Arts & Culture

Homecoming ballet stars in Ballet Manila’s gala




THERE’S no sweeter applause than the ones coming from the hometown audience.

For the audience, there are no stars who shine brighter than those from home.

On Saturday, dance enthusiasts will have a rare treat of Filipino dance artists who are shining in the world stage perform together. Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja-Elizalde gathered at least seven multi-awarded Filipino dancers with different ballet companies overseas for a one-night gala concert.

The Saturday event is another variation of what Macuja-Elizalde has been doing the past three years: organizing ballet galas. In the past years, she gave Filipino audience  Stars of Russian Ballet, the Singapore Dance Theatre gala entitled DUO and the World Stars of Ballet.

“This year, I decided to keep the gala close to home by inviting Filipino artists who have excelled abroad and bringing them here to dance for our local audiences,” she says.

The gala was inspired by shows Macuja-Elizalde herself performed in in the 1980s and 1990s, mounted by Ballet Philippines and Philippine Ballet Theater, and featuring Filipino dance icons working abroad and in the local scene.

Featured in Stars of Philippine Ballet are Candice Adea of Hong Kong Ballet, Christine Rocas of Joffrey Ballet, Aileen Gallinera and Eduardo Espejo of Ballet David Campos, Marcelino Libao of Hamburg Ballet and Jared Tan of Atlanta Ballet.

Macuja-Elizalde is partnered by Rudy De Dios of Ballet Manila, with Jean Marc Cordero joining the production courtesy of Ballet Philippines.

Also showcased are Ballet Manila, the Philippine Ballet Theater, and international guest artists Mayo Arii of Hamburg Ballet, Jennifer Drake and Brian Williamson of Dance Theatre of Tennessee, and Mauro Villanueva of Joffrey Ballet.

Chris Mohnani, former principal dancer of Ballet Manila and the Nashville Ballet, is coming as artistic director of his own ballet company, Dance Theatre of Tennessee.

Mohnani said it feels “great and surreal” to be back in Manila with artists from a company that he directed back in the US.

In 2004, while in Nashville,Mohnani  founded the Asian American Performing Arts Society (AAPAS), a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that promotes and celebrates the beauty and diversity of Asian performing arts and artists. Upon his retirement in 2009, he transitioned AAPAS to be Dance Theatre of Tennessee (DTT), one of only two professional dance organization in Middle Tennessee. Applying the same foundation he learned from Ballet Manila and its leaders, DTT carries the mission of “ballet for the people.”

“Giving ballet class to US based artists in the very same place I learned all of it is humbling. Although the audience will just see two of them – they are going to share years of training and wisdom BM taught me, coupled with the experience and opportunities I got and learned while dancing abroad. Not a full circle as of yet, but a great start and a great opportunity and one that I hope won’t be the last,” he said.

Eduardo Espejo and Aileen Gallinera will dance the pas de deux from the opera Faust and from Mascara de la Muerte Roja, both choreographed by David Campos of Barcelona’s Ballet David Campos where the two are principal dancers.

Christine Rocas and Mauro Villanueva will perform two pieces from the Joffrey Ballet repertoire – Reflections by Gerald Arpino and Bells (Pas de Deux) by Yuri Possokhov.

Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero will dance in Diane et Acteon, by Agrippina Vaganova, taken from the ballet Esmeralda about the Goddess of the Hunt who falls in love with the brave hunter; and in Alden Lugnasin’s interpretation of a Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand duet, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.

From Ballet Manila, among the featured pairs are: Stephanie Eunice Cabral and Arnulfo Andrade in Wedding Pas De Deux from Act 3 of The Sleeping Beauty; and Dawna Mangahas and Elpidio Magat in Grand Pas Classique.

Rocas is excited about the dance event: “The word `gala’ just adds more pressure. It’s not just an ordinary show. 2005 was the last time I danced here, and it almost feels like I have something to prove but at the same time, no, because why think about that? Why not just dance? “

She assures the audience it’s going to be a good show. She said she is also looking forward to the other pieces that the other Filipinos that are coming will dance. “It’s gonna be fun. It’s a good learning experience to see what others will be sharing artistically — the steps, the techniques..,” she enthused.

The gala also includes the Philippine premiere of choreographies by John Neumeier, artistic director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet (Spring and Fall and Nocturnes); the two dance pieces of the Joffrey Ballet, Bells and Reflections; a new choreography by Ron Jaynario (La Femme, the second of a three-part work in progress for PBT, called The Tribe); and a new piece by Augustus Damian III for an all-male ensemble of Ballet Manila entitled Aramica.

Also not to be missed is George Balanchine’s Who Cares? set to the music of George Gershwin, featuring Dance Theatre of Tennessee’s Drake and Williamson.

The show is for the benefit of Ballet Manila’s scholarship program, Project Ballet Futures.