18 January 2009

Folk-Dancing Trannies

A trannie doing a male northern tribal dance in full makeup.

A recent trip to Cebu before the Sinulog got me thinking how, in almost every community fiesta or celebration in the Philippines, you can assume that gay, cross-dressing males take charge of the dance choreography. Increasingly, they are becoming part of the dances themselves.

The same dude as above.

We are lucky to observe how Filipinos integrate baklas into traditional dual-division of dance roles. I'm not exactly sure how many trannies are truly into folk dancing, but tourist demand, coupled with the Filipino gay eagerness to perform, has led to recent abundance of faux eyelashes in that area.

One of the hot-dogging dances involving balancing water.

At a recent small-town performance, the "male" role of the dance was (as far as I can tell) taken by a bunch of non-crossdressing gay guys. One long-haired transvestite was dancing with the female group. He had a slight alteration in costume, with the bib-like extension hanging shorter than in his women counterparts. If the modern flesh-tone bodysuit were to be excluded, the woven material would end right above his nipples, while his female troupe-mates would have their breasts covered. Otherwise, his costume and routine was identical to the females'.

The short bib-like thing is obscured by a large fan.

At another "traditional" dance showcase, the trannies were in the pant-wearing, foot-stomping male side of the dance. I still call them trannies because they were in full makeup and had long, female-like hair. However, they performed the typical moves with a lot more flair and hip movement than the usual versions.

Pandango and padded bras.

I'm not sure how they felt about doing the male dances. One friend from the province offered his take on it: "They are happy to just be dancing. Of course, they dream of doing female routines. But guests like us have opened up opportunities for them to perform, and they are pleased to participate in any dance they can."


All this delights and interests me. It also makes me wonder about the growing absence of folk-dancing straight men.

(Note: The more urban arena of cheerleading is perhaps more flexible. A couple of years back, the half-time show of Ateneo rivals UST had a dance troupe composed of girls, straight guys, and male transvestites. The latter had their own uniform and routine, distinct from the first two groups.)

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