Ballet Manila’s closing show of “Don Quixote” had the springing vitality of an opening. Jasmine Pia Dames in her first ever leading role (Kitri), stepped into that stage leaving a trace of fire in her path. Her eyes ablaze with passion, her mouth perfectly shaped into a flirtatious smile and her legs ready for the first powerful grand jete’ (split jump). No trace of fatigue and injury, she gave the audience a clear message, “I’m new, I’m young and I deserve to be here.”
Ironically in a beautiful contrast, she was partnered with a veteran. Gerardo Francisco took on the role of “Basilio” and he too sent a message in his first sixteen counts. His was a resounding “I’m seasoned, I’m strong and I deserve to be here.” Indeed the opening conversation was as convincing as a sugary sweet bite of apple pie. Soon enough, I forgot about who was soloist and who was Principal because their magnetic chemistry left me in a blur. Their partnership seemed mature with every lift punctuated with quiet sustained balances. Their nuances with each other were charmingly believable. More importantly, they seem to already have gained confidence in each other. As in life, beauty on stage is about finding the right fit. Theirs was a pretty good match.
Jasmin Pia Dames was a reliable technician. Save for her foiled fouettes she delivered extensions, gasp worthy leaps and clean turns. Evidently very comfortable on stage, she had a blast and so the audience also had a blast. She shared every moment with everyone in the audience not once holding back on her emotions. While there is room for purposeful refinement and restraint, her performance was a beautiful beginning of a promising career.
Gerardo Francisco was endearing. Perfectly cast, he showed up with an ample amount of boyish charisma. He defied gravity with his athletic jumps. He spun quadruple pirouettes with ease and consistency. I realize I have missed seeing this man top bill classical roles. I’m glad that he was given the chance to remind people how great he is as a classical dancer. His performance, I believe was a game changer.
The sensational pair was supported by a cast who clearly worked hard to deliver the full ballet experience. With a legion of soloists dancing as corps de ballet, the company looked very polished. Particularly beautiful was their picturesque dream scene. Lit up and colored like a fairy tale, it was almost therapeutic to see the dancers move to the delightful music of Ludwig Minkus.
Overall the performance managed to tell a beautiful story of love and laughter while showcasing a full roster of impressive artists. As the song goes, Everything was beautiful at the ballet. Everyone was beautiful at the ballet.
Photography by Erica Jacinto