National Artist, Leonor Orosa Goquinco, titled Dances of the Emerald Isles (1980). As a precursor to a longer work, this article suggests that the ways in which one moves while dancing is reflective of one’s culture so that a person’s birth into human bodily form is over time, shaped by and navigates within the culture and society that one is raised and cultivated in.

Keywords: Cordillera, dance, enculturation, embodiment, indigenous knowledge, indigenous movement systems, performativity

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