Singkil (or Sayao sa Kasingkil) is a famous Philippine dance of the Maguindanao people, but was popularized by the nearby Maranao peoples of Lake Lanao and later the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company.
Also known as the Princess Dance or the Royal Maranao Fan Dance, the dance is based on the Maguindanao and Maranao interpretation of the ancient Indian epic, the Ramayana: the Darangen. The Singkil narrates a scene in which Sita (Putri Gandingan) escapes her abductor, the demon king Ravana and is lost in the forests of Alangka, thereupon being found by her husband, Prince Rama. Interesting to note is that in the original Ramayana epic, Rama selects Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-god, to find Sita on his behalf; the fact that in the Singkil it is Rama (Rajah Bantugan) who finds her suggests a modification of the original Hindu narration in order to agree with monotheistic Islamic ideology.Kasingkil refers to the art of moving one’s feet in and out of two clicking bamboo poles in imitation of Putri Gandingan who gracefully avoided the falling trees brought about by an earthquake.<ref name=Philip>Mercurio, Philip Dominguez (2007). Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines (html). PnoyAndTheCity: A center for Kulintang - A home for Pasikings. Retrieved on 15 February, 2007.</ref>
The epic “Darangan” which was written in the 14th century is about Princess Gandingan, who was trapped in the middle of a forest when the diwatas of the forest caused an earthquake. The lead dancer steps between cris-crossed bamboo poles, which represents the Princess's avoidance of falling trees. Throughout the dance she is followed by a loyal umbrella-bearing slave. Finally a prince comes to rescue her. Fans called apir are waved by dancers to represent auspicious winds.
Other versions of the singkil portray different stories. In one, the “Garden Singkil,” the princess is simply out in the garden playing with butterflies, which are represented by the fan dancers.<ref name=Hiyas>Southern Island Suite (html). Hiyas Philippine Folk Dance Company (2007). Retrieved on 15 February, 2007.</ref>
Played at celebrations and festivals, traditionally the dance was performed by a girl of royal blood intent on advertising herself to would-be-suitors for her future marriage.
The dance is said to have been named after either the leg bracelets or anklets of silver, nickel or brass with chiming bells of the same name<ref name=Philip/> or the act of voluntarily or accidentally entangling on one’s feet in either vines or tall grass.<ref name=Hiyas>Pilipino Folk Dance Glossary (html) (2008). Retrieved on 5 February, 2008.</ref> This dance is one that all royal princesses in the Sulu archipelago are expected to learn to this day.
- ^ a b Mercurio, Philip Dominguez (2007). Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines (html). PnoyAndTheCity: A center for Kulintang - A home for Pasikings. Retrieved on 15 February 2007.
- ^ a b  Pilipino Folkdance Glossary
- ^ a b Southern Island Suite. Hiyas Philippine Folk Dance Company Official Website. Retrieved on 15 February 2007.
- Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines - An online textbook about Southern Pilipino Kulintang Music with a chapter devoted to traditional Philippine dances such as singkil, pangalay and sagayan.