Last June 25, three of our country’s best ballet companies collaborated to bring a ballet classic to life.
The Giselle gala at the CCP Main Theater was a tribute to ballet icon Mrs. Felicitas Radaic. According to her profile, she is “…a dancer, teacher, and choreographer who has been an indefatigable trailblazer of Philippine ballet for almost five decades. She choreographed ballets that radiated distinct Filipino aura, established first-rate dance schools, and trained some of the most excellent Filipina ballerinas, and brought ballet to the people.”
And what better way to honor such legend than to stage the timeless Giselle, while featuring Philippine ballet’s finest — then and now.
Some of these excellent ballerinas include none other than Ballet Manila’s Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Ballet Philippines’ Artistic Director Paul Alexander Morales, and Ballet Manila’s Joan Sia, a multi-awarded young dancer who played the role of Giselle in the gala performance. All three of them were students of the ballet legend.
The night began with Macuja-Elizalde, Morales, Ballet Manila’s co-artistic director Osias Barroso, and Philippine Ballet Theatre president Sylvia Lichauco-de Leon introducing Mrs. Radaic, each giving a touching speech on how she has made an impact on their lives.
The show begins on a joyful, colorful note. Peasant girl Giselle (Joan Sia) happily dances with handsome peasant boy Loys (Ballet Manila’s Romeo Peralta). Sia, at this point exemplifies the exuberant ingenue ready for the world; her movements were the leaves caressing the wind, waiting for the breeze to shift and bring her love. Peralta, on the other hand, perfectly balanced his masculine elegance with the gentle lover within. He became the exact breeze that flowed underneath the fragile and trusting leaves that was Sia.
The couple was every bit in love, which irked Giselle’s devoted suitor Hilarion (Ballet Manila’s Francis Cascaño). Cascaño’s movements were wide and sweeping, the stance and extensions of a man ready to mark his territory. He owned the stage and we immediately sense that he would want to do the same with Giselle.
Giselle and Loys were joined by the townsfolk, where a peasant couple, played by Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Regina Magbitang and Jared Tan, takes lead. Magbitang and Tan flit and fluttered in the air like butterflies. They spread hope and love like pollen to flowers. We were enthralled, and the couple, inspired.
When the Duke of Courland (Paul Alexander Morales) and the lady Bathilde (Lisa Macuja-Elizalde) visit their village, Giselle is heartbroken when she realizes that Loys is actually Count Albrecht, a nobleman in disguise who’s betrothed to Bathilde. Giselle goes mad with rage, and dances to her death. Macuja-Elizalde proved, with her light-as-feather movements, and grace that one can only be born with, why she is the country’s premiere ballerina. With a few purposeful steps that seemed like she was being whisked and lifted by air, or she was commanding the wind itself (the distinction, she collapsed with her classiness) she managed to make everyone pause with baited breath.
In her death-dance, Sia was beyond powerful. She was a force of nature, stirring lightning, thunder and storm in one powerful brew that threatens to leave us drenched in her magnificence.
The chemistry and the synchronicity amongst the dancers were palpable. The clean lines and the powerful turns were simply mesmerizing to watch. They were the equivalent of human kaleidoscopes with the exciting patterns and movements that seemed to spill and stream from one flawless extension to the next.
It is a tragic story, which takes an even darker tone in Act 2. The set is now transformed into a dark graveyard, where Albrecht visits Giselle’s grave. The place is haunted by the Wilis—supernatural maidens, led by their queen Myrtha,(Ballet Philippines’ Stephanie Cabral) who were betrayed by their lovers when they were still alive. To exact revenge, they prey on any man who comes near them and dances with him to his death. Cabral was mesmerizing as Queen Myrtha. She was haunting and ethereal, her execution similar to the flowing sea. She ebbed and flowed hypnotically — and just like the waters, there was an undercurrent that’s ready to sweep anyone, if they were not careful.
The synchronicity of all the dancers on that stage, with its powerful ensemble cast composed of Ballet Manila’s dancers, was really something to watch. The cheers and applause heard from the audience on various moments was a testament to how they’re able to bring the audience in and make them part of such a magical experience.
The night ended when Mrs. Radaic herself came up on stage. She graciously extended her praises and her congratulations to the dancers and humbly asked everyone to continue supporting the arts. She is a living testimony that proves how one person’s passion, strength, and commitment can move an entire industry.
Co-written by: Pia de Ungria
Photography by: Erica Feliz Marquez-Jacinto of http://artaturningpointe.blogspot.com/
Were you able to catch the show? What did you think?