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Igorot Ethnic Dances

Igorot ethnic dances commonly seen at festivals and special occasions in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

 |  8 min read

Igorot victory dance inside the ONE Championship cage after 5 members of Team Lakay won their respective battles. | ONE
Igorot victory dance inside the ONE Championship cage after 5 members of Team Lakay won their respective battles. ONE

There are diverse dances in Cordillera Administrative Region. These various dances represent the life of the community. The dancers animate the ceremonies, feasts, and everyday living through the flipping of their hands, swaying of their hips, and tapping of their feet.

These dances are commonly accompanied by gangsa (gongs), sulibao (hand drum), and other native instruments. Every province has its own unique set of music and movements.

Here are the Igorot ethnic dances commonly seen at festivals and special occasions in the Cordillera Administrative Region:

  1. Apayao Courtship Dance
  2. Balassibasem
  3. Ballangbang
  4. Banga (Kalinga Pot Dance)
  5. Bendian Dance
  6. Bontoc Boogie
  7. Bontoc War Dance
  8. Bumayah
  9. Dallok
  10. Dinuyya
  11. Donglalaan
  12. Eagle Dance
  13. Inan-aninit
  14. Pakawkaw
  15. Palakis
  16. Pinanyowan
  17. Sakuting
  18. Takik
  19. Tebyag
  20. Tupayya

1. Apayao Courtship Dance

This is performed by a couple whose movements mimic that of birds in flight. The male holds a large red cloth while dancing and his steps resemble a fighting rooster. The female raises and waves her arms along with graceful hands, hip, and feet strokes. They strut in different directions and swap position often. The dance concludes with the female wrapped in a ceremonial blanket.

2. Balassibasem

Balassibasem is a dance chant that has a similar position and steps with Dallok. The chorus of the chant goes "Innas balalaginnas, o innas, o innas; Balasibasem, o innas, o innas".

3. Ballangbang

It is also called Tallibeng. Ballangbang is the most common dance in the Mountain Province. It requires many gong players and women dancers.

There should be at least 5 male gong players while there is no limit to the female dancers. It is a dance ideal for mass participation. The gong players move in a circular direction with their movements synchronized. The women dancers complement their steps with the gong players.

4. Banga (Kalinga Pot Dance)

Banga means clay pot. The highlight of this dance is layered seven or eight clay pots balanced on the heads of the females while dancing. It displays the grace, agility, and stamina of the maidens in Kalinga as they fetch water using clay pots and balance them on their heads.

There is no specified sequence and formations for the dance. The dance routine includes arms extended sideways, arms in a diagonal position, and hand on the hips. Foot movements include leap bounces, foot-dragging, and jumps.

5. Bendian Dance

Dancers of the Bendayan, also called Bendian forms a circle while dancing. The circular arrangement symbolizes the unity among the Ibalois in Benguet.

The following are the hand movements of the Bendian Dance:

  1. Dimbaban - The right hand is extended upward while the left hand is extended downward. This position may communicate "We are from Kabayan".
  2. Salawasaw - Both arms are extended overhead while the hands are flipped up and down. This symbolizes praise for the bountiful harvest received by the village.
  3. Kinitangan - Hands are steady on the waist. The gesture portrays caring for the crops to support the family.
  4. Kinikiyan - The right arm is bent. It is moved forward and back with the palms facing upward. The left arm is extended forward. The action mimics planting.
  5. Inushongan - Both arms are raised slightly over the head resembling the position of surrender. It means to ask Kabunian to bless and protect their crops.
  6. Pinadjosan - Both arms are clipped at the back of the waist with hands facing upwards. The body is bent forward.
  7. Innabaya - The upper arm is clipped to the side while the lower arm is extended forward with hands facing upward. It symbolizes the receiving of blessings such as crops and livestock.

6. Bontoc Boogie

It is derived from the western boogie dance but it is performed with gongs played in a fast rhythm. A male and female pair dance using bold marching steps. The dancers tease each other with their dance steps. They also meet and hold each other's hands while dancing forward or sideward. The gong players are in kneeling positions.

7. Bontoc War Dance

The steps of the Bontoc war dance is like the Tallibeng, only a bit faster. The war dance is unique because two warrior dancers are portraying a headhunter and his enemy.

