Neo Ethnic Dance: A Powerful Springboard for Dance Artists

May 30, 2024 | Feature Release, Press Release

Participants of Neo-ethnic Dance Workshop from Ateneo de Davao University

Participants of Neo-ethnic Dance Workshop from Ateneo de Davao University

“Sana there will be some who will develop their own Filipino movements using our history and our culture.” National Artist for Dance Agnes Locsin is full of hope that her neo-ethnic dance will provide dancers with impetus and an opportunity to begin their artistic pursuits.

Recently, National Artist Locsin worked with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Arts Education Department and spearheaded the CCP Neo-Ethnic Education Program, which aims to teach selected participants in the technical and artistic preservation and development of the neo-ethnic dance style. The program covers workshops on modern dance and neo-ethnic dance techniques, choreography, lectures on Philippine and neo-ethnic dance history, and repertory classes, culminating with a special dance showcase.

After conducting a series of workshops in different venues, National Artist was impressed with how the participants enthusiastically responded to the topics and participated in the different activities such as lecture demonstrations and intense, sore-muscle workshops.

NA Agnes Locsin conducting lecture demo in Tagum City

NA Agnes Locsin conducting lecture demo in Tagum City

She felt the need to do something after concluding the majority of the neo-ethnic workshop and fielding inquiries from the attendees regarding how to gain an in-depth understanding of the neo-ethnic dance.

Despite acknowledging that it requires a significant amount of time and effort to make such an initiative a reality, she stated that teaching neo-ethnic dance lessons with the teachers is one of the significant efforts that needs to be initiated.

“So the main question was where do we go from here? Because the participants were made aware, but they know so little and they have much to learn. Maybe I should make a syllabus and work with the Department of Education (DepEd), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the CCP. Dahil mahalagang mabigyan ng klase iyong mga teacher na nagtuturo ng arts sa mga eskwelahan,” shared the National Artist.

Dance workshop in Malolos City

Dance workshop in Malolos City

Since February, the National Artist and CCP have been to different regions to conduct the workshop. They conducted the workshop at Malolos, Bulacan on February 7 to 11, with more than 70 participants mentored by dance professionals Kare Adea and Biag Gaongen.

Over 161 people attended the workshop at the University of Southeastern Philippines, Davao del Sur, which was made possible through generous support from Gaongen, Samantha Martin, and Monique Uy.

National Artist Locsin and CCP headed to Ateneo De Davao University in Davao City for another productive workshop. Subsequently, joined by dance teachers Uy and Gaongen, a three-day educational session was held in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, drawing attendees from Cagayan de Oro, Misamis, and Marawi. For the last leg of the workshop, the National Artist visited the Philippine High School for the Arts on April 26–30 with various renowned dance teachers.


Locsin obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Ateneo de Davao in 1979. It was while pursuing her master’s degree at Ohio State University that her neo-ethnic dance blossomed. Locsin explored several Filipino dance moves, which similarly amazed her at the diversity of dance moves in the Philippines.

“Years later, I was in Amsterdam, I was asked to choreograph, naisip ko anong gagawin ko, kasi I was in Europe at nandoon ang ballet at modern dances. So, I thought mag-Filipino nga ako para maiba, para makita ang kaibahan ng kultura natin. That’s when I choreographed my first neo-ethnic dance, Igorot,” she shared.

During her time in her beloved home, Davao, Locsin was assigned to the Filipino section at the school and company her mother had created, the Locsin Dance Workshop, where she primarily taught Filipino dances that she had learned. That’s why she was no longer surprised to see herself doing Filipino dances after joining Ballet Philippines.

The word “neo-ethnic” originated when Locsin was asked to characterize the Igorot she was restaging for Ballet Philippines. She believed that Joey Ayala’s term “neo-ethnic” was the ideal way to characterize her dance, so she sought permission to use it, and the rest is history. She also used the term “urban natives” in the 2000s, which was also originally from Ayala, referring to the use of neo-ethnic in urban settings.


When asked what has changed after she was named National Artist, Locsin said “Mas naging busy. Nadagdagan ang gagawin bukod sa karaniwan kong ginagawa dito sa Davao. Naalala na kasi ako ng CCP at NCCA.”

National Artist for Dance Locsin is the sixth national artist in the dance category since 1973 along with National Artists for Dance Francisca Reyes Aquino in 1973, Leonor Orosa Goquingco in 1976, Lucrecia Reyes-Urtula in 1988, Ramon Obusan in 2006, and Alice Reyes in 2014, and the sixth to be named National Artist from Mindanao after National Artist for Visual Arts Victorio Edades in 1976, National Artist for Dance Leonor Orosa Goquingco in 1976, National Artist for Visual Arts Ang Kiukok in 2001, National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao in 2006, and National Artist for Literature Resil Mojares in 2018.

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