After nearly 40 years, the internationally acclaimed Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company is back in the U.S. for its third tour in the nation to promote the Philippine performing arts, culture, and heritage through Philippine dance.
Up until the end of August, the company will be showcasing their “Kalipayan” (Happiness) production that features dances from different Philippine regions, as well as Spanish dances from the country’s Spanish era among others.
In partnership with the Waraynon Initiative Network (WIN) and other sponsors, proceeds from the show will go towards the continuing efforts of rebuilding their home town of Tacloban City which was destroyed by the record breaking Super Typhoon Haiyan — known internationally as Typhoon Yolanda — in 2013.
58 years of dancing
The Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company has gone a long way since its founding in 1960 by its then choreographer and artistic director Teresita Veloso Pil.
Today, the dance company comprises of 31 young dancers, ranging in age from junior high school students to young professionals — all from Tacloban City.
Originally the Leyte Filipiniana Dance Troupe, the company in 1965 embarked on its first ten-month U.S. tour as Cultural Ambassadors of the Philippines under former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal.
In New York, the company showcased their Tinikling performance in the legendary Ed Sullivan Show which was the biggest show in U.S. television at the time. Sullivan described their performance as “charming” while millions of Americans tuned in to watch.
Under former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, the dance company again came to the U.S. as part of the Philippine Official Cultural Mission to the United States’ 1982 World’s Fair.
Tour performances included the formal opening of the famous EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World in Florida, and a special performance during the Presidential Dinner at Washington D.C.’s now gone Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Outside of the U.S., the Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company has gone on nearly 25 international tours with performances at the Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Japan; the UNESCO cultural season in Paris, France; and in countries including Israel, Rome, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Bahrain, and Mexico.
When Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the areas of Samar and Leyte, the dance company was among the 11 million people affected.
“The dance company lost everything preserved for over 50 years, and our rehearsal hall we called home for 40 years,” Melissa Braga Montilla, the company’s current president and CEO, told the Asian Journal.
“All the costumes, all our props and instruments were lost as well,” she added. “It was a very devastating experience.”
Fortunately through a project called the Rebuild Kalipayan Project, the company was able to replace a number of its costumes, props, and instruments.
The next goal now is to rebuild a rehearsal home for the dancers which the company hopes will also act as the city’s official center for the arts.
While some proceeds from the fundraising tour will go towards the dance company, money raised would also go towards livelihood projects in Tacloban City being conducted by WIN.
WIN was founded five years ago with the purpose of promoting the Waraynon heritage in Southern California — Waraynon refers to the Waray people hailing from the Eastern Visayan islands of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran.
Officially becoming a 501(c) non-profit organization in 2015, WIN has since made its major goal to help cater to the economic and social needs of the Waray people — especially in regards to Typhoon Haiyan. Last year, WIN embarked on medical, surgical, and dental missions to Tacloban City.
Like its current show with Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company, much of WIN’s fundraising is done through concerts and performances with their own orchestra, choral, and dancers. Many are alumni of the Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company.
Since starting, WIN has held three cultural shows in Los Angeles with proceeds going to Haiyan survivors.
For the upcoming year of 2019, WIN President Tess Agner said that the organization would be focusing on livelihood projects. With the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for example, WIN hopes to boost the region’s booming culinary scene through culinary training.
2018 Kalipayan U.S. Tour
The Leyte Kalipayan Dance Company will continue touring the U.S. until Saturday, August 25, performing August 4 in Chula Vista and Bellflower, California; August 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada; August 18 in Sacramento, California; August 20 and 25 in San Francisco, California.