Review: Ballet Philippines’ Firebird and Other Ballets


Firebird and Other Ballets
Rita Angela Winder as the Firebird (photo by Justin Bella Alonte)

In musical theater, characters burst into song whenever the emotion gets too big to be expressed in narrative. I’ve realized that the same thing happens in ballet–bursts of intense emotions are expressed in the most powerful choreographies performed by world-class dancers who are able to bring forth the abstract narrative.

Firebird and Other Ballets kicks off Ballet Philippines’ 47th Season. The company took on the formidable task of performing four short, beautiful ballets by four renowned choreographers. The audience of opening night was lucky to have the Philharmonic Orchestra perform live music conducted by Maestro Olivier Ochanine.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Olivier Ochanine

(See: Excerpts from Firebird and Other Ballets’ press launch)

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The evening began with Weighted Whispers, a heavy performance piece choreographed by Carlo Pacis that deals with love, abuse, and infidelity. The couples, performed by Rita Winder, Garry Corpuz, Ma. Celina Dofitas, and Jean Marc Cordero, wore cleverly designed corset/harness costumes by Pacis himself that allowed them to explore the different possibilities of movement, as well as the haunting tone of the piece.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Weighted Whispers (photo by Kurt Copon)
Firebird and Other Ballets
Garry Corpuz and Rita Angela Winder in Carlo Pacis’ Weighted Whispers (photo by Justin Bella Alonte)

Moving Two is a contemporary pas de deux, choreographed by Dwight Rodrigazo, that showcases perfect synchronicity. The opening night’s piece was performed by Katrene San Miguel and Lester John Reguindin. It was a light, refreshing piece that was a stark contrast from the tone of Weighted Whispers.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Lester Reguindin and Katrene San Miguel in Moving Two (photo by Justin Bella Alonte)

Ne Neh Le Dej lures its audience right off the bat, from the first note of the pulse-raising music composed by Iva Bittova, to the modern and exotic choreography by David Campos. Dancers show their agility with breath taking turns in this ensemble piece, performed by Jean Marc Cordero, Sarah Anne Alejandro, Victor Maguad, Denise Parungao, Louise John Ababon, Jemima Reyes, Erl Sorilla, Monica Amanda Gana, Garry Corpuz, and Stephanie Eunice Cabral.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Ne Neh Ledej (photo by Kurt Copon)

Capping off the evening is Firebird, with choreography by George Birkadze. Inspired by the 1979 piece that launched the career of Edna Vida-Froilan, this Firebird astounds with sets by Ohm David and costumes by Mark Higgins. Rita Winder plays the firebird. She has not only mastered the choreography, but also the nuances of the avian form.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Rita Angela Winder as the Firebird (photo by Justin Bella Alonte)

Rita Winder: “Until now po, nageexperiment po ako ng mga nuances. Actually kung manonood kayo every show feeling ko iba iba. (laughs) “

“Pero hanggang ngayon po kasi… napakahindi natural. Like your arms, kailangan sobrang back (gestures with stretching her arm), lalo na iyung headdress, kailangan mong gamit-gamitin siya. Lalo na iyung ganyan ganyan ng bird (head gestures like a bird). Hanggang ngayon po nageexplore po ako.”

Firebird and Other Ballets
Denise Parungao and Garry Corpuz in George Birkadze’s Firebird (photo by Kurt Copon)

The Princess from the Land of Spices is played by Denise Parungao, and the Prince is played by Garry Corpuz. Koschei the Immortal, the one who casts a spell on the kingdom and traps the firebird, is played by Cyril Aran Fallar.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Garry Corpuz as the Pearl Merchant, Cyril Aran Fallar as Koschei, and Denise Parungao as the Spice Princess in George Birkadze’s Firebird (photo by Kurt Copon)

The piece is an impressive one as it managed to exhibit a fine collaboration between multiple art forms- choreography, music, fashion, and set design. Higgins managed to make us see the magic of what intricate and well thought-out costumes can do to put an iconic piece at the forefront.

Firebird and Other Ballets
Mark Lewis Higgins

But perhaps the most impressive part of the entire evening was how the dancers participated in one ballet after the other with vastly changing emotions and choreography.

Rita Winder: “Namaximize niya iyung versatility naming Ballet Philippine dancers. Kung mapapansin niyo iba iba iyung style from Weighted Whispers, Moving Two, Ne Neh Le Dej, and Firebird. Napakaiba-ibang style iyung pinapakita ng company and yet nashishift naming siya agad. So ang sarap. Kaya ang saya saya namin sa process kasi iba iba iyung galaw ng katawan namin. Iba iba iyung mindset. Kasi kung ganun kabigat iyung Weighted Whispers, kailangan kong magshift sa interval na pangFirebird.”

“So iyun so lahat kami nageenjoy sa process kasi iyung apat na choreographers sobrang minaximize nila iyung potential naming lahat.”

Garry Corpuz: “Pinakamahirap iyung pagod, kasi ibang iba siya sa mga run through kaysa sa show kasi iba iyung binibigay mong energy. Katulad sa Weighted Whispers sobrang bigat ng story so iyung energy mo madodown talaga e, tapos biglang magshishift ka to Neh Neh Ledej na kailangan sobrang hyper mo so kailangan mo ibalance iyun. Kailangan ipull up mo agad yung energy mo para mameet mo iyung level na iyun. Kasi kung magpapadrag ka sa bigat ng nararamdaman mo, mahirap gumalaw. Tapos 20 mins interval, tapos suot mo ng costume, tapos Firebird na kailangan prince ka na, tapos magbubuhat ka. So iyung kalaban mo talaga is pagod, iyung cramps.”

Cyril Aran Fallar: “Iyun yung mas mahirap for us, is how to keep the energy up. Especially for this night, we have to keep the energy kasi every performance ibang audience. So to be fair, we have to be fair for the matinee and gala, so we have to keep the energy up. And then for me, every show is… expect something new from the performers.”

Not only that. The dancers also need to learn how to partner with different people because the combination of cast members changes from one show to the next.

Denise Parungao: “May iba ibang cast, so iba ibang energy. Iba ibang pagbigay. Iba ibang itsura.”

The last show will be staged at the CCP Main Theater at 6pm tonight.

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