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Alice in her wonderland |


Alice in her wonderland

WRY BREAD - The Philippine Star
Alice in her wonderland
Ronalson Yadao, Denise Parungao and Victor Maguad in Carmen & Other Dances.

It must feel very special to walk in the shoes of National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes nowadays. After all, how often does one usher in the 50th year of a dance company you co-founded in 1969, and worked as artistic director from its inception for 20 years (up to 1989). To find Alice Reyes back at the helm of Ballet Philippines during its 49th year, and see the fire is still there, producing sparks of dance magic, is a sight to behold.

I was one of the lucky who trooped to the CCP for the group’s second 49th year presentation, Carmen & Other Dances, and it was enthralling, entertaining, and elucidating — a night of innovative choreography that teased, amazed, and left you in smiles. In many ways, the six dance suites presented were a showcase of what Alice Reyes has come to represent throughout her career — nimbly blending classic ballet with modern dance, respecting tradition while still injecting elements that make it relevant, playful and wonderful spectator “sport.” And I purposely use the word sport, for the athletic nature of the choreography leaves one open-mouthed and grinning.

Unfortunately, the three-day run of Carmen & Other Dances is over. So you’ll just have to take my word that the three choreographers (former Ballet Philippines artistic directors Bam Damian and Denisa Reyes, and former lead dancer and associate director Alden Lugnasin) all excelled, and made the night such a delight. Whether in “pointe” or flat shoes, or in their bare feet, one was transfixed watching the soloists and the company make what was very precise and rehearsed to perfection, look effortless and at times, even free form. And without a doubt, the star on stage that night was principal soloist Denise Parungao. Her masterful interpretation of the torch song This Is My Life was my personal highlight.

Turning ballet into exciting spectator sport, National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes (center) with Issa Litton and your columnist. Alice is back at the helm of Ballet Philippines on its 49th year.

Ladies first & four-most

Three novels, four female authors (yes, four). From crime mystery, to a Georgian fable, and a multi-generational story of Filipinos and the American Dream.

Murder in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy (available on This is the one with two female authors; as Ngaio Marsh passed away in the 1980s. A celebrated crime fiction novelist of her time, she shares the “Golden Age Crime Queens” crowns with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. A New Zealander, she was noted for incorporating theater in her novels, and skillfully delineating personalities. This love for crime fiction and theater is shared with fellow Kiwi Stella Duffy; so it’s highly appropriate that Duffy co-writes this continuation novel. Set during World War II in a military hospital in New Zealand, it involves a payroll stolen from a safe, an unreliable corpse and espionage. Riveting read!

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (available on A debut novel arriving with so much universal acclaim would be hard to find. Already shortlisted on several of the major prizes of the year, it’s not hard to understand why all the thumbs up. Set in the 18th century, the novel talks of the insecurities of the mercantile class of the time, the hypocrisy of the aristocracy, the constant need for diversion and oddities — and how with Dickensian polish, we can be immersed in this world via vivid and enthralling writing. One of the central protagonists is a famous courtesan, and she’s a most memorable creation — steeped in her time, yet given texture and depth that’s almost modern at times. Be ready to be swept away!

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (available at Fully Booked) Authored by a Filipina-American, this multigenerational saga touches on family, identity, the American Dream (or Nightmare), and realistically enough, the Filipino obsession with food. Most of the action occurs in Milpitas and the Bay Area, centering on the Filipino community that resides in the vicinity. A prologue occurs in Pangasinan and Manila during the martial law years, where one of our central characters joined the NPA as an amazon, despite her coming from a landed and political family from the North. Her exile/seeking refuge in the US, and coming to grips with life there, and her own sexuality form the core of this sprawling, rich story, rife with social commentary.

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