Bayanihan, the National Folk Dance Company of the Philippines takes its name from an ancient Filipino tradition called bayanihan which means working together for a common good. In 1956 Dr. Helena Z. Benitez founded the Bayanihan Folk Dance Group of the Philippine Women’s University. The following year, 1957, it was formally organized as the Bayanihan Folk Arts Center with the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company as its performing arm. Both the center and the dance company were tasked to research on and preserve indigenous Philippine art forms in music, dance, costumes and folklore; to restructure and enhance these research findings to evolve repertoires suited to the demands of contemporary theater; and to promote international goodwill through performances at home and abroad.
Barely a year old but eminently backed up by painstaking research and innovative choreography, Bayanihan made its highly successful debut at the Brussels Universal Exposition on May 27, 1958, launching the company on an international career representing the Philippines.
The popular TV host Ed Sullivan featured the Company in his coast-to-coast telecast of the “Highlights of the Brussels Fair” beamed to 40 million televiewers in the USA. Shortly after, Sol Hurok, “The king of impresarios,” signed up Bayanihan for the Sol Hurok International Festival. On October 13, 1959 Bayanihan opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater and received the unanimous acclaim of New York City critics. It was a major break through in Philippine dance history. And henceforth the world became a stage for Bayanihan.
Since its formal organization the company has mounted fourteen (14) major world tours (of six months to a year in duration) to Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas and over a hundred short tours to foreign countries. In half a century Bayanihan has performed in six continents, sixty-four countries and 658 cities world wide
Through the years it has earned many “first”: the first Filipino group to break into Broadway and the first non-American dance company to perform at the New York State Theater of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; the first Filipino cultural group to perform in Russia and PROC; and first to make an in-depth tour of South America; the first Filipino dance company to perform at the World Showcase Millennium Village EPCOT, Disneyworld, Florida and the only Filipino dance company to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for international understanding.
A glowing achievement auspiciously started year 2005 for the Company. At the 50th International Folklore Festival in Sicily on February 5-11 Bayanihan bested all previous Gold Temple Awardees who vied for the Festival’s golden anniversary Gold Temple award- an 18 karat gold replica of an ancient temple.
On the home front Bayanihan was bestowed the “Diwa ng Lahi” award, the highest honor given by the City of Manila for outstanding achievement in culture and the arts. Also in 2005 the company embarked on an extensive Asian tour which covered China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Taipei and Singapore under the auspices of the Philippine Embassies in the aforementioned countries and the Department of Tourism.
A multi-awarded company, both nationally and internationally, Bayanihan has awakened a new pride among Filipinos in their cultural heritage; added a new dimension to the country’s dance tradition; and has built a rich reserve of international goodwill.