This Month in BM History: August 2017
Ibong Adarna, the Filipino literary classic about a bird whose singing has healing powers, was transformed into a full-length ballet production that was Ballet Manila’s 22nd season-opener in August 2017.
For choreographer Gerardo Francisco, retelling the epic tale through dance was a challenge that took two years to complete. In his first full-length ballet, he remained faithful to the story of the three princes of Berbanya who each must undertake the quest for the mythical bird that can cure their ailing father.
Ibong Adarna the ballet presented the titular character as she had never been seen before – with her feathers of changing colors represented by dancers who moved along with her. Filled with adventure, it also highlighted numbers such as the amusing Dance of the Monkeys, the enchanting Dance of the Fireflies, and synchronized pieces featuring maidens and warriors in the palace to the Amazonas and the hunters in the forest.
Francisco put together a team that would help bring his vision come to life – Diwa de Leon for the music, Make it Happen Workshop for the sets and costumes, Jay Aranda for the lighting design and Anjie Ureta for the narrative.
The dancing Adarna had a counterpart singing Adarna in the person of soprano Gia Macuja-Atchison, while the Ermitanyo who threaded the story together was played by actor Bodjie Pascua.
A review in the Philippine Daily Inquirer gave a favorable verdict of the ballet, noting that “Francisco’s choreography highlighted the strength of the company’s legs and arms. Their legs were the power behind BM’s trademark stage-devouring leaps. It was a crowd-pleaser to see a battalion of dancers flinging themselves to composer Diwa de Leon’s eclectic, grandiose and throbbing music.”
Not surprisingly, Ibong Adarna would later win numerous awards. It was named Best Dance Production in the 2017 Aliw Awards and received six trophies from the 10th Gawad Buhay Awards including Outstanding Modern Dance Production and Outstanding Choreography For Modern Dance.