Student of Pangalay, Batch 2008
by Glenna Leano-Casalme
Anyone thinking about learning Pangalay only needs to see Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa in motion for a few seconds to be completely convinced. She glides about in graceful, undulating waves. Every move is hypnotic. She can dance in silence but you would still hear music in your head. It’s that magical.
Now imagine ten other men and women dancing with the same gracefulness, the same moves, the same fluidity, and you’ve got the Alun Alun Dance Company. It’s like the ocean on a quiet night– still and powerful.
Of course it looks much easier than it actually is. Walking with your knees half-bent, your feet flexed, your hands bent from the wrists as far back as humanly possible while tracing a figure eight in the air, demands not only strength, but more importantly, control. Control is the emphasis of each exercise, and the most difficult to control of course, is one’s knees. Squat… walk… squat… walk… squat while walking. My first few lessons felt more like military camp where the pants are pink and guns look life fans. There are times when I can barely keep my balance because my knees and thighs would shake from exhaustion.
The only way (for a 34-year old beginner) to survive is to do the exercises at least every other day. I did the stretches at work and at home, while reading emails or watching TV. I hope that one day, these exercises will be second nature to me.
Our teachers, dance master Ligaya Amilbangsa and pangalay instructor Nannette Matilac, are wonderful because they correct when necessary, and are generous with praises and encouragement. I frequently hear Ligaya tell this batch of scholars how happy she is with them because they learn quickly. The children– proud of their achievement, smile shyly. Indeed, after just six lessons, I have seen significant changes. Their movements are more defined, and they’re much more confident. As for me, I hit a high the other day when Nanette said, “Glenna, tama yan (that’s correct), just slow down.” I also discovered something new on my own. While intently watching my hand move in a figure eight, I realized that my right thumb has been lazy, which is why it looks awkward. So I need to change that from now on. Ah, I think I’m getting it little by little. Yipee!
Now, we’re in the process of memorizing some dances that Nannette taught us. It’s my first time in a long time to memorize a dance ( I just copy Nanette, he-he), and I must say, it’s starting to look good! It might not seem much to an expert, but to a beginner, it’s a big achievement.
How happy for me to have found a dance company that welcomes all, no matter what age or shape you may be. No blood, sweat, and tears here. Just a lot of sweat. And smiles. And pancit. And ice cream. All that, and I get the privilege to carry with me a treasure from the past– a bright gleaming jewel from long ago, which I hope I can also pass on to others.
Glenna Leano-Casalme is an on-line English teacher and a very enthusiastic dance student who started learning pangalay in January 2008.