Behave well and Pit Señor!
There are talented and devoted individuals behind every colorful contingent that regales Sinulog Festival audience with moving dance rituals highlighted by festive customes and multi-colored props.
They are known behind the technical titles of choreographers and dance masters.
Over the last week that I spent time talking to seven of them for CDN Digital’s feature stories, I learned to appreciate the work that they do and the sacrifices they have to endure to make sure that the contingents they lead deliver performances that embrace the genuine spirit of the Fiesta Señor.
To be a Sinulog choreographer, one has to carefully balance the solemnity of the dance that pays tribute to Señor Santo Niño and the aesthetic/technical part of it that brings visual appeal to the spectators.
This is unique to Cebu and observed by the choreographers.
Let me explain why is this so.
The Holy Masses at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, solemn foot and fluvial processions are the religious activities of this fiesta.
The Sinulog Festival, which include events, competitions and concerts before the Grand Parade on January 20, is the cultural and social aspect of the celebration.
At the center of all these is Señor Santo Nino or, to be more specific, the Santo Niño de Cebu. The miraculous Holy Child is widely venerated through these performances, which are often described as “dances of prayer.”
The raw version of this dance can be observed at the Basilica with the two-step forward, one step backward movement performed by the ladies who sell candles.
The grander versions can be seen during the Sinulog sa Barangay, Sinulog sa Lalawigan and the Sinulog Grand Parade. These performances are conceptualized, choreographed and visualized by the choreographers. The dance masters execute this concept with the rigorous trainings of its performers composed of dancers, props personnel and instrumentalists.
Think about this: every contingent has at least 200 performers. This number does not include the support staff which takes care of logistics and food preparations.
For 2019, the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) has given P400,000 financial subsidy to each participating contingents.
While choreographers are thankful about this, many of them hope that the subsidy will be released on October or November, or at least two months before January, so they can use the funds in developing props and costumes. Those with corporate sponsors are blessed to have the financial backing but the barangays, who rely on the subsidy, have to go around looking for donors.
The choreographers bear the brunt of the pressure as they have to pay their teams of dance masters and instrumentalists. Hence, it is a common experience for choreographers to spend their own money to support the contingents they lead. Others approach establishments for a credit line so they can buy the materials for the props and costumes.
Most, if not all, of the choreographers are devotees of the Holy Child. To them, each Sinulog performance is a prayer of thanks to Señor Santo Niño. This is the reason why they endure long rehearsal hours, financial challenges and manpower issues.
For tomorrow’s Grand Parade, think about the choreographers and the performers. Their performances go beyond the colorful props and elaborate costumes.
Also, remember to follow the rules so we avoid another event cancellation like the discontinued December Avenue concert at the Fuente Osmeña Circle last Friday, January 18.
Behave well and Pit Señor!
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