Winged ballets: Agila
Birds are the focus of some of ballet’s best known pieces such as Swan Lake and Firebird, and continue to spur the creation of new ones. There’s just something about these winged creatures that apparently challenges choreographers to channel their unique movements and character through dance.
When Ballet Manila opens its 22nd performance season billed as "Flights of Fantasy," a bird takes centerstage once more. The famed mythical bird of Philippine lore becomes the subject of resident choreographer Gerardo Francisco’s Ibong Adarna, promising to be a dazzling spectacle in the tradition of Ballet Manila’s blockbuster Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang and its equally successful sequel, Tatlo Pang Kuwento ni Lola Basyang.
To usher in the world premiere of Ibong Adarna in August and the return of the ballet classic Swan Lake in October, we look back – through this series – at the bird-inspired ballets that have taken flight and even soared at Ballet Manila.
Agila, which tells of an eagle’s flight, is the opus of famed choreographer Agnes Locsin set to music by equally well-known musician/singer Joey Ayala. The result is an ethnic-contemporary fusion showcasing the best that Locsin and Ayala have come to be known for in their respective fields. Coincidentally, these two artists and friends hail from Davao which is home to the Philippine eagle which most likely inspired Agila.
Ballet Manila commissioned the contemporary solo variation for the New York and Tokyo International Ballet Competitions in 2003. Gerardo Francisco originated the role, which had its premiere in Ballet Manila’s season performance, OPM at OPB, in July and August of the same year at Star Theater.
Francisco recalls that Locsin wanted to go for aggressive steps and gestures but with the attack still grounded, thus reflecting power and might – just like the king among birds that the subject is supposed to be.
“Malagkit po (striking) at sharp ang movements,” Francisco sums up.