Ballet Manila's Top 5 moments of 2016
In the year that it marked its 21st anniversary, Ballet Manila continued to make its presence felt in the local and international dance scenes. From its pioneering productions to its participation in festivals and competitions, BM continues to affirm its reputation as the foremost classical ballet company in the country.
Here's a look-back at Ballet Manila's Top 5 moments of 2016:
Premiere of an epic
Inspired by the classical ballet Spartacus and the historic People Power Revolution of 1986, elements of both were merged in the epic Rebel. Choreographed by Martin Lawrance, the production premiered in February, and proved to be a fitting celebration of the 30th anniversary of People Power. Dancers brought life to characters based on real-life personalities and events that changed the country's course, with familiar anthems further making it an emotional retelling on stage.
“It was a five-year personal dream project that happened! I'm so proud of this because it was relevant, unique and beautiful!” enthuses Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, BM's artistic director.
Return to Russian roots
Four teenage talents of Ballet Manila headed to St. Petersburg in April to participate in the Dance Open International Ballet Festival dubbed as “one of the biggest ballet forums in the world.” Nicole Barroso, Alvin Dictado, Joshua Enciso and Marinette Franco brought their Vaganova training back to its home in the heart of Russia where Macuja-Elizalde herself studied and became soloist of the Kirov Ballet.
Attending master classes, interacting with peers from other countries and performing in one of the city's finest theaters filled the four dancers' schedule. “The experience was invaluable as it reaffirmed their training in Ballet Manila,” notes co-artistic director Osias Barroso who led the delegation.
“It was a bit of a full-circle moment. I just wish I could have been there myself to watch these young dancers shine in St. Petersburg!” says Macuja-Elizalde.
Co-presenting a festival
The country's three professional ballet companies – Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theater and Ballet Manila – joined forces to stage the first-ever Dance.MNL festival. The two-week event featured a full slate of performances celebrating artistry and diversity in the dance community.
Ballet Manila staged a full-length production of Giselle and worked with the two other companies to present the same ballet as a tribute to dance mentor Tita Radaic. In both shows, the BM corps earned as much praise as the leads for their graceful precision.
Macuja-Elizalde comments, “Dance.MNL was a kickstart project to the season. It was a collaboration that hopefully will continue to happen.”
Double first-prize win
It fields participants in competitions primarily to showcase their training, rather than to win, but of course it was icing on the cake for Ballet Manila to win two of three first-place titles up for grabs at the CCP Ballet Competition in November. Nicole Barroso and Godwin Merano emerged at the top of their respective categories, junior and senior (male) while Brian Sevilla bagged third prize in the junior category. Gerardo Francisco also won for his modern choreography. In a surprise announcement, the jurors also awarded ballet scholarships to Barroso, Sevilla, Joshua Enciso and Marinette Franco and sponsorship to join two international competitions.
“It was validation,” Macuja-Elizalde says. “We are doing something very right! I think that it's in the method of teaching and the Vaganova technique. Also, a lot hinges on the BM culture. We treat every student like a pro.
Ballet Manila's latest attempt at a children's classic was a huge success. Cinderella dazzled with its dancing, visual effects, costumes and set design, making it an instant hit among the pre-holiday audiences at Aliw Theater. What was also special about this Cinderella is that it was the first major choreography of Macuja-Elizalde who unleashed not just intricate footwork for the dancers but also meticulous details in other aspects of the production.
The ballerina, who also made an appearance onstage as the Fairy Godmother, exclaims, “I never thought I had it in me! Really! The ideas and steps just kept on coming. The entire creation period was as magical as the finished product!