Winged ballets: Sari’t Bahag
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 on August 26 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.
Sari’t Bahag is not quite a winged ballet, but it seems apt to include it in this series as one of its pivotal characters is a bird. Choreographed by Jojo Lucila and using music by the Bayanihan, it is set in an indigenous mountain community where the village shaman helps a head warrior choose a bride.
During the wedding, an Idaw Bird, said to bring bad fortune, swoops down over the ceremony. Soon, a call to war causes the groom and all the warriors to depart from the village. The story has a tragic conclusion. The curse of the Idaw Bird is realized when the warriors return defeated; the groom is dead and the bride is left in bitter anguish.
Sari’t Bahag became a staple in Ballet Manila performances particularly in its early years, and was even brought on several international tours including in Russia and in the United States.