Ballet Manila’s concert: A visual, auditory feast

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

In “Heart two Heart Ballet and Ballads,” with Ballet Manila’s artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde as special participant, dancers interpreted imaginative, innovative choreographies while the seasoned, sensational West End  Mamas and Papas rendered Broadway hits and, to the great pleasure and amusement of the audience at Aliw Theater, a few songs in Pilipino.

The dances ranged from classic to neo-classic, to modern influenced by ballet, to contemporary enlivened by acrobatics. Riveting was the word to describe all the dances executed by toddlers and adults, owing to their unflagging precision and cohesion.

The opening number “I Have a Dream” with singer Gia Macuja Atchinson, violinist Richard Atchinson and young dance scholars, was enhanced by a brief climactic appearance of Lisa, floating, gliding and twirling with élan across the stage.

The other Mamas and Papas — Cez and Nick Bonner, Maya and Gerard Duffy — aroused attention while dancers energetically performed in Osias Barroso’s “Doo Bi Doo,” their verve similarly characterizing all other ensemble numbers.

Missy Macuja Elizalde was sheer delight in Harliquinade, moving with delicacy and spritely charm, her Pierrot, Alvin Santos, doing lofty leaps and controlled multiple turns. How enchanting were their solo variations! These to the choreography of Feya Balbini after A. Vagonova, and the music of Rodrigo. Presumably, as Missy steadily reaches her apex, she will in time match her mother’s dexterity and artistry.

Erika Basilio did not quite equal Liza’s poignancy and ethereal grace as the dying heroine in the repetition of  Augustus Damian III’s “The Last Poem.” However, her emotive portrayal was movingly eloquent. Poetic licence gave her the credible energy to rise from her sick bed, and dance before breathing her last, with her partner Romeo Peralta giving her remarkably strong support.

Exploiting modern dance vocabulary to the limit, Gerardo  Francisco’s “Corvus”, to the music of Hans Zimmer, was interpreted with electrifying vigor by Rudy de Dios, Roduardo Ma and Elmo Dictado. Their feat was duplicated by 22 danseurs, led by Gerardo Francisco, in Damian’s “Aramica” to Khatchaturian’s propulsive, percussive music. Inspite of  deceptively long,  flowing gowns disguising their manly attire, how amazingly they conveyed unremitting vibrancy, vitality, vigor and, above all, virility!

“Jammin’”, choreographed by Lisa, was as spontaneously executed as the title enjoined to the accompaniment of violinist Richard Atchison and wind instrumentalist Manuel Cesar Macuja playing Sen Shanty’s music. In fetching, vari-colored tutus, some 20 ballerinas gracefully and enchantingly kept forming symmetrical and circular patterns with fleet-footed agility.

The exceptionally pliant Joan Emery Sia demonstrated fantastic extensions in Damian’s M.A.Z.N., to music by Von Magnet, while also engaging in astonishing lifts with denseur Alfren Salgado. Sofia Sangco Peralta and Naomi Jaena were totally arresting in Ernest Mandap's “Lune” with its consistently jerky, nervous hand-and-leg movements, its deliberately awkward stances.

“Shutter”, as choreographed by Francisco Jaena, Jr. with Dawna Mangahas and Elpidio Magat as lead dancers, had again a vividly spirited ensemble moving in complete togetherness through the sweep  and intensity of the dance.

Consistently arresting audience interest, the magnetic West End Mamas and Papas, with microphone in hand, belted out singly, or in pairs, or in threes or all together, numbers in Frozen, Starlight Express, Les Miserables or OPM Medley.

After The Three Mamas, in glittering dark violet gowns, rendered “I’m a Woman” by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, how the crowd “roared” its appreciation!

Whenever the West End singers and the dancers performed together, one wondered at the wisdom of dividing audience attention as it listened to the singers in one moment and watched the dancers in the next. Yet in the finale, the OPM Medley, with Lisa dancing as the company’s incomparable prima ballerina and star of the show, and the West End Mamas and Papas performing jointly with the Ballet Manila ensemble, they produced a tremendous impact, their auditory-visual feast dazzling both ear and eye.

Before the curtains closed, sparkling confetti deservedly rained on the entire cast amidst tumultuous applause.


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