Encantada: National Artist Agnes Locsin’s masterwork returns

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star
Encantada: National Artist Agnes Locsin�s masterwork returns
Encantada, the dance masterwork of National Artist Agnes Locsin, has two main themes — women as victims and consequences of man’s destruction of nature. These topics resonated with audiences when the ballet was first performed in February 1992. Locsin also found a kindred soul in singer-composer Joey Ayala when she asked him to provide the music. Photos show (clockwise, from above left) a scene from the production; Georgette Sanchez-Vargas as Encantada; and Carissa Adea as Babaylan Encantada.
Photos by Darrell Sicam

April, the Earth Month is coming up and hereabouts dance is joining the celebration. That is while also reminding us denizens, that earth, while generous is also finite and should therefore be nurtured and coddled if it is to last for many lifetimes. Dance will impart that lesson through the breathtaking ballet Encantada.

Enchanted or enchantress, the title Encantada can go any which way, which I think was how creator and choreographer, the National Artist for Dance intended it to be. Agnes Locsin is the artist behind what is called the neo-ethnic dance style. This means presenting indigenous themes through a blend of the Western classical and modern techniques. Not only that, the neo-ethnic was also conceived to ideally suit the physical frame, temperament and soul of the Filipino dancer.

Encantada has two main themes. These are women as victims and the consequences of man’s destruction of nature. These were topics that loudly resonated with audiences when the ballet was first performed in February 1992. Unfortunately, I do not think they did anything to improve those situations. I am sad to say, that 31 years later those women’s issues and the destruction of nature remain major problems. Maybe an evening at the theater, faced with the daunting performances can help bring about the changes we need.

Locsin found a kindred soul in singer and composer Joey Ayala when she asked him to provide the music. Just like her dances, Ayala does Pinoy pop music with a difference. He uses Filipino ethnic instruments like the kulintang and the hegalong to put in a distinct native flavor to his arrangements. His work for Encantada is among his most memorable and its use as background for Locsin’s artistry results in powerful theater.

Encantada will be performed by artists of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Professional Artist Support Program and Alice Reyes Dance Philippines. Georgette Sanchez-Vargas, Filipino dancer back from Europe, plays the lead role with Carissa Adea and Kris Belle Paclibar-Manangun alternating as the Babaylan.

Encantada is presented by the Metropolitan Theater of Manila, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Carmen D. Locsin Foundation. Show dates are on April 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 15 at the Samsung Theater and on April 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 22 at the Metropolitan Theater. Oh yes, not to forget, live music by Joey Ayala himself and his band the Bagong Lumad will accompany the evening performances.

By the way, Encantada is just the beginning of an exciting 2023 season from Alice Reyes Dance Philippines. I say, you might as well save up for a subscription so as not to miss, the rock, opera ballet Rama, Hari, which is based on the Sanskrit epic poem, the Ramayana, scheduled on September, Carmen and other Spirits, featuring Reyes’ take on the George Bizet opera, plus new works by young choreographers in October and Puso ng Pasko, an endearing celebration of the very special Paskong Pinoy in December, which I am sure you will agree is unlike any other.

Just some little asides: I so love the fact that these great works are being revived. While it is always commendable for artists to come out with new works, it is also important to make new generations aware of what came about in the past. More often than not, those were what influenced them and what will also influence future talents. Besides, like a beautiful song that is never sung and therefore, never heard, even masterworks, when not performed anymore can end up sadly forgotten.

And one more. I also love the fact that there are performances at Samsung Theater, which is in Makati and at the Met, which is in Manila. A major deterrent to theater-going in this country is accessibility to the venues. Having two choices for Encantada solves that problem. Well, not totally, but almost. I do hope that there will be a theater opening soon in Quezon City.

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