BALLET RETURNS TO NAGA CITY AFTER FOUR YEARS
by Pablo A. Tariman
After an absence of four years, ballet – both classical and contemporary – made a triumphant return in Naga City Saturday night with Lisa Macuja Elizalde doing an adagio from The Nutcracker with five cavaliers and with Ballet Manila (BM) doing OPM medleys to the delight of the crowd.
Both seasoned dance lovers and students from local ballet schools came en masse filling up The Tent at Avenue Hotel for a fundraising event of the Universidad de Sta.Isabel Alumni Association led by its president Ms. Raquel V. Ragrario.
The concert opened with Macuja’s mini-lecture on dance and connected easily with local audience with a performance of “Musika at Pagibig, ” an OPM medley choreographed by Jonathan Janolo followed by “Handog” to the music of “Bato sa Buhangin” as choreographed by Michael Divinagracia.
Easily the stand-out is Macuja’s Adagio from The Nutcracker with five cavaliers which she learned in Russia thirty years ago.
Apart from “Lune” a choreography of Ernest Mandap, the Naga City audiences had a taste of the Black Swan adagio performed by Violet Hong and Elpidio Magat and the White Swan Adagio performed by Abigail Oliveiro and Alfren Salgado.
The night ended with a standing ovation for the BM dancers and a long queue of autograph-seekers wanting photo op with Macuja.
Said BM co-artistic director Osias Barroso: “ Lisa (Macuja-Elizalde) and I are both glad that BM went to Naga to perform. The ecstatic audience reception proved that we have an untapped audience for ballet in the provinces.”
A day before the performance, the company rehearsed on the makeshift stage which sufficed for a ballet concert.
Added Barroso: “You don’t expect perfect venues in the provinces because ballet events here are rare. Dancers usually make do with what the place has to offer and indeed it was a good thing we brought our linoleum. Performing in the provinces is quite similar when we do our outreach programs in Manila. But I personally feel that the audiences from the provinces are easier to please, simply because they are hungry for performances like this.”
In the past provincial performances, the BM co-artistic director noticed audiences couldn’t help giggle when they see men in tights. “These are expected of course when you don’t see ballet that often. That is why we avoid having our male dancers wear white tights in the provinces.”
He pointed out: “I feel that the ballet companies in Manila should have a ballet season tour of some sort in the provinces, perhaps once a year would be good for now to keep our provincial audience exposed to live theatre performances. It is always a luxury for any artist to be able to visit other places and perform at the same time. Naga is a very historical and there are many things you learn when you travel.”
The last dance concert is another touring milestone for the company which has performed in 47 cities in the country with more than 4,100 performances with 140 of them in Asia, Europe and North America.
The truth is Naga City — founded as a town in 1575 –is as old as the history of ballet which originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 15th centuries. It spread from Italy to France with the help of Catherine de’ Medici, where ballet developed even further under her aristocratic influence.
Ballet history showed the first formal ‘court ballet’ ever recognized was staged in 1573, two years before the founding of Naga town, and known as ‘Ballet des Polonais’ commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici to honor the Polish Ambassadors who were visiting Paris upon the accession of Henry of Anjou to the throne of Poland.
It led to the birth of The Royal Danish Ballet and the Imperial Ballet of the Russian Empire founded in the 1740s and later became famous with the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev.
Ballet spread around the world with the formation of new companies, including London’s The Royal Ballet (1931), the San Francisco Ballet (1933), American Ballet Theatre (1937), The Royal Winnipeg Ballet (1939), The Australian Ballet(1940), the New York City Ballet (1948), the National Ballet of Canada (1951), Ballet Philippines (1969) and Ballet Manila (1995).
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(Ballet Manila will be seen anew on November 28-29 and 30 for its Christmas offering, “Nutkraker: Pasko Na Naman Muli” with additional performances on December 5, December 6 and December 7. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde makes a special guest appearance as the Sugar Plum Fairy on November 29 gala. Ballet Manila co-artistic director Osias Barroso leads the team of choreographers Gerardo Francisco, Michael Divinagracia, Jonathan Janolo, Rudy De Dios and Francis Jaena in creating new with Pinoy flavor. Ballet Manila’s 19th performance season is presented by the Manila Broadcasting Company and sponsored by Aliw Theater and Star City, along with ACS Manufacturing Corporation (Pride and Shield Bath Soap), First United Travel, BPI Express Credit, Island Rose, Ralph’s Wines and Spirits, Krispy Kreme, Hen Lin, Papa John’s Pizza and Crunchybelly by Carlos Kitchen. 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 or ticketworld.com.ph.)