Inspired by the beauty and versatility of pangalay, the AlunAlun Dance Circle (ADC) was founded in 1999 by a group of professionals in various fields. The group derived its name from the graceful strength of alun (waves) that shaped the coastlines, as well as the diverse cultures, of the Philippines. It is a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, conserving and propagating pangalay as a precious cultural heritage and a living link with our Asian neighbors.
One of the important objectives of the AlunAlun Dance Circle is to preserve tradition by elevating pangalay (also known as igal and pansak) into a classical dance style through an instructional method and a set of teaching principles. Thus, the standards of learning, dancing, and teaching pangalay are raised to a systematic and disciplined art form.
Pangalay or igal is the dominant dance style of the indigenous groups of the Sulu Archipelago, namely the Sama, the Badjaw, the Tausug, and the Jama Mapun. In its undulating arm movements, one can see how the dance has been shaped by the ceaseless rhythm of the waters that surround the archipelago, as well as by the birds and sea creatures found in the area. And in its modest gestures and the austere mien required of its dancers, one detects how the dance is akin to other Asian dance forms.
ADC delights in bringing this little-known dance style to motley audiences in school auditoriums, town plazas, covered courts, playgrounds, mall lobbies, and private homes. It has performed as well at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and on stages abroad, such as the Metropolitan Theatre in Taipei (2006) during the 4th Asian Performing Arts Festival, the Alliance Theater and UNESCO Auditorium in Paris on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Franco-Philippine relations (2007), and the Sofitel Ballroom in Hanoi, for Philippine Independence Day (2009).
In June-July 2016, the ADC brought its Asian tour performance titled Water Symphony to India, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Cambodia. In June 2017, the group performed in Hong Kong upon the invitation of the Blue Sky Through My Eyes International Gala sponsored by Alan and Becky Dance Troupe.
In 2007, the ADC hosted the first International Conference on the Conservation and Popularization of Pangalay and Related Dance Cultures which drew resource persons from Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, and promoted intense cultural sharing among dance scholars, teachers, and choreographers.
Following rigorous training of members in the foundations and practice of traditional pangalay dance style under Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa, the ADC has blazed the trail for principled conservation of pangalay through new choreography with contemporary themes, using different types of music from Western classical to Tagalog kundiman to local pop.
From Dec 2018 to Feb 2019, ADC was involved in pangalay training of the major actors in GMA network’s TV daily drama series titled Sahaya about Badjao characters and their culture. In Feb-May 2019, the ADC held the Salimbayan pangalay and kuntaw workshop at the University of the Philippines, Diliman sponsored by the UP Chancellor’s Office. Ongoing pangalay lessons are held every Sunday at the Handog Center in Marikina City.
In 2020, the ADC produce the creative video advertisement for the ASEAN anti-COVID 19 campaign titled “Things Will Get Better” in cooperation with CCP and NCCA. Pangalay in Quarantine were the online classes held from April to September 2020.
In February 2021, Pangalay Online has resumed to continue pangalay training and choreographic learning in the new normal.
Profile of the Artistic Director
Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa is the pioneer researcher and leading advocate of pangalay, and is a pangalay master teacher, choreographer, and performer. Her two books on the ethnic dances and cultural artifacts of the region, Pangalay: Traditional Dances and Related Folk Artistic Expressions (1983) and Ukkil: Visual Arts of the Sulu Archipelago (2006), have become standard references on the topic. Her latest publication is the Amilbangsa Instruction Method on Pangalay (2019), a handy manual for teachers and dancers on the pangalay movement vocabulary.
Performing groups founded by Fernando Amilbangsa in three distinct regions of the Philippines carry on the work of preserving, conserving, and propagating pangalay: the Tambuli Cultural Troupe (TCT) in Bongao, TawiTawi (founded in 1974); the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte (founded in 1978); and the AlunAlun Dance Circle (ADC) in Marikina City (founded in 1999). She codified the pangalay movement vocabulary and developed the Amilbangsa Instruction Method (AIM) to systematize the teaching of pangalay to non-native learners while ensuring fidelity to its essential character.
She has brought pangalay to the world stage, notably in Greece, Spain, Korea, Taiwan, France, and Vietnam, performing solo or with the ADC. Recent years have brought increasing recognition of her contributions to Philippine and Asian cultural research. In 2005, she received the Tanglaw ng Lahi, Ateneo de Manila University’s highest award for culture. In 2016, she was conferred the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, by the Far Eastern University for her untiring leadership and invaluable contributions to Philippine culture and the arts. The Ramon Magsaysay Award she received in 2015 cited her for “creatively propagating a dance form that celebrates and deepens the sense of shared identity among Asians.”