Review: Ballet Philippines’ ‘Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko’ – A Swinging Triumph
On paper, the words “ballet” and “VST & Co.” don’t seem to make much sense together. But in “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko”, Ballet Philippines shows us how right this combination is. From the driving overture, and with images of vintage ads and 70s Manila projected onto the curtains, the show grabs you from the beginning and never lets go.
It’s a simple love story that’s equal parts lighthearted and poignant, set to VST & Co’s music. Living up to the show’s title and showing the perfect marriage of song and dance, ABS-CBN stars sing the songs while sharing the stage with Ballet Philippines’ talented dancers as they interpret them.
(READ: ‘Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko: Disco Fever with Ballet Philippines)
Most of the show’s numbers call for the entire company to be on stage, which makes you want to take in everything at once: from the singers with their sincere renditions, the dancers with their masterful execution, the vocal ensemble Viva Voce and their tight harmonies, to the orchestra and master conductor Gerard Salonga bringing the disco sound to life. It’s a production so epic in scale that the action spills on to the orchestra pit and the aisles.
Ohm David’s multi-level set with geometric patterns and unmissable disco balls evoking the singular style of the period and John Batalla’s lighting, which is alternately menacing, pulsating and dramatic, efficiently support the narrative. With James Reyes’ gleaming sequined costumes and GA Fallarme’s scenic projection, every single element works.
James Laforteza, PJ Rebullida, and Carissa Adea share choreographic duties on this piece, with additional choreography by director Paul Alexander Morales and Gia Gequinto. All these talents produce a cohesive whole, with classical ballet fused effectively with funky moves of the disco era.
(SEE: Sights and Sounds- Ballet Philippines’ ‘Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko’ Press Conference)
Underpinning it all is Bibeth Orteza’s libretto that brings everything together brilliantly. The energy of a very strong first act carries over effectively to an equally strong second act, with a story line that gets you invested from the first scene to the last, and seamless transitions between past and present.
Lead dancers Garry Corpuz (Victor) and Denise Parungao (Teresa) absolutely command the stage, while Michael Pangilinan’s pristine vocals anchor the songs magnificently, especially on the heartrending “Ikaw Ang Aking Pasko”. Bring along some tissues for the soaring “Ipagpatawad Mo” and the penultimate scene featuring Edna Ledesma (old Teresa) and Butch Esperanza (old Victor).
The primary reason why “Awitin Mo…” works so well is the respect for the material. The music is treated with affection and allowed to shine. It’s true that VST & Co.’s catalog is informed by and represents the disco era, but it is by no means dated. The orchestra’s performance elevates the music but also shows how well-crafted and beautiful these songs are in the first place, to allow for such rich interpretations and heartfelt, emotional choreography. The subtle tribute to the band at the end of the show is also a nice touch. “Awitin Mo…” does not try to be anything other than what it is – a love story. It does not try to be political or overtly nationalistic, yet because of the music that’s distinctly Filipino, the talented local cast and company, and the context – it successfully shows us that this story is uniquely our own.
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this masterpiece by Ballet Philippines. Laugh, cry, groove along – treat yourself. This is an absolute must-see.
The alternate cast also features Ballet Philippine’s principal dancers Jean Marc Cordero and Rita Winder, as well as dance legends Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan.
“Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” will run for another weekend at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, from Dec. 9-11.
You can buy tickets here.
Photography by: Erickson dela Cruz