The red moon rises again: Fundacion Centro Flamenco dancers will perform the full-length flamenco ballet La Luna Roja at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, on Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 26 at 3 p.m.

‘La Luna Roja,’ the first full-length flamenco ballet in the Philippines
Therese Jamora-Garceau (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Two years ago I was part of something very special. I’d been studying flamenco for five years at Fundacion Centro Flamenco Philippines, and, as with any dance school, we had a recital every year to showcase our newly acquired skills and dances.

But 2015 was different. My teacher, Centro’s artistic directress Emma Estrada, inspired by ballets like Swan Lake and fairytales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, had a story brewing in her head about star-crossed lovers, a village put under a curse by an evil sorceress, and an act of true love that could break that curse.

She decided to tell this story through dance, and choreographed a 30-minute flamenco ballet performed by her advanced students she called “La Luna Roja (The Red Moon).”

“When we staged La Luna Roja the first time it was part of our recital,” Estrada says. “Since it was part of a larger show we were only able to perform a fraction of the play. Despite the limited staging, however, the response we received was staggering! The audience loved what they saw and people kept asking when we were going to stage the full play. I saw how much people wanted to see a flamenco ballet.”

And so, for the past two years Estrada has worked on turning La Luna Roja into a full-length production, fleshing out the initial story and choreographing more dances to bring it to life.

“In the spirit of the more traditional ballet, I wanted our first flamenco ballet to have a fairytale feel,” she says. “It would be a story filled with magic and a touch of mystery associated with flamenco. I felt that none of the stories used for ballet resonated with flamenco — the prince always came on a white horse and everyone lived happily ever after. This was not flamenco the way I know it. Flamenco was born from the gypsies that were themselves reviled as villains. Flamenco speaks about real struggles and real suffering. In this flamenco fairytale, evil is not always evil, beautiful is not always good, and not everyone lives happily ever after.”

To direct La Luna Roja she enlisted Leo Rialp, the award-winning actor and director known for Hiblang Abo and Princess and I. Not only was he a friend, he had also directed Centro Flamenco’s recitals for over a decade, including La Luna Roja version one.

“The first one was a bit raw; the ideas weren’t fully realized,” Rialp observes. “Flamenco does not easily lend itself to storytelling because it’s very emotional, very passionate.  But when you put a story in, it has to be a story that reflects that passionate state of mind. It’s not like classical ballet; it stands apart. Compared to flamenco, ballet is more intellectual, more concerned with form. But flamenco is more raw, more passionate, there’s more emotion. Emma said, ‘Flamenco is more felt than seen,’ so we’re finding a new way of expressing this. It’s breaking ground.”

Estrada also enlisted Javier Martos, a dancer and part of the faculty of Granada flamenco school Carmen de las Cuevas, to play one of the male leads.

“Javier comes from Granada, the birthplace of the gypsies and the place I’d imagined when I wrote La Luna Roja,” Estrada says. “Aside from Javier being a romantic and unique dancer in his own right, I knew he would bring the fire and authenticity that La Luna Roja needed, playing the role of Jamil.  Having studied under Javier I have come to admire his style and approach to the dance and I wanted the audience in the Philippines to experience this.”

Martos, who visited Manila last May to hold intermediate- and advanced-level workshops for Centro Flamenco students, contributed additional choreography and is bringing his own trio of musicians from Spain to provide live music for La Luna Roja: singer Sergio “El Colorao” Gomez, guitarist Ruben Campos and percussionist Jose “El Indio” Cortes.

“Javier believes, like I do, that ballets like La Luna Roja will allow Filipinos to experience the flamenco as it truly is: a sensual, fierce, fresh and captivating form of dance,” Estrada says.  “He understands my ultimate goal is to lift my students to the level of the flamenco dancers in Spain, and for that to happen it is essential that my students work with flamenco professionals from Spain.  It gives them something to aspire to and when they compare their progress they know they’re comparing themselves with the world’s best.”

It’s a tall order but, now that we’re in the thick of rehearsals, everything’s coming together like a jigsaw falling into place. It’s scary but exhilarating to know that my fellow dancers and I are part of something larger than ourselves; not only is it the obra maestra of “Teacher Emma,” as we fondly call her, but also a milestone for flamenco in the Philippines: the first full-length, original flamenco ballet.

“After the first La Luna, I decided to give the foundation, my students and myself a little more time to grow and improve,” Estrada says. “Then finally, this year, I felt we were ready to bring La Luna to the audience.”





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La Luna Roja, presented by Fundacion Centro Flamenco in partnership with Frey-Fil Corporation, Turkish Airlines, MAC Cosmetics and Somerset Olympia Makati, will show on Nov. 25, Saturday, at 8 p.m.; and Nov. 26, Sunday, at 3 p.m. at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave., Makati City. Tickets are available through Ticketworld, and 891-9999.

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