Arts & Culture

Poignant Elgar and dazzling Prokofiev

Stepmother and stepsisters with Sinderela


BALLET Manila has an interesting twin-bill for its holiday treat and with contrasting flavors at that.

It opened with an austere, if, poignant Sonata (choreographed by Osias Barroso) to the full music of Elgar’s Sonata in E Minor, Opus 82 for violin and piano. Providing live music is British violinist Robert Atchison with Russian pianist Olga Dudnik on the piano.

Sub-titled “Love’s Awakening With A Kiss,” Sonata is a complicated piece to interpret owing to the cerebral nature of the the music. But you actually warm up to both the music and the choreography as the story unfolds. Danced by Hana Oh and Harold Salgado with a corps de ballet, the Sonata wove its own magic when the music and the choreography found their common link. Salgado is a very competent partner and a very supportive one. A highly lyrical dancer with a luminous face is Hanna Oh whose subtle acting gave you a romantic clue as to what the piece is all about.

It must be unsettling playing a three-movement sonata with the stage filled with thuds of dancers entering and exiting the stage. Even in this uncommon collaborative set-up, Atchison and Dudnik proved to be a tried-and-tested chamber duo. The first movement was a good opener for the piece; one soloist froze for the start of the second movement and all at once you could feel the poetry of the piece. The music didn’t have a hard time finding their way into the supple bodies of the dancers.

As it is, Sonata is a fitting tribute to the 150th birth anniversary of Sir Edward William Elgar.

Poster SinderelaOne has seen several versions of Cinderella in the past based on the classic tale by Charles Perrault and the Grimm brothers. But Hazel Sabas-Gower’s story adaptation localized as Sinderela has many things going for it.

For one, the set design by Katsch Catoy and costume design by PJ Arañador easily set the mood of the story.

For another, the ballet proper opened with brilliant character actors (Jonathan Janolo as Traviesa the step-mom, Gerardo Francisco as Avaricia the lazy stepsister and Michael Divinagracia as the controlling stepsister) whose every move had the audience guffawing with every naughty move they had as they harass poor Sinderela played  by Jennifer Rose Olayvar.

Talent search on television was realistically incorporated in this ballet complete with screaming fans, interviews with  contestants and with male lead Al Prinsipe (Nazer Salgado) appearing on  a showbiz TV interview.

Gower’s adaptation changed the setting of the grand ball to a dance audition pretty much like the myriads of talent search shows on television.  Even in this setting, the choreography allowed breath-taking solo variations and grand pas which all the more highlighted the original flavor of the choreography.

Hana Oh as Tita Nia and nature enchantress is one dancer blessed with a beautiful body and an arresting face that can convey joy and sadness with the least effort. Her dancing – never blatant or showing off — revealed familiarity with the score. She is one big additional asset to Ballet Manila.

The acting and dancing challenges of  Sinderela is no less daunting as in Swan Lake or Giselle. The solo variations and grand pas required no less and Salgado shone.

The Sinderella of  Olayvar lived up to the acting challenge but it was easy to see in the last grand pas that the choreography required so much power and stamina and was bound to drain them. She managed beautifully but the big effort showed.

Sinderella choreographerThe other big attractions of the ballet are the superb ensemble dancing of the corps de ballet playing the roles of the Garden Spirits, the Time/Clock Spirits, the female auditionees  and dance assistants.

From the way the audience reacted, one could gauge that this ballet is a winner.

True enough, this updated Sinderela by Hazel Sabas Gower is a show-stopper. Scene by scene, the ballet is as timely as last night’s talent search, the highly innovative choreography has the immense challenge of Swan Lake and Giselle and the dancing and acting of the stepsisters had audiences rolling on the floor with laughter. The popular showbiz inputs notwithstanding, this localized version of Cinderella managed to live up to the powerful Prokofiev score with aplomb!

We look forward to more choreographic gems from Hazel Sabas Gower!

 “Sinderela” has its last performances December 8 and 9 at Aliw Theater at 10 a.m; 1 p.m.; 3 p.m.