Joseph Gatti wows Filipino balletomanes

Joseph Gatti as Basilio in the gala night performance. Simply dazzling.

Petipa’s dance classic Don Quixote proved its enduring appeal Friday night (February 9) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines whenthe Ballet Philippines revival received a rousing standing ovation from Filipino balletomanes.

Very well restaged by Adam Sage with exquisite lighting by Monino Duque, BP’s Don Quixote found fresh interpretation from the new generation of dancers led by the vibrant Kitri of Candice Adea and the star of the night, guest danseur Joseph Gatti who delivered an incandescent Basilio.

Gatti knew the ballet inside and out and what he projected was a light airy and yet memorable version of the role as character challenge and showcase for virtuosity.

What Gatti showed was a Basilio of youthful playfulness and his dancing made its mark with very little effort. It was a show of virtuosity with such casualness he made it all appear like a child’s play.

There was collective gasp from the audience when he tried a double pirouette in midair and landing on the floor like a bird in familiar territory.

There was no doubt Gatti provided extra excitement on the gala night and indeed he brought back euphoria at the CCP reminiscent of the Manila visits of Fernando Bujones and Patrick Bissell, among others.

Candice Adea as Kitri.Ably partnered by Gatti.

The Kitri of Candice Adea looked thoroughly acted and with her virginal look, the character she delineated was partly demure and indeed very reserved. But her dancing impressed with airy leaps and formidable arabesques. She found a very supportive Basilio who dazzled every step of the ballet.

Among other characters, the Mercedes of Denise Parungao registered very well in both the gala and matinee performances. Her entrance before the Bottle Dance was indeed dramatic and rendered with the sense of abandon and fiery character of a Spanish street dancer. The Espada of Ronelson Yadao was equally dynamic.

In the much-awaited grand pas de deux, Gatti generated more excitement. But he was so cool about it he was practically saying, “What’s all the big fuss?” even as his leaps and turns left his audience in a virtual state of hysteria.

The Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jeffrey Solares gave justice to the Ludwig Minkus score and what a vibrant reading the orchestra delivered. Through the years, Solares has learned to balance the needs of the dancers and the requirements of the basic score.

The first matinee performance the next day (February 10) gave us a good preview of the Kitri of Jemima Reyes and the Basilio of Victor Maguad.

The entrance of the Kitri of Reyes was indeed remarkable as she showed such verve and imperiousness short of telling her audience, “I can cope with Petipa with equal dispatch.”

Denise Parungao as Mercedes. Grand entrance and fiery portrayal.

Her willpower was so blatantly real she enjoyed herself and so did her audience who cheered her grand pas with the equally vivacious Basilio of Maguad.

Maguad is not the kind of dancer who will show off every step of the ballet. His first attention is to give her Kitri much leeway to be secure and confident and having achieved thus, there was nobility and inner sense of enjoyment in his solo variations.In the grand pas, it was obvious they knew each other very well and the rapport sizzled.

They looked good together nobody remembered a minor misstep which she brushed away with casual demeanor.

As it is, Ballet Philippines had a runaway winner in its closing season attraction.

For another, its corps de ballet was another attraction by itself showing great versatility in the town square sequences and the Dryads scene made more mystical by the Magic Garden set of Eduardo Sicangco.

Jojo Mamangun delineated the role of Don Quixote with frail nobility with Danilo Dayo and Emmanuelle Guillermo doing just as well as the alternating Sancho Panza.

Jemima Reyes as Kitri. She proved equal to the challenge.

Indeed, BP artistic director Alice Reyes has reason to be doubly optimistic. “I am heartened to see each dancer grow and mature into more challenging and bigger roles,” she said.

The ballet will also see the closing term of Margie Moran Floirendo who served for nine years as president of Ballet Philippines.

In her welcome remarks, Floirendo announced her appointment by President Duterte as member of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. She will be replaced by Kathleen Liechtenstein who is an officer of Ballet Philippines Foundation, Inc.

The outgoing BP president was happy to see that the season finale ended with “one big happy fiesta celebrating life, love and dance.”

(Catch the last weekend run of Don Quixote on February 16-18, 2018 at the CCP Main Theater. It will feature the Kitri of Jemima Reyes and Monica Gana and the Basilio of Victor Maguad and Ian Ocampo. For tickets, call Ballet Philippines at (+632) 551-1003, the CCP Box Office at (+632) 832-3704, or Ticketworld at (+632) 891-9999 or Ticketworld.com.ph.)

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