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Bayanihan, the National Dance Company of the Philippines takes its name from an ancient Filipino tradition called bayanihan which means working together for a common good. In 1956 Dr. Helena Z. Benitez founded the Bayanihan Folk Dance Group of the Philippine Women’s University.  The following year, 1957, it was formally organized as the Bayanihan Folk Arts Center with the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company as its performing arm. Both the center and the dance company were tasked to research on and preserve indigenous Philippine art forms in music, dance, costumes and folklore; to restructure and enhance these research findings to evolve repertoires suited to the demands of contemporary theater; and to promote international goodwill through performances at home and abroad.

Barely a year old but eminently backed up by painstaking research and innovative choreography, Bayanihan made its highly successful debut at the Brussels Universal Exposition on May 27, 1958, launching the company on an international career representing the Philippines.

The popular TV host Ed Sullivan featured the Company in his coast-to-coast telecast of the “Highlights of the Brussels Fair” beamed to 40 million televiewers in the USA. Shortly after, Sol Hurok, “The king of impresarios,” signed up Bayanihan for the Sol Hurok International Festival. On October 13, 1959 Bayanihan opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater and received the unanimous acclaim of New York City critics. It was a major break-through in Philippine dance history. And henceforth the world became a stage for Bayanihan.

To Dr. Lucrecia Reyes Urtula, National Artist for Dance, largely belongs the credit for transforming Bayanihan’s ethnic research materials into dances of theatrical excitement and artistry.  As Walter Terry of New York Herald Tribune observed, “Indeed the choreography is endlessly fascinating, for while preserving authenticity of step and regional color, Lucrecia Urtula has devised designs of incredible originality, visual beauty and excitement.”

Since its formal organization the company has mounted fourteen (14) major world tours (of six months to a year in duration) to Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas and over a hundred short tours to foreign countries. In half a century Bayanihan has performed in six continents, sixty-six countries and 700 cities world wide.

Through the years it has earned many distinctions: the first Filipino group to break into Broadway and the first non-American dance company to perform at the New York State Theater of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; the first Filipino cultural group to perform in Russia and PROC; and first to make an in-depth tour of South America; the first Filipino dance company to perform at the World Showcase Millennium Village EPCOT, Disneyworld, Florida and the only Filipino dance company to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for international understanding.

At the onset of the new millennium Bayanihan undertook its 12th tour of the USA, September 17 to December 3, 2001, playing to standing ovations in 56 cities in 20 states, chalking up a record total of 69 performances in 77 days.

In 2002 the company won the Gold Temple award for overall excellence in dance, music, costume and production at the 47th International Folklore Festival in Agrigento, Sicily.

2004 was a busy year internationally for Bayanihan. It participated in the Universal Forum in Barcelona in July; the 3rd CIOFF World Folkloriada August 12-22 in Hungary; and represented the Philippines at the Cultural Olympiad  in Athens, Greece August 24-26.

A glowing achievement auspiciously started year 2005 for the Company. At the 50th International Folklore Festival in Sicily on February 5-11 Bayanihan bested all previous Gold Temple Awardees who vied for the Festival’s golden anniversary Gold Temple award- an 18 karat gold replica of an ancient temple. 

On the home front Bayanihan was  bestowed the “Diwa ng Lahi” award, the highest honor given by the City of Manila for outstanding achievement in culture and the arts. Also in 2005 the company embarked on an extensive Asian tour which covered China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Taipei, India and Singapore under the auspices of the Philippine Embassies in the aforementioned countries and the Department of Tourism.

In 2006 Bayanihan was very much in demand with a heavily booked international touring schedule.  This included a return engagement in mainland USA, September 18 to December 3 under the aegis of Columbia Artists Management, Inc. and a performance in Honolulu December 7 in  celebration of the centennial of Filipino migration to the US sponsored by the Philippine Community Association headed by Mr. Geminiano Arre, Jr.  There were number of short tours to Greece, July 17-24; Russia and Germany, September 11-19; Japan September 24 to October 3; China October 29 to November 4; and London November 5-15 sponsored by the Department of Tourism.

Promising to be an equally busy year, 2007 opened with a two-week engagement in Dubai followed by a week at the International Folklore Festival in Sicily, February 5-12; India, February 7-18 Bahrain, March 26-30; China, March 29 to April 1 and June 5 to 17; at the Xllth Feastival Mundial de Danses Folkloriques (World Folk Dances Festival) the company once again wrested the World Prize “Primer Premi Mundial” in a field of 55 dance companies in Palma de Mallorca Spain on April 10 to 14; Russia, June 24-29; the company adjudged first prize winner soon after another triumph at the 7th Gold Bridge Folk dance Competition during the Buyukcekmece Arts and Culture Festival in Istanbul Turkey June 30 to July 7 and Bayanihan’s choreographer Ferdinand Jose won the trophy for best choreography

A multi-awarded company, both nationally and internationally, Bayanihan has awakened a new pride among Filipinos in their cultural heritage; added a new dimension to the country’s dance tradition; and has built a rich reserve of international goodwill. 

In appreciation and recognition of their pioneering efforts and international success, the people of the Philippines through the 10th Congress enacted R. A. 8626 declaring the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company as The Philippines National Folk Dance Company.

Subsequently, the President of the Philippines issued Proclamation No. 138 declaring May 27 of every year as National Day to commemorate and propagate the Bayanihan spirit as the unique way of working together as a people.

 

   

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