The very backbone of Ballet Manila is their commitment to the classics. From the moment it was created, the Company has always put classical ballet productions at the forefront of their artistic voice. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that they would eventually come up with a season called “Revenge of the Classics”. With so much history and familiarity with classical ballet, this is a fitting repertoire for the Company. Their second offering is almost a tribute to Tchaikovsky as it is to the art form. “The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess” features the ultimate ballet bunhead favorites, Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty.
Less Tragic Swan Lake
The curtains opened with one of the greatest ballets of all time, Swan Lake. At the Lake of the Swans, Ballet Manila’s corps de ballet in perfect synchronicity calmed the excited audience with their surreal intraday. Painting visual wonders with their crisply white tutu and beautiful lines, the ballerinas heightened my anticipation for the Principal ballerina Odette. And so she was revealed ever so elegantly. Abigail Oliveiro, tall and splendidly elongated, emerged from the triangle of delicate swans. She met her real life prince Mark Sumaylo on stage and the swan story began to unravel. With the level of technique I have seen from her in previous shows, I was quite certain she could execute everything technically required of Odette. And with the exception of a small slip near the orchestra pit while turning, she did. The level of control necessary to perform both the adagio pas de duex and her solo variation was achieved. However, I did not expect her to miss out on the single most important part of Odette’s character. Swan lake has been re-envisioned several times but what has remained a Swan Lake template was the character of the ballerina and justifiably so. Odette often referred to as a “tragic heroine” was a princess cursed to take the form of a swan. Her life was taken away from her and her only chance at freedom is to attain with certainty love. But how could a swan find love? Traditionally Odette is dripping with sadness. When she finds her Prince, she is overwhelmed by love, troubled, doubtful even because she has a secret that cannot be revealed to him. She was not free to love. Oliveiro dismisses this story line quite decisively as she performs both the pas de deux and the variation with a coy smile on her face enjoying every bit of it. While she was beautiful, I yearned for the familiar Odette. This comes as a big surprise to me because I have seen videos and pictures of her performing Odette with the right temperament.
The cygnets definitely were delightful. Harmonized breath, strides and meticulous execution were met with appreciative applause. Kudos to Jessica Pearl Dames, Jasmine Pia Dames, Jessa Balote and Tiffany Chiang.
Similarly, the big Swans also delivered a breathtaking performance as they showed of their length and lightness in their grand jetes. The big swans were performed by Violet Hong, Czarina Villegas, Henriette Garcia and Do Hyun Choi. With just a speck of dust in my eyes, Ballet Manila’s Swan Lake was still triumphant.
Ushering the Holiday Spirit
Ushering the holiday spirit, the second offering was festive Nutcracker. The ensemble was colorful and vibrant. Katherine Barkman was her usual cheerful sweet as candy self as the Sugarplum fairy. She remained energetic throughout not even flinching as she jumped shifting wait effortlessly from one arabesque to the other. Her perpetual partner Rudy De Dios likewise performed with agility, nailing each jete entournant and pirouette required. Nutcracker provided that mid show spike of happiness equivalent to Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas songs. It was a good reminder of good things to come.
Wide Awake for Sleeping Beauty
The last dose of ballet was definitely the perfect dessert that comes after a good meal. Dawna Mangahas was every bit a ballerina as Princess Aurora. Now if only the rest of us woke up that beautiful, #iwokeuplikethis. It helps that she has a radiant glow but I love how she manages to make a step out of everything. You rarely see her transitioning because each move is grand in its own way. Cue in the slow clap. She was endearing in her portrayal (perhaps a bit too much to the newly introduced royalty) and it was obvious that her joy for dancing was what made her performance remarkable. Ably partnered by guest artist Mikhail Martynyuk, the grand pas de deux was the epitome of infinite grace.
Amongst the characters in the Act, I was tickled by the bluebird duo Joan Sia and Romeo Peralta. Their partnership was punctuated by their dependable musicality. Joan Sia’s extensions always did make me a tad jealous. She was a refined Princess Florine. Peralta was energetic and commanding as the Bluebird.
Revenge of the Classics
They say the best revenge is the sweetness of success. “The Swan, the Fairy and the Princess” was a night of beautiful ballet. With various degrees of technical complexity and roles of different textures, it is clear as day that the Company is in a very good position. And so Bravo Ballet Manila for giving justice to Tchaikovsky wonderful music and Petipa’s timeless choreography.