The planned victor is armed with a spear and shield while the intended loser has a head ax and shield too. Without the warrior dancers, the dance is called pattong.

8. Bumayah

The movements of this Ifugao dance imitate roosters scratching the ground. It symbolizes a thanksgiving to Kabunian for a plentiful harvest.

9. Dallok

Dallok is a blend of debate and dance done simultaneously. The female dancers hold hands to form a line facing the male dancers. Each group has a leader. While chanting, they meet at the center while dancing the hop-bend-raise steps. Then they walk back to their former positions; then the cycle is repeated.

10. Dinuyya

This is performed by the Ifugao men and women during major feasts like canao, thanksgiving, and weddings. The instruments used are gongs, tobtob, and hibat.

11. Donglalaan

This dance is believed to have been originated from Abra. It is commonly practiced in western parts of Besao. It is similar to the Dallok but the hands of the dancers are knit together at their backs. While chanting, they move to the right and then back to their starting position. The two groups meet at the center when the chorus of the song is chanted. The chorus of the song is "Hey, donglas di donglalaan dayta, ehem."

12. Eagle Dance

The beat for the eagle dance is very fast and so are the movements of the dancers. The male and female dancers move in eagle-like motion with their arms swaying in a circular direction. The waist is bent forward and the knees are bent as well.

13. Inan-aninit

It is also called the anito (ghost) or fairy dance which has originated from Bontoc. According to community elders, the dance had been performed while victorious warriors are about to return to their village. The women villagers would meet the warriors while dancing the inan-aninit. Despite the men's tiredness, they still want to play their gongs, hence some of the steps show that the men would bend their bodies super close to the ground as if about to collapse.

14. Pakawkaw

The instruments for the pakawkaw dance are bamboo tubes and bamboo flips. The dance had been performed by ancestors while hunting for wild animals. The dance then evolved as a way to start a ritual.

The pakawkaw is struck to produce music. In some municipalities like Paracelis, Mountain Province, the pakawkaw has now a complete set of tenor, bass, and soprano. The instrument may also be called papiw, abiw, balimbing, or liplipak.

15. Palakis

Palakis is just like takik but it is faster and louder. It is a courtship dance that is usually performed at weddings and festivals. A male and a female dancer each carries a square-meter piece of cloth which they use as props during the dance. The cloth is moved high and low, stretched, or shaken to convey different emotions such as romance.

16. Pinanyowan

The name comes from the root word "panyo" which is a local term for a handkerchief. It is a courtship dance that uses a handkerchief or scarf as props. A pair of male and female dancers perform upbeat steps while the gong players are in kneeling positions.

17. Sakuting

Sakuting portrays a mock fight between two warriors using sticks. The pair dances with the rhythm of the clicking sticks.

18. Takik

Takik is a thanksgiving dance performed during weddings and feasts. There are six players for each set, each with its beat to produce harmony.

The solibao starts the sequence. The palakis or takik emphasizes the rhythm of the solibao. The pingsan, pindua, and pitlo then join the beat. Finally, the sunob player plays his gong.

18. Tebyag

Tebyag is a symbolic dance performed before the playing of gongs commences in a wedding celebration. The gongs are slowly played and prayers are chanted in between.

They pray for peace during the celebration and prosperity for the newlyweds. They also pray that the couple will have many children. A woman dancer will sprinkle rice grains in all directions to symbolize a shower of blessings from God.

19. Tupayya

Tuppaya is a courtship dance similar to the boogie. The male dancer performs first before a female dancer joins him. The couple performs fast movements; meeting then separating at times. It can be performed with or without a scarf.

Even when abroad, Cordillerans love to perform dances during cultural events and community gatherings. Below a cultural performance made by the Association of Cordillerans in Thailand during an event in Bangkok, Thailand.


About the author: This article (revised) was shared exclusively by our friend Donnabeth Tolano-Aniban with the Igorotage team. Donnabeth is a licensed Filipino nurse and a former teacher. She now works as an academic writer and also writes on Medium. Her work has been featured in Her View From Home and When In Manila. You can get her book "50 Ideas For A Great Life" on Shopee.

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