Arts and Culture

Ballet Manila goes ‘Heart 2 Heart’

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Who doesn’t like a love story? Whether it is told through dance, song or music, there are many tales of romance to swoon to in Ballet Manila’s Heart 2 Heart. The latest edition in its popular Ballet & Ballads series, the post-Valentine show goes onstage starting February 21, 7:30 p.m., at Aliw Theater.

Aptly enough, the show features as special guest the London-based West End Mamas and Papas which is composed of three real-life couples. After making their debut in last year’s Ballet & Ballads, for which they won an Aliw Award as Best New Artist, the West End Mamas this time brings with them the “West End Papas.”

Musical theater artists Gia Macuja-Atchison, Cez Campos-Bonner and Maya Barredo-Duffy are joined by their respective husbands — violinist/ conductor Robert Atchison, and singer/actors Nick Bonner and Gerard Duffy. All six are seasoned performers whose careers boast various engagements in London’s famed theater row.

Prima ballerina and Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde has a special participation in Heart 2 Heart, as she dances with principal danseur Rudy De Dios in The Last Poem. The choreography by Augustus “Bam” Damian III tells the sweet but sad story of a man and his dying beloved.

As with previous installments of Ballet & Ballads, the Heart 2 Heart repertoire which brims with many other inspiring numbers has been put together with great care. Ballet, naturally, is at the core of the program, with new choreography as the priority.

“New ballets choreographed specifically on the present dancers of the company makes the season exciting. The creation of a piece is a process that all dancers look forward to and learn so much from,” Macuja-Elizalde shares.

Heart 2 Heart showcases the premiere of three choreographies. These are: Ernest Mandap’s Lune, a short, witty take on the 1920s era of the Charleston dance and the two-step; Francis Jaena’s Shutter, characterized by jazz-like movements; and Gerardo Francisco’s Corvus, which combines fast movements akin to those of the crow after which the ballet is named.

Together with artistic associate Osias Barroso, Macuja-Elizalde also looks at the company’s existing repertoire and chooses ballets deemed worthy of another showing. They make sure there is a diverse mix of Filipino, neo-classical and classical ballets.

Two pieces by Augustus “Bam” Damian III,  the all-male Aramica and the edgy pas de deux MAZN, which have both become favorites among Ballet Manila audiences will be presented anew.

Ballet & Ballads is a venue for performance opportunities for dancers who are being highlighted in forthcoming big classical productions. “For example, when we were set to do La Bayadere last November, the main pas de deux of Nikiya, Gamzatti and Solor were a regular part of the repertoire for Ballet & Ballads which was staged a few months before,” Macuja-Elizalde explains.

For Barroso, one of the highlights in Heart 2 Heart is the Harlequinade pas de deux. This was Macuja-Elizalde’s graduation piece at the Vaganova Academy in Russia in 1984 which she danced again when she was invited to the school’s 250th anniversary celebration.

“This time, Harlequinade will be performed by our new generation of ballerinas and danseurs who have done well in competitions abroad,” Barroso points out. Missy Macuja Elizalde, 2012 and 2013 Asian Grand Prix (AGP) finalist, is partnered by Alvin Santos, the first male danseur who became a finalist in an international ballet competition in 2003.  Rissa Mae Camaclang, who won the silver medal for the Junior B division in last year’s AGP, is paired with AGP semi-finalist Sergio Capa. Jessa Balote, who landed in 5th place also in the 2013 AGP, is partnered by Elmoe Dictado, a 2012 AGP finalist.

Medleys abound in Heart 2 Heart. While some will be sung solely, there will be instances where the singers will be joined by dancers. There will be hit numbers from well-known musicals like Les Miserables and Starlight Express, as well as of OPM tunes that Filipino audiences know by heart. Living up to its title Jammin’, one number is a jamming session that brings together a violinist, a surprise guest trumpet player and 16 ballerinas on pointe.

Launched in 1998, Ballet & Ballads was the brainchild of Manila Broadcasting Company chairman Fred J. Elizalde, Macuja-Elizalde’s husband. Echoing the mission of Ballet Manila to bring ballet to the people, he thought of combining the resources of MBC and Ballet Manila to help popularize ballet by bringing it all over the country.

The series has been presented in major venues in Metro Manila and has been taken on tour to key areas in the provinces such as Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Dagupan, Baguio, Davao, General Santos, Naga, Legazpi City, La Union and Cagayan De Oro. Previous editions of the series have featured pop stars like Ariel Rivera, Janno Gibbs, Jaya, Nyoy Volante, Lani Misalucha, Toni Gonzaga, Kyla and bands such as Freestyle and Side A.

Macuja-Elizalde says Ballet & Ballads has a broad appeal which explains its longevity. “The format makes going to the ballet a lot of fun as it has the musical appeal of a concert and the visual delight of the ballet!”

Heart 2 Heart: Ballet & Ballads is Ballet Manila’s 18th performance season-ender. It will have its gala on Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., at the Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City. Other performances are set on Feb. 22 and 23, March 1 and 2. It is presented by Ballet Manila, Aliw Theater, Star City and Manila Broadcasting Company, with ACS Manufacturing (Shield Bath Soap), First United Travel Inc. and SEAir as major sponsors, and is supported by Ralph’s Wines and Spirits, Island Rose and Ticketworld. For tickets to the Feb. 21 and March 1 shows, contact Ticketworld at 891-9999 or ticketworld.com.ph. For inquiries, call Ballet Manila at 525-5967 or 400-0292 or visit www.balletmanila.com.ph.











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