Guam Chamorro Dancers
The culture of native peoples is often only captured in oral history through language. It’s imagery, heart and soul is converyed in song and dance. Here are some samples of the native Chamorro culture of Guam in its different periods in song and dance.
Guam‘s Colorful Kottura: Chamorro dancing through the years
by Fredalynn Mortera Hecita, KUAM News
Thursday, March 18, 2004
The Chamorro culture is known for its songs and dances, and when Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed on Guam’s shore in 1521 it evolved into a presentation of Spanish, Filipino, and differing characteristics of styles from people in neighboring islands. Natibu Dance Company instructor Benjie Santiago says it’s Natibu’s goal to represent the indigenous people of the island of Guam through their bai-la and dandan interpretations.
He told KUAM News, “We have about 300 years of Spanish colonization in the songs and in the dances. You will hear the language, which has evolved. The Spanish influence, you will also, see maybe the costuming which can also be contributed to the Filipino influences, the Spanish influence that’s in the Spanish segment. And we’ll be demonstrating some of our contemporary dances which you will see a bit of different influences from maybe those characterized by Polynesian, those characterized by Micronesian and those characterized most especially by Spanish and Chamorro.”
Two traditional dances that trace back to both the Spanish and Filipino influences are the salteez and batsu. Santiago says today’s adaptations can be seen through the movements performed in the upper torso. “Chamorro dance back then wasn’t very expressive,” he explained. “But it’s up to us as teachers of dances to perpetuate our songs through interpretative movements we feel will best represent a phrase that word, that song.”
In terms of music, Santiago says the distinction between Filipino and Chamorro compositions is the choice of musical instruments. “In the Filipino batsu you hear a lot of basically harmonica and maybe the accordion and we do have accounts or recorded accounts of the accordion used. I have seen the accordion used in different exhibitions for the batsu, especially for the Chamorro batsu,” he said.
Modern Chamorro dances have evolved through the years. Santiago says many local dance troops are integrating Polynesian and Micronesian styles that can be seen in dance presentations at parties, hotels and cultural events. “Again, we as Chamorro people are very hospitable and we embrace everything from the Filipino, the Micronesians, to the Spanish, and now you even have the Hawaiian dances coming into the influence,” said Santiago.
As varied are the steps of different Chamorro dances so are the origins from which they came from