Brightly shone the STARS!
SUNDRY STROKES (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2013 - 12:00am

In a street scene in “Maynila,” scholars of Project Ballet Futures scurried about and did the simplest steps with charming precision and discipline — as hawkers, an ice cream vendor and a jeepney came and went — providing an amusing “aperitif” to “Stars of Philippine Ballet” at Aliw Theater.

For what followed, Ballet Manila’s artistic director-prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde should be highly commended, with lead dancers of foreign companies generating a semblance of competition which served as inspiration and impetus to the audience of young dancers, particularly because many of the performers began with Ballet Manila.

The long, extensive concert consisted of widely diverse dances, the majority being standard classic pas de deux performed fascinatingly by visiting Filipino dancers, many of them international awardees: a pas de deux from Faust choreographed by David Campos, adroitly danced by Aileen Galinera and Eduardo Espejo; “Spring and Fall” choreographed by John Neumeier and interpreted by Japanese Mayo Arii and Marcelino Lubao; the Neo-Filipino “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” choreographed by Alden Lugnasin; Agrippina Vaganova’s“Diane et Acteon,” both rendered by international awardees Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero; “Le Corsaire” brilliantly executed by Regina Magbitang and Jared Tan; “Mascara de la Muerte Roja” (Mask of the Red Death) choreographed by David Campos and performed by Galinera and Espejo; “Nocturnes” choreographed by John Neumeier, danced by Arii and Lubao, the latter two numbers fusing modern dance with ballet.

In Augustus Damian’s M.A.Z.N., the energy, vibrance and spirit of Joan Emery Sia and Alfren Salgado brought the choreography to life.

The foregoing series abounded with technical feats — multiple pirouettes, double fouettés rapid entrechats, ethereal lifts, lofty jumps and soft landings, fish dives, etc.

One pas de deux ended with the danseur crouched on all fours with his partner seated on his back. Several numbers concluded with a ballerina breathtakingly held aloft by a swarm of danseurs.

The dancing in general demonstrated remarkable skill and eloquent artistry acquired through long years of training and performances here and, specially, abroad.

In bikinis, Bianca Trocino, Joanna Galeste and Lobreza Pimentel presented a vivid and provocative contrast to the classic idiom in Ray Jaynario’s “The Women,” the trio’s staccato unity alternating with varying individual steps. In his own fantastic choreography “Where Is My Mind?” Jared Tan was an expansive, “explosive” soloist exploring the widest vocabulary with flair and panache.

As interpreted by Joffrey Ballet’s Christine Rocas and Mauro Villanueva, “Reflections,” choreographed by Gerald Arpino, was an exquisitely lyrical, flowing, limpid pas de deux. It conveyed beautiful lines created by arms and limbs in the closest, most graceful partnership. The dancers’ body language and spirit were as one in an amazingly distinctive, memorable manner.

As lyrical as Rocas and Villanueva were in “Reflections,” they were intensely dramatic in “Bells” choreographed by Yuri Passokhov and inspired by W.H. Auden’s line, “Each lover has a theory of his own about the difference between the ache of being with one’s love and being alone,” its interpretation onstage strongly suggesting that Villanueva and Rocas were born for the sole purpose of dancing together!

In “Who Cares?” magnificently choreographed by the legendary Balanchine to Gershwin’s music, Jennifer Drake and Brian Williamson of Dance Theatre of Tennessee captured, through compellingly brisk, virile, exuberant dancing, the “git up and go” carefree attitude so thoroughly American in the “jazzified” classic. In “Points of Interest” created by Darrell Grand Moultrie, with artistic director Christopher Mohnani, the pair masterfully and arrestingly “integrated the multiple styles and cross pollinated genres, embracing diversity and pushing boundaries.” Perhaps it was not very judicious having four local ballerinas later joining Drake and Williamson, the four looking like tiny tots dancing with towering parents.

Doubtless not to be overlooked was Petipa’s “Pas D’Action” featuring Lisa partnered by the remarkably assured Rudy de Dios. Lisa glowingly expressed both lyrical and dramatic qualities. She was a diamond in the crown of La Bayadere’s divertissement. The duet was enhanced by willowy ballerinas Sofia S. Peralta, Tiffany Chiang, Jan E. Basilio, Joan Emery Sia, virile danseurs Romeo Peralta and Glenn Ragel. In Damian’s “Widmung,” Lisa was again the utterly captivating ballerina who, possessing acute musicianship, moved daintily and delicately while engrossing audience attention with De Dios’ unwavering support.

“Aramica”, the finale by Damian, had the vigorous, jolting, pounding by the all-male ensemble, led by Gerardo Francisco, matching the thunderous percussive music of Khatchaturian. Attired in elegant, flowing, glittering light green shirts and black pants, the swirling, criss-crossing, jumping, running, leaping danseurs in the swiftest tempo created a tremendous impact.

Before the curtains closed, the huge cast led by Lisa took unending bows amidst lusty applause and deafening acclaim. Indeed, the STARS had shone — how brightly!


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