This Month in BM History: July 1999
Since Ballet Manila started having a regular performance season in 1995, it has always included an all-Filipino production among its season offerings. This has greatly expanded the company’s repertoire, adding a rich dimension to its classical ballet fare.
In 1999, Ballet Manila presented An Evening of Filipino Ballet, with three shows, at the GSIS Theater in Pasay City. It trumpeted “variety in unity” by highlighting a diverse range of works by Filipino choreographers in one showcase.
“This gives our company the opportunity to work with the best local choreographers, who lend a refreshing contemporary or ethnic touch to Ballet Manila’s classical style,” BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde said of the production back then.
Macuja-Elizalde herself exchanged her pointe shoes for stilletos to perform Tony Fabella’s Sugar Step Elizalde. A curious note to this piece is its use of music by Federico “Fred” Elizalde, after whom his nephew (and the prima ballerina’s husband) Fred J. Elizalde was named. The older Fred Elizalde, apparently, was a popular band leader who caught the London nightclub scene by storm during the swinging Ballroom Era of the 1920s.
Aside from Sugar Step Elizalde, An Evening of Filipino Ballet also featured Hazel Sabas-Gower’s Deconstructing Gershwin, for which she was named a finalist at the 1st International Competition of Classical Choreography in Paris in March 1999.
Sabas-Gower created another piece, Minamahal, a neo-classical choreography set to the sweet strains of the kundiman as played by acclaimed Filipino pianist Raul Sunico.
Ric Culalic’s Ouch! set to Beatles music and his Arnis that paid tribute to an ancient martial art in ballet, as well as Edna Vida’s Flux – a series of progressive, connecting movements giving birth to Dance – rounded out the repertoire.
Newspaper columnist Rina Jimenez-David described the show as a “refreshing, bracing experience” for the ballet lover. She wrote, “BM proved, with style, verve and energy, that contemporary Filipino ballet choreography is flourishing, and indeed breaking new ground in the melding of Asian sensibilities with a modern, sleek outlook. BM dancers proved, too, what excellent ballet training can do. For while the numbers required them to explore areas far removed from the classical repertoire, they also showed off the sound technique and admirable strength and flexibility that a grounding in the basics gives a dancer.”