THE explosive sounds emanating from the ABS-CBN Philharmonic under Maestro Gerard Salonga conducting Aram Khatchturian’s “Spartacus” sent the pulses beating way before Ballet Manila’s riveting performance of Martin Lawrance’s choreographic masterpiece “Rebel.”
With its staging coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, the ballet—inspired by the story of the gladiator Spartacus who leads a legion of slaves to revolt against their masters—opens with dictator Ferdinand Marcos (Gerardo Francisco) majestically seated on a throne, his wife Imelda (Tiffany Chiang) standing concernedly beside him. The throne, on top of the stairs nearly reaching the ceiling, leads the audience to hold its breath. Why? A misstep can cause either husband or wife, or any of the revelers, hurtling way down amidst the merry-making, creating a mishap.
Marcos descends then engages audience attention in an arresting, compelling, strikingly propulsive dance fit for a dictator, while Imelda moves gracefully nearby. Soon, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino (Rudy de Dios) and his wife Cory (Katherine Barkman) appear conspicuously, as do Inang Bayan—a role especially created for prima ballerina Lisa Macuja—Juan de la Cruz, Benigno’s best friend (Michael Divinagracia) and Jose, another friend (Romeo Peralta).
How the ageless Lisa enthralls, her miming eloquently expressive, her technique prodigiously skilled! What emotions she stokes as the grieving, agonizing mother who rallies her children to fight the Martial Law regime’s tyranny and oppression! Tension is heightened by the perfunctory imprisonment and eventual martyrdom of Ninoy, mercilessly shot by loyalists upon orders of political extremists.
As the story progresses, Marcos’ health starts to fail, and as it continues to deteriorate, Iron Lady Imelda takes over the reigns of government.
Soloists and ensembles, both male and female, demonstrate admirable technique—the danseurs’ exciting leaps, the swiftest, multiple twirls and the spectacular lifts in the pas de deux sequences abounding.
The various aspects of production receive meticulous attention. For instance, the costumes Jeffrey Rogador creates for Inang Bayan and her soul mate reflect love of country, imaginatively bearing as they do, the design and colors of the Philippine flag.
The vivid, frenzied recreation of the EDSA People Power Revolution, through breath-taking skirmishes between loyalists led by Marcos, and the rebels led by Aquino, the riotous, turbulent, chaotic scenes are a striking contrast to the final episode showing a mammoth throng filling every inch of the stage while singing “Bayan Ko” with stirring emotion.
Earlier, in peaceful silence, its raging anger at the flagrant abuse of power magnificently suppressed and controlled, the unique People Power Revolution inspires not only a nation but also the whole world.
The audience, standing in awe and admiration, bursts into prolonged, lusty, thunderous applause. Significantly “Rebel” keeps the spirit of EDSA alive, to quote the words of Lisa in the printed program, while in her poignant role as Inang Bayan, she implores the multitude not to falter in their fight for freedom and justice.