Classroom Process: Apat Apat: A Folk Dance from the Philippines

Posted on April 1, 2024 in , ,

Tags: , ,

By Melissa Fuller Flores

Pictured Above: Melissa Fuller Flores leads a session at the 2024 OAKE National Conference in Chicago, IL

If you have ever heard of any Filipino folk dance, you have likely heard of Tinikling (Tin-ick-ling). Even though it’s considered by many as the National Dance of the Philippines, it does take additional props and materials. This article will share an authentic Filipino folk dance without any extra materials. 

Before moving forward, I want to make it clear that I’m not claiming to be a perfect Filipino, a representative for all Filipino-Americans, or a monolith. I am not a cultural bearer, that role belongs to my mom. Since I started my journey into Kodály and song collection, delving into our heritage’s music has strengthened the bond between my mom and me and this dance we’re exploring is something she and I have learned about together.

Apat Apat (AH-Paht AH-Paht), which translates to “Four-by-Four”, is a folk dance mixer designed for intermediate to advanced folk dancers. If they’ve successfully danced ‘T Smidje, they’ll excel with this one. This dance was introduced in the United States in 1961 by Francisca Reyes Aquino, a prominent figure in Philippine dance research.

This dance is accompanied by the traditional folk song, Magtanim Ay Di Biro (Măg-tah-neem eye dee bee-row), which translates to “Planting Rice is Never Fun.” Due to the song’s popularity, many versions and reinterpretations exist. The recording below features a manageable tempo for you to dance along to.

To prepare my students to dance in a double circle and to change partners, I have had success teaching the dance in a long ways set with the same directions and staying with the same partners. Then the next week, or the week after a refresher, change the formation to a double circle and add in the partner change. 

Apat Apat

Meter: 4/4

Movement Counts: Just like the name suggests, each movement is 4 beats

Music: Magtanim Ay Di Biro (Listen on Spotify or Youtube)

Formation: Double Circle facing Counter Clockwise (CCW), Shoulder to Shoulder with a partner holding nearest hands in a W shape

Intro: Begin moving at :08 or after the anacrusis of mi-fa-so (move on the downbeat of so)

Helpful Video to visualize directions: Youtube

Helpful Preparation Dance: ‘T Smidje

  1. Partners take four steps forward (Counter Clockwise— CCW)
  2. Partners release hands, turn 180° and rejoin other hands to walk forward 4 steps (CW) to the space where the dance began
  3. Partners release hands and turning to face their partner, walk 4 steps backwards, away from each other 
  4. Partners walk 4 steps forward towards each other
  5. Partners turn to their left (inside partner faces CCW and outside partner CW) so that the right shoulder is nearest to their partner, walk 4 steps forward around the circle area.
  6. Without turning, each dancer walks 4 steps backwards to end next to their partner with left shoulders adjacent again
  7. Facing their partner, link right arms and walk 4 steps in a circle
  8. When the inside partner returns to their spot, unlink arms and the inside partner walks 4 steps CCW to a new outside partner 

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