Arts and Culture

New faces lead Ballet Manila’s grand production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Everybody loves a good romance. Even if it’s about two starry-eyed teenagers whose tragic end became the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile their feuding families. And once again, the celebrated tale of these young lovers, whose passion is matched only by their courage, will be brought to life when Ballet Manila unveils the Asian premiere of Paul Vasterling’s Romeo and Juliet.

Critics have hailed Paul Vasterling’s adaptation of the classic tale as “enthralling” when it first debuted in 2004. Vasterling’s adept chemistry of fiery choreography and theatrical swordplay is a constant reminder that the ballet’s entire narrative hangs in a tenuous balance between powerful love and powerful conflict.

While set in Shakespeare’s time using Prokofiev’s timeless composition, Vasterling admits that his take on Romeo and Juliet also reflects modern influences from West Side Story and Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 cinematic masterpiece, describing the three-act piece as “the perfect story ballet for those who don’t usually go to the ballet.”

Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde is delighted that Vasterling entrusted one of his favorite choreographies to her company for its Asian debut and reveals that their long-time collaboration had been marked with many happy coincidences.







“We first worked with him in 2000 when BM staged his one-act ballet Dracula featuring our then-soloist Christopher Mohnani who later joined Nashville Ballet — where Vasterling continues to be the artistic director — and was chosen to dance the lead at Romeo and Juliet’s world premier.”  After 15 years in the US, Mohnani returned to BM as its managing director and is now helping the company artists with his first-hand knowledge of the production.

“We’re also working closely with Nashville Ballet’s ballet mistress and repetiteur Allison Zamoski who is overseeing rehearsals, as well as Vasterling himself who is in town to approve the finished product. So with the union of all these creative forces coming together, we can really assure you of an unforgettable ballet experience,” adds Lisa.

Despite its grand-scale setting and long list of characters, Romeo and Juliet’s primary appeal remain focused on the artists delineating the title roles. For this new production,  three pairs of young dancers have been selected to depict the star-crossed lovers. Of these pairings, only BM stalwart Rudy de Dios has previously danced the role of Romeo, opposite no less than prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. This time, he partners with 18-year-old Katherine Barkman who will be performing her very first full-length ballet as a professional dancer. The other pairings are comprised of debuting couples Brian Williamson and Abigail Oliveiro, and Elpidio Magat and Joan Emery Sia.

Lending her support to the fledgling ballerinas, the recently retired Lisa will appear in a very special role as Lady Capulet opposite the premier danseur Nonoy Froilan as her noble husband.

Ballet Manila’s Romeo and Juliet will also feature live music by the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Alexander Vikulov.

“It’s really a wonderful collaboration of talented, generous friends — both old and new — that makes this production a must-see,” says Macuja-Elizalde. “The universe really conspired to provide a magical encounter for us, on and offstage. And hopefully, the audience will be moved by this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Ballet Manila’s production of Paul Vasterling’s Romeo and Juliet goes onstage on Oct. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 4, 3 p.m. at the Aliw Theater.

Tickets are available via TicketWorld Manila at www.ticketworld.com.ph or at 891-9999.












  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with