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American ballerina ‘honored’ to return to the Philippines for Ballet Manila’s ‘Don Quixote’ |

Arts and Culture

American ballerina ‘honored’ to return to the Philippines for Ballet Manila’s ‘Don Quixote’

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo -
American ballerina âhonoredâ to return to the Philippines for Ballet Manilaâs âDon Quixoteâ
Katherine Barkman (left, onscreen) will play Kitri in “Don Quixote.” With her at Ballet Manila's recent press conference was CEO and Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde (right, onscreen) and British choreographer Martin Lawrance and principal dancers Joshua Enciso and Pearl Dames of “Romeo and Juliet” (onstage). / Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

MANILA, Philippines — Leading Filipino dance company Ballet Manila has rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic with a successful run of British choreographer Martin Lawrance’s iteration of “Romeo and Juliet” last month.

Continuing the dance company’s 25th season and 27th anniversary is “Don Quixote,” which will see the homecoming of Katherine Barkman as she plays Kitri. 

Currently a soloist at the San Francisco Ballet, Barkman was mentored by Ballet Manila Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde from 2015 to 2018 to become a principal dancer at Ballet Manila before moving back to her home country, the United States, in 2018.

Back in the Philippines for “Don Quixote,” Katherine will dance alongside Esteban Hernandez, a principal danseur at San Francisco Ballet, who will play Basilio. The shows will be on May 27 at 8 p.m. and May 28 at 5 p.m.

At a recent media conference, Bartman shared that she is “so honored” when Lisa sent her a message for an opportunity to do a full ballet.

“I was just thrilled! I mean, my first reaction was, this is so exciting!” she said in a video call.

“My first full ‘Don Quixote’ was with Ballet Manila,” she enthused. “It’s just so exciting to return to Manila and to a company that I feel like kind of set my career in motion. Ballet Manila is where I started and it always feel like coming home.”

According to her, she was about 19 years old when she first joined Ballet Manila. Katherine’s last performance in the Philippines before she returned to the US was 2019’s “Tuloy Ang Sayawan” ballet concert.

Since her first Kitri with Ballet Manila, Katherine has done a lot of other variations, which enables her to give the new full-length “Don Quixote” “a more authentic and natural approach to the character.” 

Since she has become more comfortable and confident onstage and more trusting to the company, she believes for this year’s “Don Quixote,” she will be “less focused on the steps and more on how I naturally interact with the people onstage.” 

She envisioned her upcoming performance to be “more fiery and fun,” because after all, “What’s dancing if it’s not fun?”

“My ballet teacher in Russia said, ‘A ballet company gets strong, company dancers get strong with putting up classic ballet’,” Lisa explained on why they decided to include “Don Quixote” in the season’s lineup.

“Honestly, the easiest classical ballet to perform if you don’t have that yet many dancers is ‘Don Quixote.’ You really can’t do ‘Gisele’ if you still don’t have 32 girls. And I hope that I’d have 32 girls in the company at this time,” she said on why they did not pick other classics like “Sleeping Beauty.”

Finally, the 25th performance season will close with an original Filipino work, “Ibong Adarna” by Gerardo Francisco, for which he received multiple accolades including Gawad Buhay awards for Outstanding Male Lead for Modern Dance, Outstanding Modern Dance Production, and Outstanding Choreography for Modern Dance, among others. “Ibong Adarna” goes on stage in August 19, 8 p.m. and August 21 at 5 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit

RELATED: ‘Parang panaginip’: Filipino ballet dancers back onstage, invite audiences to return to live theater

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