The History of Binasuan Dance

By Alissa Kinney

Binasuan, a dance originating in the Philippines, primarily involves three drinking glasses that a Binasuan dancer (usually a woman) gracefully balances–on her head and in the palms of both her hands–as she moves. Each glass is half-full with rice wine, and a Binasuan dancer's skill is determined by her ability not to drop a glass or spill any wine over the course of her performance.

Geography

The tradition of Binasuan dance originates in the Pangasinan province of the Philippines. Pangasinan is located on the central western coast of the country, and is host to several national festivals where Binasuan dance is often featured.

History

Binasuan dance derived its name from a Pangasinan phrase that literally translates to mean "with the use of a drinking glass." Though it is not known exactly when Binasuan dance originated, dance has been an important part of Filipino culture for centuries, beginning as a way for people to express thanks to the gods, in festivals and traditional celebrations, for blessings and prosperity.

Features

Binasuan dancers are famous for their skill and grace, balancing three glasses of rice wine while turning, rolling and spinning to fast-paced music. Sometimes dancers introduce other elements, such as weights placed on their feet, to increase the dance's difficulty–and therefore the dancer's prestige.

Significance

Binasuan dance, though formerly a traditional art known only to Filipinos, is now internationally recognized and sought after, with dance troupes touring around the globe and tourists to the Philippines increasingly seeking out local performances.

Function

Binasuan dance is a colorful, lively art that is often performed at celebratory occasions in the Filipino culture, such as weddings and parties. Sometimes, dancers will compete over who can complete the most skillful moves, while balancing their glasses, for the entertainment of the audience.

About the Author

Alissa Kinney is a full-time professional in the communications field, with an AB from Brown University and an MA in Writing & Publishing from Emerson College. She has years of experience as an editor and writer, and has been published in The Blue Doors, Our Town Brookline, Art New England and Body + Soul.