This Month in BM History: August 1997
Just two years old, Ballet Manila decided to field seven soloists to the 6th Asian Pacific International Ballet Competition held from August 13 to 17, 1997 in Tokyo, Japan. It was the largest Filipino delegation to an international ballet competition in the history of Philippine dance at the time.
“Participating in an international competition of any kind is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of a lifetime. Not only do you have to deal with the fact that you are representing your country, but also that you are up against the highest standards of every country in the globe,” wrote artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde in her On Pointe column in the newspaper Malaya then.
Though loathe to the idea of art being graded, the ballerina – herself an alumna of various competitions – nevertheless realizes the invaluable lessons that come from participating in such events. Not only do the dancers see how they fare among the best of the best, but it also becomes a venue for them to connect with colleagues and learn from new mentors even if only for a limited time.
The BM delegation to Tokyo was composed of Pamela Asprer, Aileen Gallinera, Elline Damian, Sandra Lynn Huang, Jeffrey Espejo, Eduardo Espejo and Christopher Mohnani. They were among 129 competitors from ten different countries who matched skills in technique and artistry with one another.
Huang, Damian and Gallinera made the semi-finals cut, the first in the junior division and the latter two in the senior division. Eventually, Huang and Damian would make it to the finals – Huang as one of 20 dancers among the juniors, and Damian as one of only 10 among the seniors.
Huang performed a variation of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker and La Fille Mal Gardee. Her modern number was Oriental Maiden, a choreography by Macuja-Elizalde with revisions by Osias Barroso.
Damian danced variations from Act 1 of Sleeping Beauty (Princess Aurora) and Le Corsaire. Her modern piece was Passion, a choreography by Hazel Sabas with revisions by Barroso.
“The judge commented that the Filipinos are strong and artistic performers with soul. This really makes a big difference,” Macuja-Elizalde shared the feedback that she got about BM competitors then.