By PABLO A. TARIMAN
THE ballet excerpts were familiar but Ballet Manila gave them an entirely new look by letting the composer himself, Tchaikovsky (played by Miguel Faustmann), re-introduce the world’s favorite ballets.
The composer recalls one tragic opening night when Swan Lake opened to bad reception but many years later would become a ballet favorite. He said his revenge was Sleeping Beauty which became a sensation on opening night. The reception, he noted, can only be described as – to use the millennial’s favorite word – awesome.
Tchaikovsky’s vivid musical recollections opened the latest Ballet Manila presentation entitled “The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess” the last weekend run of which happened under Signal 1 and 2 of Typhoon Karen.
The Manila Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Alexander Vikulov provided the live accompaniment which gave it a real gala excitement.
The first treat was Swan Lake Act II with Abigail Oliveiro as Odette and Mark Sumaylo as Siegfred.
This is one of the most awaited moments in Swan Lake when ballerinas are judged for the quality of their lyricism and one must say that Oliveiro was not a disappointment. The joy of watching ballets regularly is that you can monitor how dancers evolve, how they are catching up with important roles and how they pass the supreme challenge.
In this ballet excerpt, you see the perennial favorite, the Cygnet’s pas de quatre (dance for four) and dancers Jessa Balote, Tifanny Chiang, Pia and Pearl Dames indeed delivered with thrilling dispatch. The uniform formation – face, feet and legs while linked together by arms – never fails to awe and here we see the superb training they underwent.
But Swan Lake’s biggest enchantment is of course the sight of the corps de ballet in pure white tutus moving in perfect harmony while Odette and Siegfred do their breath-taking variations. In this part, Oliveiro as Odette has so much promise one couldn’t wait to see her definitive Odette in the future.
On the other hand, one could see the exquisite touches of ballet mistress Natalia Raldugina in the corps de ballet formations which never had any awkward or bland moment. As soloists did their variations, their alignment remained focused and how gracefully did they change their hands alignment with every change of tempo in the pas de deux.
Sumaylo rendered some good partnering and it is to his credit that his Odette delivered her best.
The second treat was excerpt from The Nutcracker with Catherine Barkman as the Sugar Plum Fairy and with the Prince of Rudy de Dios (with Geri Francisco, Jr. alternating in other performances).
This Christmas favorite has good cavaliers (John de Dios, Many Febra, Robert Peralta and Glenn Ragel) and versatile corps who figured in the Waltz of the Flowers.
The coda revealed a dazzling Sugar Plum Fair and her Prince.
The night’s finale, the last act from Sleeping Beauty, featured the princess of Dawna Mangahas and the Prince Desire of Kremlin Ballet Theater’s premier danseur, Mikhail Martynyuk.
Dawna Mangahas as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Brisk and flashy in the solo variations
This ballet is indeed a demanding lot for the Princess who must pass the test in Rose Adagio with her four suitors giving her a rose and keeping them in one hand while doing perilous lifts and turns. Very much looking the part, Mangahas as the princess enchants by turns and seemingly undaunted by the perilous technical demands. To be fair, she managed to do the multiple balances on pointe while flashing a delicate, if, discreet smile to all her princely suitors.
On the other hand, Joan Sia and Romeo Peralta did a fairly good, if, flashy Blue Bird pas de deux. On his part, Peralta managed a good set of that difficult brises voles and indeed he gave us a good image of a bird in flight.
By its nature, Sleeping Beauty is made for the ballerina but in this performance, Mikhail Martynyuk as Prince Desire, was the unavoidable attraction as his dancing showed both power and poetry and indeed the very epitome of qualities that belong to that elite rank of male dancers rightly called danseur nobles.
Martynyuk’s leaps and turns elicited gasps and his brilliant solo variations had audiences screaming every time he landed on his feet perfectly unscathed. But there is something about dancing with live music that the dancer cannot foresee. He had it all figured out how he would land but if the music is a beat late or early, one can go awkward or unsteady.
But Martynyuk’s brand of dancing always exhilarates and one probably appreciates his presence because his kind of danseurs are no longer seen on the ballet stage with the kind of magnetism he carried in his persona.
This Aurora’s Wedding finale is indeed awash with assorted, if, festive dancing from the mazurka to other delightful character dancing.
What this presentation showed is that the Vaganova method in the Russian tradition of dancing is very much alive in Ballet Manila’s season events.
The magic of Tchaikovsky music and the images of Filipino dancers living up to the ballet challenge made one’s night rewarding even as the wind and rain of Typhoon Karen made its way into the CCP complex before the onslaught of Typhoon Lawin.
The Filipino artists survive amidst horrendous floods and devastating typhoons and they remain one of the few signs of civilization and strength in a world increasingly threatened by terror and crass materialism.
(Ballet Manila’s next presentation is Lisa Macuja and Osias Barroso’s “Cinderella” due at Aliw Theater November 25-26, 27, 2016 and December 3 and 4, 2016. For tickets, call 5255967 or 4000292 or TicketWorld at 8919999.)