The challenge of Don Quixote

Joseph Gatti rehearsing with Candice Adea.Photo by Jeffrey Solares.

Ballet master Adam Sage says Filipino dancers adapt very well whether they are dancing Swan Lake, Giselle or Don Quixote. “There is something about Filipino dancers that gives ballet a special quality,” Sage added. “For one, they are naturally graceful, and they have innate musicality that you see in their movements. It can only come from a country which loves music and dance.”

Ballet Philippines President Margie Moran Floirendo pointed out Don Quixote has a long history in the company since 1973 when it featured some favorite variations and excerpts. “Manila audiences have seen the Kitri of Natalia Makarova and Martine van Hamel and the Basilio of Patrick Bissell. I am glad Ballet Philippines is bringing it back with millennials doing their own version. Our own Candice Adea will dance with ballet champ Joseph Gatti in the gala nights with the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jeffrey Solares.”

Conductor Solares said memorizing the exact tempo is the most challenging part of conducting a ballet. “In an ordinary score a conductor can interpret an allegro or andante in many ways but in ballet you try to make it as exact as possible to what the dancers have rehearsed. Eventually dancers must also learn to adjust to live orchestral music. I think it’s a challenge for them as well.”

Conductor Jeffrey Solares with Ballet Philippines artistic director Alice Reyes.

The first ballet Solares has conducted was Leo Delibes’ Coppelia in 2008 when he was still new with MSO. That was the time when local ballet productions seldom use live music considering the risk. “It was very exciting as well as very inspiring to work with dancers as you see first-hand the passion, energy and commitment they give into their craft. The conductor cannot afford to make many mistakes at rehearsals as this will tire out the dancers. You must watch what’s happening on stage, how they position themselves before you give your downbeat, and how to catch their final steps. It is more challenging when you have different set of lead dancers as each have their own desired tempo in their variations. The conductor should not just rely on the score. He must treat his job as part of a bigger production hence the need to work closely with choreographers and dancers before the live orchestra rehearsals. There are usually cuts and jumps and inserts that choreographers have added to the score. So, you have to anticipate sudden changes.”

After Coppelia, Solares worked with Ballet Philippines’ Te Deum and then the full-length production of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. His last BP assignment was Ryan Cayabyab’s Rama Hari in 2012.

The conductor said the lively music with a lot of special Spanish flavor is what everyone should enjoy in Don Quixote. “There are a couple of lyrical passages but most of the ballet reflects the joie de vivre of the characters and the somewhat crazy hallucinations of Don Quixote himself.”

For Monica Gana and Ian Ocampo who will dance Kitri and Basilio in one matinee performance, the message of Don Q is about the timelessness of love and passion.

Victor Maguad in Swan Lake. All set for the role of Basilio. Photo by Ballet Philippines.

Monica after internalizing her role said everything is possible if one has passion.

Ian added you must find joy in everything that you do.

Victor Maguad admitted this is the first time he is dancing the full-length Don Q.“I would say that the toughest side of this role is to deliver the story from Act 1 to 3. Not to mention that it demands a balance of artistry and technique to wrap up the ballet. I need to internalize the character of Basilio as a young, vibrant and very charismatic lover of Kitri. Technically, it demands a lot of effortless tricks and stamina. I can relate to the character when he fights for his loved one and how he copes with family matters. Doing Siegfried (Swan Lake) and Nutcracker Prince helped me prepare both my body and mind for a role.They also helped me gain strength and maturity as an artist.”

For Victor, the most difficult part of Don Q is the grand pas de deux which is the most awaited finale. “This is what they’ve been looking forward to see as this is the climax of the ballet. This is the moment when we do the most difficult partnering technique that demands stamina and full connection with my partner and to the audience. This takes a lot of mastery, teamwork, communication and motivation to each other.”

The other Basilio in Don Q is Joseph Gatti who will partner Filipina ballerina Candice Adea.

Maguad found him a humble person. “I admire his working ethics in classes and rehearsals. He’s also fun to work with and he inspires a lot of young dancers here in the Philippines.”

Ballet Philippines president Margie Moran Floirendo ballet master Adam Sage and with ensemble of dancers. Photo by Cherry Bong Edralin.

(Aside from Gatti and Adea, the principal roles of Kitri and Basilio will be portrayed by BP company members Jemima Reyes, Monica Gana and Ian Ocampo. Denise Parungao plays the role of Mercedes. Catch this very special run of Don Quixote on February 9-18, 2018 at the CCP Main Theater. Gala Nights with Mr. Gatti and the Manila Symphony Orchestra under Jeffrey Solares are on February 9, 8pm and February 10, 7pm. For tickets, call Ballet Philippines at (+632) 551-1003, the CCP Box Office at (+632) 832-3704, or Ticketworld at (+632) 891-9999 or


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