REVIEW: “Lola Basyang” – when actions speak louder than words
TFM Review: Ballet Manila’s Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang by Pia de Ungria
Every movement was a dialogue spoken in Ballet – and the best part, we all understood. We didn’t even know we spoke Ballet-nese.
Ballet Manila opened its 20th season with a nod to our colorful culture, by staging three stories from the beloved National Artist for Literature, Severino Reyes. “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” featured the first three of the original children’s books “Ang Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” retold by Christine Bellen.
In its third restaging, the magic remains, if it hasn’t yet surpassed its first showing. As with most things, they improve with age – and this being the third, is indeed the charm and more.
The first story, “Ang Prinsipe Ng Mga Ibon,” is a story comparable to the star-crossed love of Romeo and Juliet, sans the tragedy, but with the magical touch and added conflict of belonging to different species. The human Princess Singsing remained unmarried, unable to see anyone she deemed worthy of her love, until she met the Bird Prince. What happened next is a show of how love can conquer everything. Katherine Barkman, as Prinsesa Singsing, was perhaps purity personified on stage. Her movements were like silk in human form, flowing and swirling against the wind. The Bird Prince was gentle, but with a sense of pride. His movements were long and elegant, like a real bird ready to take flight. The birds (Francis Cascano, Elpidio Magat, Glenn Ragel, Manny Febra, Romeo Peralta and Mark Sumaylo) themselves were equally graceful, the green of their feathers moving like tall coconut trees inviting and waving at anyone who looked.
The next story was “Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya,” that told about the adventures of Pedro, the son of a healer whose three daughters were taken away following an incident that involved greediness and nature’s wrath. Pedro travelled far and wide, to the deepest oceans for the Shark Kingdon, to greatest heights for the Eagle Kingdom and to the hottest soil for the Lion Kingdom, in search of his three sisters who married the Heads of each Kingdom. The combination of choreography and music were perhaps the strongest points of this piece as it dug deep into the bowels of our culture to produce a piece that resonates to our culture. With music by Joey Ayala that utilizes some indigenous instruments, we hear the adventures told with the quickening of the percussions, and the stretching of the strings. The choreography of Lisa Macuja – Elizalde was flawless and complimented the pulses and crescendo of the music – the bodies flexed like drawn bows ready to launch a shower of arrows to the audience that goes directly to everyone’s memories.
The last story, “Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin,” is a fun, playful piece that told the story of a very industrious Rodrigo who toiled day in and out, just to be tricked by his master, Ahab. Of the three, this had the least complex choreography, but was just equally effective. It was told with the aid of a giant storybook that led the audience into the progress of the story. This was a surprising choice, especially after the first two stories relied heavily on movement to propel the plot however; this never took away from the performance. Gerardo Francisco as the hardworking Rodrigo was fun to watch as his movements were big and wide, like giant steps to fill the story of the violinist. Michael Divinagracia as Ahab was very memorable especially in the moments he was possessed by the need to follow the sound of the violin – he danced, whipped and nae-naed to it, much to the delight of the crowd.
Watching Luz Fernandez as Lola Basyang was a treat, especially for those who remain young at heart. She was really like your grandmother telling you these stories with much love and affection.
Missy Macuja – Elizalde as Ate Missy served as the tie that bound the three stories as she introduced them with movements. She stretched with the romantic grace of swans when introducing the first story, powered her movements with the energy of a wound-up toy for the second installment, and she was the elegant stalk of a plant that waved against the highly-energetic townsfolk in the third one.
With the title, “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang,” one might dismiss it as children’s folly – but to do so, is committing one of the worst misconceptions of one’s life. “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang,” indeed made kids giggle with excitement, but the skills and talent of Ballet Manila elevated the pieces into moving art forms, into a wonderful conversation among the dancers and the audience: a clear, understandable and memorable language of ballet.
“Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” is still showing on August 28 and 29 at 8:00pm and on August 30 at 3:00pm at the Aliw Theater. -PDU
Have you seen this show? What did you think? #TFMreview