Raleigh nonprofit preserves Filipino culture one dance step at a time

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The pounding of feet and rhythmic clatter of bamboo poles will fill the air when dancers perform the Tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance enduring for centuries.

The dance features two bamboo poles tapped alternately on the ground and against each other which dancers must move over and through, avoiding being caught or hit by the poles.

Based on the hopping and jumping movements the tikling bird would make, this lively dance makes up one of the many aspects of Filipino culture being preserved and promoted by the nonprofit Filipino-American Performing Artists of North Carolina.

"As far as the culture itself, like the songs and the dances that we have in the Philippines, it's getting lost," said Maria Lee Tucker, a member of FAPA-NC since the 1990s. "And so we want to make sure that that doesn't get lost at all with a youth that are growing up here."

For years, FAPA-NC has made it a priority to educate and entertain community members about the rich and diverse culture in the Philippines with special events and performances.

"Through song and dance, we're able to tell stories about life in the Philippines. We have songs about growing vegetables, we have songs about growing rice, which is a staple food. We have songs about love, relationships," Tucker said. "We want to impart this to our youth growing up here and also to non-Filipinos who may be interested in learning about our culture."

According to Yael Pineda-Hall, a member of FAPA-NC who serves as a resident artist for the organization, the performing arts keep the culture alive and can be used to unite individuals despite cultural differences.

"Your culture is where you come from," Pineda-Hall said. "But then the end, that's why performing arts is also very good to have because it keeps us together."

With parents who met performing in a dance company, the arts have always been a part of Pineda-Hall's life. She has been performing ever since the age of 3.

For just shy of two decades, Pineda-Hall has continued that legacy of the performing arts in productions of the Lion King all across the globe, acting in parts like Sarabi and Rafiki. She said representing her home country as a performer brings her pride.

"The Lion King - that was, and that is still in my heart," Pineda-Hall said.

The next big project for FAPA-NC will be a workshop at Blue Jay Point County Park from July 1 through July 3 with lessons on Tinikling and other Filipino dances in addition to lessons on Tagalog, a language spoken by many in the Philippines.

Tucker said she takes pride not only in her culture but in sharing that culture with the next generation.

"Being able to say I am Filipino and promote that to other cultures - just being Asian alone, especially within this time of Asian hate is very important to us to be able to stand proud and say, I am Filipino, and this is my culture," Tucker said. "So when I'm teaching dances to our kids, especially the Tinikling because that's my favorite dance, I feel proud to know that they're interested in it and I know that that in the future they will be able to also teach that dance to other kids who might want to learn it."
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