View From The Wings – 6

by Pablo A. Tariman

It is probably a good idea to mix popular grand pas with new works.

Lisa Macuja Elizalde in David Campos' "For Lisa." A choreographic  look into her soul.

Lisa Macuja Elizalde in David Campos’ “For Lisa.” A choreographic look into her soul.

Indeed, contemporary works need focus not just from the dancers but from the audiences as well. If the subject dwells on the philosophical and the existential, the more you need more receptive mindset. You trust your instinct and basic intelligence and hopefully, you get the message without much help from the program notes.

But in the world of dance, the signposts are the dancers’ bodies and the language they create you interpret through the action happening on stage. A reviewer can’t afford to blink because one might overlook the action (big and small) that connects the ideas.

In Ballet Manila’s “Two” staged last weekend, the show-stoppers (Black Swan Grand Pas and Don Q) shook Aliw Theater and it was as well that they did. They provided sharp contrast to Jonathan Watkins’ “Present Process” and Martin Lawrance’s “Misfit or Maverick.”

Scene from Tony Fabella's "Dancing To Verdi." Opening number set the tone for the evening.

Scene from Tony Fabella’s “Dancing To Verdi.” Opening number set the tone for the evening.

Tony Fabella’s “Dancing To Verdi” (re-staged by Osias Barroso) opened the program and it set the tone for the evening. The intoxicating music of Verdi was a formidable challenge to both soloists and the ensemble. The music as it were conveyed high drama and the ensemble showed it all in between turns and change of mood.

This is one’s first viewing of Eugene Panfilov’s “Figlar” to the music of Stimmhorn. As interpreted by Kremlin Ballet’s Martynyuk, the one-man ballet evoked various moods, at once strange, funny, serious and mad. But what made it magical and riveting were the quick transitions and brisk body movements that took the breath away. Every turn and jump and facial profile conveyed layers of nuances and all throughout the ballet, one saw the image of the great mime Marcel Marceau.

No doubt a brilliant choreographer who has defied dance conventions and made parody a work of art, Panfilov passed away in 2002 in a senseless death that could very well be the subject of his work.

That you can use classical technique in the service of modern dance was very much evident in “Figlar” with the stunning versatility of Martynyuk. One has never seen an audience root and cheer no end for a one-man contemporary dance.

While “Figlar” dazzled, David Campos’ “For Lisa” was a clear picture of a ballerina in reflective transition. It is a subtle and highly-nuanced piece calling for the same imagination from its interpreter. To the apt music of Yoav Goren and enhanced by the costume design of Irene Sabas, Elizalde showed off her inner soul in this simple but revealing piece.

It was obvious from the grand pas numbers that Ballet Manila was showing off its young and highly promising soloists. For what they are at the moment, they are works in progress but the promise is astounding.

Such was one’s impression of Violet Hong and Elpidio Magat in Black Swan Grand Adagio with the duo showing off steely technique and subtle acting at their most exciting best.

Partnered with Martynyuk in Don Q, junior principal dancer Dawna Mangahas packed energy from her solo parts to the grand pas with the Russian danseur who must have given her lots of confidence. It was easy to see his full support and how he made something spontaneous out of uneasy turns.

Dancers and choreographers of Ballet Manila's "Two." The show-stoppers provided sharp contrast to new revealing works.

Dancers and choreographers of Ballet Manila’s “Two.” The show-stoppers provided sharp contrast to new revealing works.

No doubt about it, the solo numbers of Martynyuk had body temperature and pulse-beat rising. His turns were mind-boggling and his elevation simply jaw-dropping. But the way he ended cool and unperturbed make it all arresting. The pandemonium in the theater was hair-raising.

Watkins’ “Present Process” was a respite from the spectacular and it allowed dance audiences to reflect on scenes from their present and past lives.

The meditative part was set to the music of Olafur Arnalds with first and last movements from Beethoven’s C major Sonata providing lively but stern contrasts. Clearly, this is tough choreography to pull off and Beethoven’s music indeed exacted equally tough interpretative skills on the dancers. Here you see ensemble work at its most challenging and Ballet Manila gave it everything it had. The result was exhilarating and highly revealing of how choreographers can go deeper in our mortal lives.

Lawrance’s “Misfit or Maverick” required total concentration set as it was to the avant-garde music of Alexander Mosolov’s String Quartet. The music is quietly, if, almost atonal, and it allows the imagination to figure out the conventional and the unconventional and the misfit in all of us.

Again, BM put its best foot forward in this highly challenging ballet and with the help of intricate lighting and controlled body movements, you see what the choreographer is driving at.

The ballet is at once a statement on ignorance or enlightenment. It is what people are in various stages of their lives.

For this reason, Lawrance triumphed by the skin of his choreographic teeth.

(Ballet Manila’s coming attractions are “Swan Lake” on November 14, 15 and 16 and “Nutkraker: Pasko Na Naman Muli!”on November 29 up to December 7. Call TicketWorld at 8919999)

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