The Samahan Philippine Dance Company was organized in July 1974 under the direction of Lolita Diñoso Carter, Ph.D. Dr. Carter, a dance instructor at Grossmont College, El Cajon, CA. at that time, volunteered her services to organize a performing ensemble as a contribution to the growing Philippine Community of San Diego. Her knowledge of Philippine Dance and Music came naturally from her experiences growing up in the Philippines and being involved in all facets of Filipino life in a small town including activities of a large extended family, church and its numerous religious observances, school programs and community celebrations specially town fiestas. Formal education in Philippine Folk Dance at the University of the Philippines and classes with Francisca Reyes Aquino, eminent authority on Philippine Folk Dance provided Carter with a solid background in Philippine Folk Dance. The Samahan Philippine Dance Company started out as part of the Youth Program of the Council of Pilipino-American Organizations of San Diego County. The purpose of the program was to provide Filipino youth opportunity to gain knowledge and appreciation of their cultural heritage. The name Samahan (meaning working together) was selected by the participants who were mostly students from area junior and senior high schools and San Diego State University. The educational and recreational program soon became an amateur performing group besieged with requests for performances from various organizations, institutions and individuals.
In 1998 the name was changed to Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts & Education Center. There are four performing groups: Philippine Dance Ensemble, Kulintang Music and Dance Ensemble, Philippine Rondalla String Orchestra, and Polynesian Dance Troupe. In addition to its busy performance schedule, Samahan has a strong educational and outreach program. It provides free workshops and performances in many area schools and is specially involved in multi-cultural programs. It has conducted two successful Neighborhood Arts Programs in two different neighborhoods in San Diego which are geared to youths at-risk and funded in part by the City of San Diego under a program administered by the Commission for Arts and Culture. Samahan also provides performances for seniors, festivals and disadvantaged groups. Its theater performances include a Gala Performance, a Christmas Program and a program of original dances based on folk tales and legends of the Southern Philippine Islands. It has performed in many theaters of San Diego County including the City College Theater, Sherwood Auditorium, the Educational Cultural Complex Theater, Mayan Hall, East County Performing Arts Center, Mandeville Auditorium, Joan Kroc Performing Arts Center, and Lyceum Theater. Samahan recently performed at the Seattle Opera House as a featured performer in the Northwest Folklife Festival. The Samahan Philippine Dance Company takes great pride in its contribution to the preservation, development and presentation of the traditional performing arts of the Philippines and its respected position as a member of performing arts of San Diego.
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