Dubai: Preserving Filipino culture and showcasing Filipino talent are the ultimate goals of the Dubai-based Filipino folk dance troupe called Lunhaw International Performing Arts Dubai (Lipad). But getting people interested in an artistic expression that is in danger of becoming a lost art can be quite a challenge.
“I noticed here in Dubai you can only see international dances like hip hop, Latin dances and Bollywood-inspired dances,” shares Vince Noe Gunot the founder, choreographer and artistic director of the group, who arrived in Dubai as a performer at IMG Worlds of Adventure. “I created Lunhaw to showcase the cultural dances in the Philippines and I want to bring the Philippine [dance culture] here in Dubai.”
Different Philippine traditional dances trace their origins and characteristics from certain places in the Philippines. Most Filipino folk dances represent the different tribes and minority groups in the country. Broadly speaking, Gunot explains that folk dances in the Philippines can be divided into four categories: the Rural suites, Maria Clara suites, Cordillera suites and the Muslim suites.
How it started
Lunhaw was formed in 2015 with just six members. It now has 41 dancers. The members come from different professions and provinces, including Cebu, Sultan Kudarat, Ilocos region, Capiz, Panay and Negros. Most members had already been part of different dance groups in the Philippines, but some were only introduced to folk dancing when they came to Dubai.
“Lunhaw is a Visayan word, which means fresh and young,” explains Gunot, who used to perform with a dance troupe in the Philippines. “From the word itself, Lunhaw means a new beginning, new ideas and innovation.”
Gunot still remembers the group’s first performance in 2015 during a convention of doctors from the Philippines. “[After we performed], I promised to myself to continue this dance troupe, and that’s why we are here,” he said.
The group now regularly gets invites to perform in various functions in Dubai, which they say has helped create awareness about Filipino folk dance.
“We believe that folklore dance needs to be revived and to be seen again by the public and not only by Filipinos but the rest of the world,” says Aldrin Jay Dinglasa, a member of Lunhaw who works in a supply chain company.
Izume Niwa, an office admin staff, adds: “By showcasing [Filipino folk dance], we are helping preserve our traditions.”
Apart from performing in various events, the group also wants to reach out and teach people the art of Filipino folk dancing, particularly among the younger members of the society.
“We also want the kids, our kids personally, and the next generations to know about the beautiful Philippine cultural dances,” shares Femia Fermin Senewirathnea, a school software coordinator.
The group started out loosely with irregular practices in parks and other public venues, although now they hold most of their practices in one of their member’s accommodation in Bur Dubai. The group holds practices every Friday from 6pm to 8pm.
“We don’t have any qualifications if you want to be part of Lunhaw, as long as you have the determination and the passion. Everybody is welcome to join,” says Gunot.
Gigette Salibio, an executive assistant, says the group also accepts non-Filipinos. “As long as you have the passion to know the culture and learn from it,” she says.
Creating the group’s intricate costumes is a challenge, although Gunot says he doesn’t mind personally creating most of the group’s attire himself.
“Dubai is a perfect place if you are going to create a costume because you can find here the best fabric,” says Gunot, adding that he usually buys materials from shops in Naif and Satwa, where he would spend around Dh50 to Dh100 for the fabric and accessories of each costume.
The group conducts workshops for children and has been working with parents to encourage their kids to learn the art. Aside from dance workshops and performances in various events, the group will hold its first dance recital in August or September.
Lunhaw is also planning a folk dance competition and a concert in Dubai showcasing the different Filipino folk dances.