Founder, artistic director, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja Elizalde emphasized, prior to the gala concert at Aliw Theater, that: 1) Ballet Manila has maintained the highest standards of classic ballet, 2) that many of its dancers have performed on the international stage, 3) that it has presented Filipino works to native music, 4) that it has brought ballet to the people, and the people to ballet.
Flanking Lisa were co-artistic director Osias Barroso and managing director Christopher Mohnani who earlier gave welcome remarks.
Divertissements from “Paquita” were performed by Abigail Olivero and Brian Williamson, Dawna Mangahas an Elpidio Magat, and an ensemble of ballerinas, all charming the audience with the company’s usual precision, cohesion, unity, grace and technical skill to Petipa’s choreography and music by Minkus.
A contemporary version of “Romeo and Juliet” by K. Pastor to Prokofiev’s music featured engaging Joffrey Ballet guest artists Christine Rocas (former Ballet Manila dancer) and Rory Hohenstein.
With smooth dexterity, both eloquently delineated the tragedy of young love.
Mind-blowing robustness of spirit, virility, vibrancy in overwhelmingly swift tempo characterized the rendition of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Bloom” which was expressly choreographed for Ballet Manila. Fifteen bare-chested danseurs in bustling military togetherness sent the pulses beating as the stage throbbed with their tremendously energized movement.
Depicting a drastic contrast to masculinity, daintily costumed ballerinas Dawna Mangahas and Abigail Oliveiro, partnered by Mark Sumaylo and Brian Williamson, respectively, danced a series of pas de deux, joined by Tiffany Chang, Naomi Jaena, Joan Emery Sia and Jessa Balote (she of the remarkable extensions), partnered by Gerardo Francisco, Michael Divinagracia, Romeo Peralta and Rudy de Dios. A row of blinding bulbs descended, half-way down the stage, later disappearing—indeed a novel scenic décor.
Gerardo Francisco’s “Taralet’s” matched the ardor, the vivid, astounding exuberance of “Bloom.” Unlike the male predominance of “Bloom,” it had as many ballerinas as danseurs prancing, twirling, running or jumping hither and thither as though making a desperate dash for the finish line. What extraordinary dynamism the number exuded!
“After the Rain” by Christopher Wheeldon again featured Rocas and Hohenstein, here manifesting remarkable pliancy and control in a modern, sensuous dance.
With two barres to indicate ballet exercises, Osias Barroso, with originality and creativity, turned these into a choreographic masterpiece. The simplest steps developed into more complex ones, the tendus, jetes, ronde de jambes, plies, arabesques, lifts employed with buoyant invention. To the ballet studio were later added curtains and ornate décor to show that the lessons had turned into an admirably real, riveting, professional engagement.
The stage slowly and consistently began to fill with more and more dancers, offering unmatched mammoth appeal. Sparklers descended in torrents amidst clangorous applause.
Throughout the excellent, brilliant concert, one sorely missed the dancing of Lisa—her distinctive combination of the dramatic and lyrical expressed with fluid grace and technical mastery. The void she has left may not be quickly filled. Fortunately, Ballet Manila moves on under her lofty inspiration and guidance.