View From The Wings – 7
‘SWAN LAKE’ REAFFIRMS PH RUSSIAN BALLET CONNECTION
by Pablo A. Tariman
When the curtain rises November 15 for the performances of Maxim Chaschegorov and Katherina Markowskaja of the Bavarian State Ballet at Aliw Theater, Filipino balletomanes will once again witness dance collaboration between Filipino dancers and Russian born soloists.
Markowskaja was born in Kiev, Ukraine where she completed her training at the National Ballet Academy of Arts while Maxim Chashchegorov received his dance education at the Ballet Academy in St Petersburg. Directly after his graduation Chashchegorov became a member of the corps de ballet from the Mariinsky Theatre and evolved into bigger roles as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake and Blue bird in Sleeping Beauty, among others.
If there is one who can represent the country’s Russian connection, it would be no other than Lisa Macuja Elizalde who is the first foreign soloist of the Kirov Ballet and who is the epitome of Russian training, notably the Vaganova method.
“It is simply hard to beat more than 250 years of tradition in classical ballet handed down from one generation of Russian artists to the next,” Lisa pointed out. “This gala will not only be first-class ballet treat, but I believe it will reveal to Manila audiences how global our own standards of dancing are in the local arts scene. It is a wonderful opportunity to see these artists perform here in Manila and not have to go abroad to enjoy international star-studded dance event like this one.”
In 1915, according to dance chronicler Reynaldo G. Alejandro, the first performance in the Philippines of Paul Nijinsky (not related to Vaslav Nijinsky) of the Imperial Russian Ballet was held for the benefit of the Belgian Red Cross. The venue was the old Manila Hotel Roof Garden and the repertoire included Greek, Egyptian, ancient and new classical dances. According to Alejandro, costumes were done by Leon Bakst and most of the dances were performed barefooted.
As if this revelation were not enough, dance chronicler Alejandro (who used to dance and choreograph) also wrote that one of the greatest ballerinas of all time, Anna Pavlova, also danced at the original Manila Grand Opera House in 1922, some two years before she announced her retirement.
Another Russian dancer who thrilled Manila balletomanes is Alexandra Danilova who came from the Leningrad Ballet school. Again Dame Margot Fonteyn describes her as a “total artist, whose least flick of a finger made its point, she never smudged an affect, every movement said exactly what she wanted to say – and with what gaiety!”
If early and current accounts are to be believed, local dancers were at one time or another inspired by Russian dancers.
The late National Artist for Dance Leonor Orosa Goquingco admitted to this writer that she fell in love with dance at the age of 12 when she saw a Russian dancer named Olga Dontsoff perform in Bacolod. Mrs. Goquingco, whose accomplishment as a choreographer is a near legend in this country, did not even foresee that many years after her first glimpse of a Russian ballerina, she herself would be the object of generous praises from Russian artists.
Another outstanding Filipino figure in dance also in awe of Russian artists is Maniya Barredo, who had a triumphant reign as prima ballerina of Atlanta Ballet in the United States.
While Maniya was in awe of Russian artists, she was herself an object of generous praises coming from them. Performing in Cuba for the first time in a dance festival that featured the world’s best dancers, Maniya not only attracted the Cubans but the Russian dancers present in the festival.
Dancing Romeo and Juliet in the first part of the program in one theatre, she created a sensation forcing Russian teachers and choreographers Natalia Dudinskaya and Konstantin Sergeyev to leave the theatre where Gelshey Kirkland was dancing Giselle and proceed to where the Filipino was dancing Juliet.
In the same Cuban ballet festival in 1990, Elizalde also got the same euphoric reception as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake with the Siegfred of Ernesto Quenedit of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
Apart from the soloists of Bavarian State Ballet, Ballet Manila’s November Swan Lake will also feature BM’s emerging ballerinas Mylene Aggabao, Dawna Mangahas and Abigail Oliveiro in the dual roles of Odette-Odile.
‘Swan Lake’ was first choreographed for two ballerinas – one to dance as Odette, and the other as Odile. Both roles later came to be danced by just one person,” says prima ballerina and Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde who danced her final full-length performance of “Swan Lake” in 2011.
Elizalde expounds on the dual challenge for the lead ballerina: “Dancing Swan Lake involves superhuman feat and really demands a lot on your stamina. Another challenge is to transform into two completely different characters – the lyrical, vulnerable Odette and the seductive and cunning Odile.”
(For tickets and other inquiries, please contact Ballet Manila at tel. nos. 525-5967 or 400-0292, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the website http://www.balletmanila.com.ph; or Ticketworld at 891-9999 orticketworld.com.ph.)