REVIEW: “Flight” – seamless from takeoff to touchdown
TFM Review: Ballet Manila’s Flight 1 and 2 by Pia de Ungria
These were two flights anybody shouldn’t miss. There is no chance of rebooking, and missing it is missing out on an experience of a lifetime. And believe me, with Lisa Macuja-Elizalde acting as your flight attendant, you know you are going to be in it for the ride of your life.
Ballet Manila’s Flights 1 and 2 were presented on July 31 and August 1 as a preview for what the company has in store for the Hong Kong audience: both for its gala (Flights) at the Y-Theater on August 8 and 9, and for the Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition on August 10-15. Naturally, the Filipinos were made to catch these Flights first, before others, as it was staged at the Star Theater in Pasay City.
Conceived as flights with two different sets of itineraries, Flights 1 and 2 provided destinations across styles – from contemporary to classical to playful fusion with Filipino ethnic dances – each serving a hefty dose of a truly satisfying journey.
Flight 1 was an eighteen-destination itinerary that began with “Morions,” an exciting takeoff point that featured choreography by Gerardo Francisco and music by Jessie Lucas. It was followed by a trip to classical with excerpts from the greats like “Swan Lake,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Coppelia,” “Don Quixote,” “La Fille Mal Gardee,” “Giselle,” “The Nutcracker,” “La Bayadere,” and “Le Corsaire.” In between these excerpts were stopovers to contemporary and ethnic with the pieces “Misfit or Maverick,” “Reve,” “Mazn,” “Muro Ami,” and “Tara Let’s.”
Flight 2, on the other hand, was a twenty-destination itinerary that departed at “Sotto Voce,” a serene, dream-like piece that utilized an equally idyllic Canon in D Major. What transpired next are more homage pieces to classical ballet that featured excerpts from some of the full length ballet featured in Flight 1, but with the inclusion of “Raymonda,” “Paquita,” “La Esmeralda,” “Le Carnaval De Venice,” and “La Sylphide.” Flight 2 also featured contemporary pieces such as “Arachnida,” and “Bloom,” as well as ethnic fusion in “Kinabuhing Mananagat,” and “Sayaw sa Pamlang.”
Both flights featured a bare stage with only the play of lighting to help the dancers create the mood and maximize space. This was a very bold, yet brilliant decision, as audience members were made to focus on the dancers and their movements, instead of being overwhelmed by colorful backdrops. Lighting was done to perfection, especially on choice pieces in the contemporary genre – a genius display of artistry in the manipulation of light: the colors were the storytellers, and the shadows cast on the dancers’ features stretched the mood against their skins and the dance floor.
Flight 1 featured a masterful lineup arranged to make one feel as though being pursued by a resolute admirer. It showered the audience with bursts upon bursts of flashy yet skillful rendering of timeless choreography. Among the noteworthy ones were “Morions,” “Reve,” “Mazn” and “Muro Ami.”
The first piece (Morions) featured crisp movements that will make one feel the presence of a thousand Spartans on stage, their movements become their own battle cry. It was formidable, with giant-like ballet dancers thumping their feet to call on Ares.
“Reve,” which featured a very aptly-chosen cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters by Apocalyptica was a very emotional, angsty piece that showed dancers’ strength of steel. Their hand extensions felt like a cry to heavens for being forsaken, and their floor movements appeared like a graceful tantrum of a scorned lover.
“Mazn” was invigorating both in its music and choreography. Von Magnet’s music had the perfect blend of tribal and modern appeal. The use of musical instruments brought forth a jungle in the electronic age – there were no wild animals, just robotics and hollow cyborgs of nature.
The choreography and movements were precise, like a cardio thoracic surgeon’s hand in an open heart procedure. The dancers were like two pieces of puzzle moving together constantly to form and fill fissures on the earth – each extension and contraction fit the other perfectly.
Finally, “Muro Ami,” a choreography based on a fishing technique, was able to successfully bring swimming and the ocean on stage. With music that featured the work of the great Hans Zimmer, the piece brought a mighty and magnificent presentation of an epic of a dance. The music made one feel like being part of an underwater adventure, and the dancers swam their way across ballet movements. Their strokes made them expert swimmers and divers that could rival even the strongest Olympians. The movement of light gave of the illusion of water illuminating each dancer’s face.
The next day’s show, Flight 2 was like an anniversary celebration, a couple of years after the persistent suitor had become the husband. It was muted, poignant and very reminiscent of the excitement during courtship. It was quite good, but was a little inferior to the first flight.
“Sotto Voce” was a romantic opening to the show which featured fairy-like ballerinas that seemed like they were multiplying. Being cloned even. Their movements were light and airy, like fireflies dancing under the light of the full moon.
“Bloom 2nd Movement Pas de Deux” was another romantic piece with music by Philipp Glass. The lonesome and wistful violin perfectly framed the moving choreography by Anabelle Lopez Ochoa. This piece was longing in the flesh. The dancers appeared to be similar to two lovers fighting and making up, a cycle of tenderness and controlled passion bottled up in that dance.
Overall, Ballet Manila’s Flight series was successful. If there was anything that needed to be honed, it is during performances where ballet dancers are made to dance with another – there were some instances of noticeable lack of synchronicity. It did not necessarily take away from the performance, however, its presence in some of the pieces felt like a day-old insect bite that itches occasionally.
Let’s all wish Ballet Manila the best of luck with the upcoming Asian Grand Prix International Competition. May they bring back several more Flights to Manila. -PDU
Were you able to catch these productions? What did you think?