Tag Archives: Ballet Manila

art + music by Emil Hofileña

Ballet Manila’s Snow White brings it back to the people

The second full-length choreographed production from prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde juggles a bit too much, but reaches many

Choreographed by Ballet Manila’s own artistic director and CEO Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Snow White takes inspiration from a variety of sources. With ideas from the Brothers Grimm, Jules Massenet’s opera, and the 1937 Disney film, it tells the story of a fair princess who is sought by an evil queen for her beauty.

Snow White bears many similarities to Macuja-Elizalde’s first-full-length choreographic work, last year’s Cinderella. Both productions combine classical music and dance with more modern elements, and both are primarily aimed at younger audiences and families. The result this time around is a show that easily accomplishes Ballet Manila’s mission for their 22nd season: to bring ballet back to the people. Though its efforts to become accessible to everyone occasionally spread it too thin.

Thankfully, Snow White’s production design is closer to the splendor of Ballet Manila’s Ibong Adarna than to the sparse set decoration in Swan Lake. The various locations are suitably immersive, and clever costume design come across as organic to the setting. This is particularly true for the tricky-to-get-right forest animals and the seven dwarves. The ballet’s greatest achievement, though, is the Evil Queen’s lair, made to look like one enormous, overgrown mirror.

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Macuja-Elizalde’s choreography isn’t as heavy on classical ballet as you might expect, but the routines that are there are impressive in their own ways. The Evil Queen dancing with her reflection is inventive and haunting, while Snow White’s first encounter with the Prince—the central piece of the entire show—is playful and romantic.

Where Snow White stumbles is in its integration of some of the more child-friendly elements. From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense to have the seven dwarves be clumsier and more childish, but it’s a little disappointing that their routines are far less elegant (ending their big number by collectively dabbing, no less). And while having the dwarves interact with the audience is great for kids, this ends up taking major time away from Snow White and the Evil Queen. The latter’s inevitable demise, in particular, feels hurried and anticlimactic.

But these elements are only disappointing because any time spent with Snow White (Katherine Barkman) and the Evil Queen (Abigail Oliveiro) is the best part of the show. Even beyond their dancing, both ballerinas turn in exceptional performances, crafting memorable characters with nothing but their faces. Barkman displays genuine wonder and kindheartedness, while Oliveiro’s aggressive, pointed movements contrast impressively with her eternally poised, scornful expressions. Even if the entirety of Snow White doesn’t always succeed, its many strengths—especially its two lead performers—always tip the scales in the show’s favor.

SNOW WHITE WILL BE PERFORMED AT THE ALIW THEATER IN PASAY ON DECEMBER 2 AND 3. FOR TICKETS, VISIT TICKETWORLD.COM.PH.
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Emil Hofileña
Emil is a staff writer at Rogue Media. He spends way too much time and money watching movies, crying to Hamilton, and fawning over Carly Rae Jepsen. He believes all stories are worth telling. Follow him on Youtube at youtube.com/cinemil and on Twitter at @EmilHofilena.
art + music by Emil Hofileña

Swan Lake overcomes its flaws through sheer intense choreography

Ballet Manila affirms the classic production’s status as one of the greats, even with its inherent issues

Originally conceived in the late 19th-century, Swan Lake tells the story of a prince who falls in love with a maiden cursed into the form of a swan, while an evil sorcerer attempts to deceive his way into the prince’s royal family.

Swan Lake is the kind of production that doesn’t really change over the years. This is a good thing, in that audiences today who have never seen the ballet have the opportunity to witness Lev Ivanov’s classic 1895 choreography largely untouched. But Ballet Manila’s devotion to accuracy also means that this version of Swan Lake is just as niche as it’s been for decades. Story is not Swan Lake’s strength, which means that modern dance fans might not be able to latch onto the show’s archetypal characters and overly simplistic plot—much of which is difficult to understand without research.

Visually, this restaging unfortunately doesn’t really possess the mysticism Swan Lake is known for, nor does it have the same grandeur of Ballet Manila’s Ibong Adarna. The stiff production design and projected backgrounds don’t do much to transport us into this fantasy world.

