2 Kitris and a Basilio

2 Kitris and a Basilio

Melannie Motus, Maritoni Rufino, and Lisa Macuja clutched their fans fiercely as they channel the fiery Kitri in this photo shoot at Casa Manila. Photo courtesy of the Ballet Manila Archives

By Lisa Macuja

Ballet Manila caps its 21st season dubbed Revenge of the Classics with Don Quixote, one of the most popular productions in the classical ballet repertoire. It is also a favorite of Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde since its heroine, Kitri, is a role she is most identified with. On September 9, 1993, she wrote the following piece in her On Pointes column for the national broadsheet Malaya, just as she was about to dance as Kitri once more. This is an edited version of that column.

Ballet Manila’s Don Quixote goes onstage on February 24 and 25, 8 p.m., and on February 26, 3 p.m., at Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City.

I believe the number is five. Five fans have been systematically put in Act I of the full-length classical ballet Don Quixote. This entrance, to quote Natalia Dudinskaya, “sets the whole mood of the performance to follow.” Filled with vaulting split jetés, the solo’s peak has Kitri doing a series of waltzes around the stage (a menage in dancer’s lingo) with several wallops of her fan on the floor as she soars along.

Parrish Maynard of the American Ballet Theater was one of the Basilios in a 1993 performance of Don Quixote. Photo courtesy of the Ballet Manila Archives

It is this fevered punch that can break Kitri’s fan leaving her to struggle with a broken prop until she can exit and replace the poor thing. Handling a dilapidated fan can be quite hilarious. I know because it has happened to me in several Don Quixotes in the past. It is but logical that one should be able to control the force used in this first entrance. Most of the time, you really are swept away by the mood and the music. A phlegmatic entrance by the ballerina at this point kills not only the energy of the corps, but the audience as well. Any crucial moment such as this drains you thoroughly just by thinking about it.

Wes Chapman, also from the American Ballet Theater, partnered Lisa Macuja in the same production at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Photo courtesy of the Ballet Manila Archives

While awaiting the arrival of American Ballet Theater’s guest principal dancers Wes Chapman and Parrish Maynard from New York, three Kitris, Maritoni Rufino, Melanie Motus and this writer, have been sharing only one Basilio during rehearsals. The hapless guy is none other than Osias Barroso, our country’s foremost classical danseur who is fast becoming a stunning force in the local ballet scene. It is interesting to note that Osias has already performed the role in Russia to standing ovations. His Basilio performances on Septs. 12 and 18 marks his Philippine debut.

“This is a dream come true!” Echoing my own thoughts six years ago when I first performed Kitri in the role’s entirety, Melanie and Maritoni are now on the brink of turning a childhood fantasy into reality. This kind of fulfillment is also very exhausting.

Don Quixote is a fast bravura ballet filled with exuberant variations in the classical and demi-character style following each other in quick succession. Dancers love to complain of aching leg or back muscles after a performance. Usually after a Don Q, dancers also have aching cheeks from all that smiling…

A performance of Don Quixote will definitely be a “cheek-lifter” during these times of power shortage, water shortage, rice shortage and Brunei Beauty scandals.

Watch out for the fans. They may break once again.

Clipping of Lisa Macuja’s column published in Malaya. Photo courtesy of the Ballet Manila Archives

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