Thursday, January 25, 2007

Source of Inspiration

A couple of years ago when I was writing commentaries for a magazine called The Baroque Review, I talked about the origins of inspiration correlated with exploring the origins of a myth, folktale or cultural tradition. For me that was an avenue of opening up the mind and constructing a theme related to my own life experience or discoveries. I have visited that land of myth and fable many times during my dry period searching for some kind of spark.

Recently, I came across the concept of "Singkil", an ancient, Flipino wedding dance that has all the splendor and grace of an Eastern ballet. This happened quite randomly. I was talking with the owner of a local video store about films and art as subject matter in today's movies. He quickly voiced that he was an artist, himself, and pursued both abstract and classical themes. He showed me his portfolio, which was very impressive on its own, and then referered to the pages where he portrayed Filipino folkdances and traditions. I was intrigued by the performance of "SingKil" and wanted to know more.

Using Google, I found a number of sites dealing with this beautiful dance. This nuptial art form comes from the province of Lanao. Its name is derived from the bell-filled anklets worn around the princess’ ankle. One of the oldest dances, Singkil tells the story of Princess Gandingan who is stuck in the woods during an earthquake caused by fairies of the forest. With sure steps and nimble grace, she is able to sidestep the tumbling rocks and trees until she is saved by a prince.

Like most fairytales in Western and Eastern tradition, the royal maiden is saved by her grace and a heroic prince waiting somewhere in the near future. In this storyline, the heroine uses her nimble agility to outwit the tempest and is rescued by a handsome warrior. I thought about the motif of this tale and applied it in a different way. What if the woman was a silent wife ordered by her faith and cultural upbringing to be subservient and never question her husband's will or authority. What if her composure was a paradox? On the surface, she dances through the days with grace and humble beauty and yet beneath, her spirit waits to whirl free and companion a climate of strong temperament. In this case, she would be using the storm to outwit providence and change the direction of her life and outlook.


She is always moving
toward their marriage
with slow and careful footing.

Her steps
stay within the confines
of his silk carpet, poise worn
like an amulet to ward off
any whims or thoughts that might
spark his disdain.

Village women say her tongue
is tangled in flowers
but nothing pungent or wild.

Yet they sense her hands
signal force--
slight, paper fans

flirting in ways
that entice the storm
to soon approach, trees splitting
and the poles of earth

clattering like bamboo
to startle doves
and flog the air with change.

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