The Pangalay is popularly known as the “fingernail” dance among the Tausug and Samal people. The name was derived from the verb mangalay which means 'to dance'. It can also refer to any traditional style of dance performed during social gatherings and festive occasions like weddings. The male and female performers of this dance highlight the articulate postures and hand gestures commonly seen in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
By nature, the Pangalay is highly considered Asian, with its form and style closely resembling to Balinese and Thai classical dances. It has movements similar to a Southeast Asian martial art, Kuntaw Silat. According to scholars, the dance could have been a remnant of the Samal and Balinese culture for its slow movements are suggestive of the abundance of fish and birds in the Southern part of the Philippines. This traditional dance features dexterous movements of the shoulders, elbows, and wrist joints of the performers ---remarkably viewed as appealing to the male sex.
At a young age, children are taught to master the Pangalay, which serves as a rite of passage. A typical dancer wears Joloano costume and janggay, metal fingernail extensions, on all fingers. There are two popular variations of this dance. The first one is the Samal's Umaral or Igal wherein they use bamboo castanets instead of the janggay. Another variation is called Pangalay Ha Pattong wherein the dancers balance themselves on top of two bamboo poles supported by four men.
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