View from the Wing
by Pablo A. Tariman

The Friday night victims of the APEC-induced traffic were the dance lovers watching The Nutcracker mounted by the Philippine Ballet Theater with Russian ballet master Anatoly Panasyukov at the helm.

Premier danseur Joseph Phillips with the Clara of Regine Magbitang. Highly commendable. (PBT photo by Tony Camacho)

Opening on a Friday night when traffic was at its worst, this latest Manila production of Nutcracker was a balm to one’s weary spirit with its well-woven tale of little Clara (Regine Magbitang) who dreamed of her Nutcracker coming to life and got the ultimate Christmas treat of her young life.

The fairly impressive and moveable sets framed the action with dispatch complete with the spectacle of a heaven-bound Clara who would meet her Sugar Plum Fairy (Loby Pimentel) and her gaggle of dancing sweets.

Indeed, the ballet brings you back to that time of the year when Christmas was pure and peaceful and didn’t usher with news of suicide bombers wreaking havoc in a concert hall.

What probably makes this version special is the participation of some 100 young dancers from several dance studios in assorted roles from the young army of the Nutcracker and the children of the Mother Ginger (danced with pizzazz by Rolby Lacaba) to the playmates of Clara.

The first act featured a well-choreographed party scene in the Silberhaus household with two naughty boys taking turns making fun of the godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer (Anatoly Panasyukov). This Russian revealed a high level of character dancing which made him stand out in the party scene.

The fight scene led by the fierce Mouse King was most engaging with the little Nutcrackers aiming their guns at the rats with make-believe ammunition that toppled a row of them instantly. It elicited muffled “wows” from the audience.

 The Dance of the Snowflakes in The PBT Nutcracker. Dazzling corps de ballet. (PBT photo by Tony Camacho.

The Dance of the Snowflakes in The PBT Nutcracker. Dazzling corps de ballet. (PBT photo by Tony Camacho.

Later in the ballet, the Nutcracker turned into a prince and here we saw the beginning of the best of Joseph Phillips as the Nutcracker Prince.

But to be fair, there were much to appreciate in this Christmas offering not the least of which was the corps de ballet which broke out into little ensembles as the dancing snowflakes.

This part got spontaneous applause here and there no doubt because of the stunning choreography.

More enchanting solo and duo variations enlivened the ballet starting with the steady and lilting Dew Drop Fairy of Kim Abrogena, the snappy Spanish dance of Rafael Artaiz and Mark Pineda, the highly lyrical Red Flute ensemble of Mailka Samson, Marika Desembrana, Veronica Atienza and Kazier Policarpio and the Russian dancing of Matthew Davo and Julafer Fegarido.

Equally commendable is the mother figure of Maritoni Tordesillas and the charming dolls played by Natalia Tordesillas, Gabriela Bunag, Gabrioelle Jaynario, Fanchesca Maroon and Blanca Verdadero.

All eyes were of course on Phillips as the Prince and Pimentel as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the much awaited grand pas.

She came in very strong perhaps due to the technical demands of the part but later showed some fairy-like qualities towards the end. Her carefully executed turns didn’t dazzle but the sense of steadiness is commendable. But with the sheer demands of athleticism required in the finale, anyone who survived this grand pas is bound to emerge a heroine.

And true enough, Pimentel got her share of deafening applause.

PBT president Sylvia Lichaoco de Leon. A continuing commitment to nurture the dancers of the future.

PBT president Sylvia Lichaoco de Leon. A continuing commitment to nurture the dancers of the future.

As for Phillips, his performance combined great acting and intelligent dancing. He could very well make the entire ballet his own but his sense of ensemble is obviously greater than the urge to be star soloist. This made his role more encompassing than a mere showcase of bravura dancing.

The Clara of Magbitang gave us a wonderful illusion of the child in her and her finale variations with Phillips were equally compelling.

PBT president Sylvia Lichauco de Leon thanked the audience for braving the traffic and added that for the past 29 years, the company founders and trustees have maintained a commitment to nurturing the talent and passion of its young dancers.

This latest production of Nutcracker proved that all the support for PBT was all worth it and could bode well for the future of dance in this country.

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