Surprise promotions of eight dancers cap Ballet Manila’s 23rd season finale
By Susan A. De Guzman
Photos by Giselle P. Kasilag
Eight Ballet Manila dancers are moving up the ranks including two to principal position, as artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde announced a round of surprise promotions at the curtain call of the company’s 23rd season finale, Deux, last Sunday.
Shortly after the company had taken its bows and before a matinee crowd still gathered at Aliw Theater, Macuja-Elizalde read off the list from her mobile phone, giving a brief description of each dancer before naming them.
Mark Sumaylo and Jasmine Pia Dames, who were promoted as principal dancers from being soloists, were caught unawares by the announcement.
Pia Dames, who was onstage, was visibly taken aback that she could not move for a few seconds after her name was called. Shen then came forward to embrace Macuja-Elizalde and BM co-artistic director Osias Barroso amid cheers from the audience that included supporters from her hometown of Biñan, Laguna.
“She was sidelined for a while with injuries but she’s back and wow, did she floor everyone today dancing all of that,” Macuja-Elizalde said of the ballerina who had just danced the Diane et Action pas de deux with Hyuma Kiyosawa, as one of the Miseries in the classic Chopiniana and in Martin Lawrence’s Beatles-themed The Winding Road.
Meanwhile, a dazed and slightly limping Sumaylo had to come down the expansive Aliw Theater staircase all the way from the tech booth where he was taking pictures of the production.
“You did not see him tonight because he was sidelined by knee surgery, but he’s here in the audience,” Macuja-Elizalde said before calling him. “He’s gonna be back and stronger than ever.”
Sumaylo had been set to perform in Deux, notably in the all-male Bam Damian piece Aramica and in The Winding Road, but a torn meniscus forced him to bow out from performing. He underwent a knee operation last February.
As a soloist, Sumaylo has had a good track record of dancing principal roles for two seasons, mainly partnering real-life girlfriend and principal dancer Abigail Oliveiro. This past season, he was Don Jose in Carmen, Conrad in Le Corsaire and Prince in Cinderella.
Jessica Pearl Dames, Rissa May Camaclang and Joshua Enciso were promoted as soloists, up a notch from company artists.
Brian Sevilla, Rafael Perez and Alvin Dictado – all of whom had done well in international and national competitions last year – were named company artists from their previous positions as members of BM’s junior company.
Barroso said the current crop of promotions was based on a number of factors which he summed up as “Consistency, artistic and technical strength and track record.
“Generally, we look at track record, roles performed, consistency in technique and quality of dancing in performance, rehearsals and class, individuality and artistry. Awards in competitions also matter,” Macuja-Elizalde elaborated.
This is the second year in a row that BM management announced promotions immediately fter the last performance of the season.
“I like announcing the promotions then because it creates excitement among the dancers onstage and it involves the audience as well,” said Macuja-Elizalde.
“We expect a lot from these dancers and everyone else for next season. The work never really stops,” Macuja-Elizalde stressed.
Barroso added, “As we keep telling them, it’s always back to the barre. It’s the daily discipline of classes that will sustain them.”
Camaclang, who started out as a Project Ballet Futures scholar, was the youngest Filipino ballet dancer to be awarded in an international competition – when she won a silver at the Asian Grand Prix in Hong Kong at age 14.
She made a fiery debut as Carmen in BM’s season-opener Iconic 2.0, and followed that up with her wacky turn as a Stepsister in Cinderella and a sensitive portrayal of Prelude in Chopiniana, as well as being cast in The Winding Road. Through her years with the company, she has given solid performances in soloist roles, according to Macuja-Elizalde.
Describing Pearl Dames as a more artistic and expressive dancer, Macuja-Elizalde said the ballerina moved forward with The Winding Road after the previous season when she faced setbacks because of injuries. “She actually became Martin Lawrance’s ‘muse’,” the artistic director said.
The year 2018 was a very good one for Joshua Enciso. He and BM colleague Nicole Barroso were the first Filipinos to be selected by the USA International Ballet Competition to compete in its junior category in Jackson, Mississippi last June. (Barroso was promoted to soloist after landing a Jury Encourage Award in the said competition.)
Enciso followed that up with a gold medal in the senior male category in the CCP Ballet Competition last November, giving masterful performances of the classical Acteon variation and the contemporary Kiti-Kiti by Gerardo Francisco.
Macuja-Elizalde noted that his Solor from La Bayadere in Deux (dancing opposite Akari Ida) was outstanding, showing steadily growing confidence and maturity.
Sevilla, Perez and Dictado brought home several honors for Ballet Manila in 2018. The three swept the top prizes in the junior male category in the CCP Ballet Competition, bagging the gold, silver and bronze, respectively.
Additionally, Sevilla won gold and Perez silver in the Asian Grand Prix last August. Sevilla also copped the third place in pas de deux (with Shaira Comeros) in the Australian Teachers of Dance (ATOD) International Dance Competition in Bangkok in February 2018.
Dictado was also named honorable mention in the ATOD competition, along with partner Elyssabeth Apilado.
“All three have put in BM 1 hours even as BM 2 members, especially for Le Corsaire, Cinderella and Deux,” Macuja-Elizalde commended.
The new positions of the promoted dancers will be reflected in Ballet Manila’s next performance season.