Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Group Promoting Filipino Heritage

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Group Promoting Filipino Heritage

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh has attracted a cross-section of cultures from across the country -- and the world -- as its education, medical and technology industries have swelled. Rather than shed their roots, many of the city's newcomers have chosen to share them with their new neighbors.

In the arts, one such group is the Philippine American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh, founded in June to preserve and promote Filipino heritage through dance.

"Filipino culture is very strong in the Pittsburgh area," said publicity coordinator Marissa Morrison, whose 4- and 6-year-old son and daughter perform with the troupe.

"There is a number of families who immigrated to this region because of their medical expertise. ... The people who grew up in the Philippines wanted to make sure that their children and their grandchildren were getting exposed to Filipino culture, and dance is a wonderful, fun way to do that."

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the group of approximately 30 dancers ages 4 to 18 will showcase what they've learned so far about their backgrounds at its first evening-length performance and gala at the Bigelow Conference Center in Oakland.

The nonprofit may be young, but it has wasted little time introducing its mission to the community. It has appeared at Opera Theater SummerFest, the Festival of Nations in Weirton, W.Va., and an American Cancer Society Relay for Life event in Cranberry. A performance at the holiday open house at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland is being planned for December.

"I've been very impressed with this group," Ms. Morrison said. "They're extremely focused and hard-working."

Group members, a blend of new and experienced dancers, gather each Sunday at the Stephen Foster Community Center in Lawrenceville for, on average, four hours of rehearsals.

"They're all very enthusiastic," said president Judith "Deedee" Portugal. "That's what keeps me going. …

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