View From The Wings – 4

View From The Wings – 4
GALA NIGHT NIGHTMARE: DANCERS, MUSICIANS WADE THROUGH FLOOD WATERS

by Pablo A. Tariman

Photos by Victor Gamosa Ursabia

The weekend run of one of the world’s favorite ballets –Giselle — opened Friday last week with another monstrous flood that hit Metro Manila at the height of Typhoon Mario.

Stella Abrera in Giselle Act I

Stella Abrera in Giselle Act I

“I am used to bad weather but this horrendous monsoon rain was the worst to hit a ballet opening night,” said ballet teacher Perry Sevidal who has shared the stage with several Giselles from Natalia Makarova, Yoko Morishita and Maniya Barredo, among others.

Sevidal’s Makati dance studio was also hit by monsoon flood but it didn’t stop her from going to the CCP with her students. “Dance is our passion and I know the feeling when after weeks of rehearsal, a flood threatens to cancel the whole thing. I braved the rains to give support to our dancers.”

When the rains didn’t stop on the big night, Ballet Philippines president Margie Moran Floirendo advised balletomanes on facebook: “We are pushing through with Giselle as scheduled. James Whiteside (who is Albrecht in the ballet) leaves for New York tomorrow morning due to an earlier commitment. It will be a pity not to watch them. However, some PPO members are stranded so we can’t have a live orchestra tonight. Come in any attire. Wear your boots if you have to wade in the floods. We have worked so hard to put this together.”

Balletomane Liliane Manahan replied: “If I could walk the flooded streets of Venice to get to the gala of Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, I can do the same for Giselle.”

 Stella Abrera as  in the graveyard scene of  Giselle Act 2

Stella Abrera as in the graveyard scene of Giselle Act 2

As if by miracle, the entire orchestra section of the CCP was full on opening night and the Giselle of Stella Abrera and Albrecht won high accolades from Manila’s balletomanes.

“It was another interpretation and to me it was very special,” added Sevidal. “The mad scene was brilliantly underplayed and in Act II, she was indeed ethereal. The interpretation was very much her own and Whiteside gave utmost support. This is another landmark Giselle at the CCP.”

Ballet Philippines marketing director Chona Reyes agreed Abrera’s Giselle was “magical” even as she witnessed the unthinkable: some dancers and a few orchestra members wading through flood waters to make it to the CCP and ticket buyers frantically calling they couldn’t leave their homes because of the horrendous flood.

Said Reyes: “I think God was on our side. If not because of the flood, we knew we would have a full house because tickets were nearly sold out.But sometimes no matter how much we plan, unexpected things can happen. And for that day, it seemed everything was going all wrong. The rains didn’t stop. We had to cancel the afternoon show but we had to go on with the gala night. Some two hours before the show, lights went out and we heard the brown-out in the entire Pasay City. But electric power was restored just in time. A gala night with all the preparations intact was never like this with dancers braving the floods to make the gala night happen.”

Katherine Trofeo and Jean Marc Cordero in Giselle

Katherine Trofeo and Jean Marc Cordero in Giselle

In contrast, the Giselle of Katherine Trofeo and the Albrecht of Jean Marc Cordero happened on a sunny Sunday matinee when Metro Manila has started to recover from the heavy rains.

There were many things going for this Giselle which was the last weekend performance.

The Albrecht of Cordero was a big revelation in his solo numbers and in his partnership with Trofeo. The acting was natural and indeed he has evolved into a young noble man worthy of his Giselle. His frantic dancing with the wilis elicited applause, his helplessness looked real and in the finale, audience had very real and compelling reason to cheer for him

Trofeo’s Giselle was infinitely her own and her interpretation tugged at the heart. Her face pretty much mirrored an impending tragedy in the first act and she was light and willowy in the second act. Her Giselle was in the heart and was consistently precise and steady. She is one Giselle dance lovers can very well be proud of.

The corps de ballet was a highly inspired ensemble with remarkable improvements in acting and dancing. They connected very well with the lead soloists and in the ensemble parts, they shone on their own.

The dazzling corps de ballet of Ballet Philippines in Giselle.

The dazzling corps de ballet of Ballet Philippines in Giselle.

In Act II, the ensemble line dazzled and the formations had nearly uniform, if, magical effect. If only for that precision of movements, we thought the excellent ensemble didn’t get the lighting they deserve. In the last act, we thought it was a bit too dark with no hint of subtle contrast to make the corps stand out in the cemetery scene. It became disconcerting with the entrance of Albrecht who could hardly be seen.

But on the whole, Nonoy Froilan did a competent job of re-staging it. One agrees with him when he noted that there was tremendous improvement in the rest of the dancers as they worked on a higher technical level compared to last year’s Giselle.

(The Blue Moon Gala resumes at the CCP main theater on September 26 and 27 with a special Homecoming Gala on September 28. Call the CCP at 8321125 or 8323704 for tickets)

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