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But these things are never the reason people go to Swan Lake. It’s always been about the dancing, and in this respect, Ballet Manila delivers. The choreography is spectacular, the performers pushing themselves beyond physical limits with unwavering grace. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that Swan Lake is structured somewhat like a dance exhibition, with routines performed one after the other, non-stop. And Katherine Barkman does justice to the notoriously difficult dual role of both Odette and Odile (the gentle White Swan and the aggressive Black Swan, respectively).

However, the best reason for Swan Lake newbies to catch this revival is undoubtedly the music. Performed live by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score combines sweeping romance and pure menace into a seamless whole. It’s the beating heart that ultimately makes this version of Swan Lake as memorable as it is.

Ballet Manila took something of a risk with Swan Lake. This season, they specified that their mission is to bring people back to the ballet. The problem is, by design, Swan Lake is not an accessible production; it’s primarily for hardcore fans of classical ballet (and even some of these fans might place Ballet Manila’s restaging under intense scrutiny). Still, the privilege of even being given the opportunity to see Swan Lake live is immense. It’s one of the great ballets for a reason, and anyone even remotely interested should see it at least once.

SWAN LAKE WILL BE PERFORMED AT THE ALIW THEATER IN PASAY FROM OCTOBER 14 TO 15. PURCHASE TICKETS AT TICKETWORLD.COM.PH
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Emil Hofileña
Emil is a staff writer at Rogue Media. He spends way too much time and money watching movies, crying to Hamilton, and fawning over Carly Rae Jepsen. He believes all stories are worth telling. Follow him on Youtube at youtube.com/cinemil and on Twitter at @EmilHofilena.
art + music by Emil Hofileña

Ballet Manila’s ‘Flights of Fantasy’ presents the magic of classical dance

The company’s 22nd season wants to bring their world-renowned technique closer to the people

Flights of Fantasy, the title of Ballet Manila’s 22nd performance season, refers to more than just the dance company’s focus on fantastical stories this year. It’s a promise that the company and CEO Lisa Macuja-Elizalde are committing to, to reach for new heights not just by refining their classical technique but by creating stories with even more cross-generational, universal appeal. The 22nd season will be made up of three original ballets and one all-time classic receiving the Ballet Manila treatment.ballet-phil-1Ibong Adarna
Season opener Ibong Adarna adapts the Filipino epic tale of the search for a magical bird of healing with original choreography and music, and featuring West End actress Gia Macuja Atchison as the singing voice of the titular creature. Ballet Manila’s adaptation seeks to give the literary tale the visual spectacle it deserves. Ibong Adarna will be performed on August 26 and September 2 at 6 p.m., and on August 27 and September 3 at 3 p.m.

Swan Lake
Widely regarded as the ultimate test of skill for any ballerina, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a princess cursed into the form of a swan. Ballet Manila will be using the original Lev Ivanov choreography and will be accompanied live by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. An opportunity to finally witness one of ballet’s great works of art live, Swan Lake will be performed on October 7 and 14 at 6 p.m., and on October 8 and 15 at 3 p.m.

Snow White
Choreographed by Macuja-Elizalde herself, this original take on the German fairy tale combines elements of the original story by the Brothers Grimm with elements of the popular 1937 Disney film. As Flights of Fantasy’s holiday offering, Snow White is fast-paced enough to be enjoyed by the whole family, while still incorporating Ballet Manila’s classical technique. Snow White will be performed on November 25 and December 2 at 6 p.m., and on November 26 and December 3 at 3 p.m.

Ballet & Ballads
Closing the 22nd season is another installment of Ballet Manila’s popular Ballet & Ballads. Featuring live music from Christian Bautista and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet & Ballads presents original choreography performed to various pieces of music both classical and modern, and is Ballet Manila’s main effort in making the art form more accessible. Ballet & Ballads will be performed on February 10 and 17, 2018 at 6 p.m., and on February 11 and 18, 2018 at 3 p.m.

ALL BALLETS WILL BE PERFORMED AT THE CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES’ ALIW THEATER. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE AT TICKETWORLD.COM.PH.
hofilena_author-box
Emil Hofileña
Emil is a staff writer at Rogue Media. He spends way too much time and money watching movies, crying to Hamilton, and fawning over Carly Rae Jepsen. He believes all stories are worth telling. Follow him on Youtube at youtube.com/cinemil and on Twitter at @EmilHofilena.