Up until now, I still can't believe I was invited on the press launch of Ballet Manila's 20th Anniversary Concert last Wednesday. It was a first and it's really a great experience since I was also a fan of ballet concerts during my college days. The press preview showcased 5 different pieces which highlighted BM's triumphant 20 years with significant repertoire tracing the company's road to success.
Ballet is a performance dance which originated during the Renaissance period and later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. Here in the Philippines, only one name immediately popped up when we talk about ballet, Ms. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. She's the first Filipina Prima Ballerina and the first foreign soloist to join the Kirov Ballet which is a classical ballet company in Russia. And after receiving numerous recognition in ballet she now directs and teach ballet at the Ballet Manila School.
As a principal dancer, Ms. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde fondly remembers back in 1995 when the company had only 12 dancers. But the passion they all had for performance excellence was so strong that they conquered all challenges and kept the dance company intact through decades. Ms. Lisa added, "what makes us different from other companies is our commitment to the highest standards of classical ballet based on our Russian Vaganova roots."
After years of hard work and dedication, the dance company reaped the fruits of its hard-earned labor. From a mere 12 member dance company, Ballet Manila now has over 50 professional dancers. The company regularly holds its performances at Aliw Theater and Star theater, which are both located within Star City.
And for their 20th Anniversary Concert, "the show will joyfully celebrate the distinct qualities that helped define Ballet Manila over the last 20 years," Ms. Lisa added.
The launch was opened by Ms. Lisa herself and I was awed by her classy and sophisticated aura. I've seen her perform and the smile and glow in her eyes never fades (luckily I've got the chance to take a picture with her).
The preview started with "Paquita" which represents the company's Vaganova training. It's a traditional and a powerful dance that will truly catch your attention. It is the dance that would show off the technical refinements of BM's dancers.
The second performance would be a surprise (so even us have to wait for the full show) because it would be performed by an alumna, Christine Rocas which has been successful in Chicago, with her regular partner, Rory Hohenstein.
The third part of the repertoire is a collaboration with an international choreographer. "Bloom" was choreographed by Belgian-Columbian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. It was the first work that Ms. Annabelle has for an Asian dance company according to Ms. Lisa.
And last but not the least, "Ecole" which ushers the new generation of ballet dancers. It features the top students and scholars of both Ballet Manila and Project Ballet Futures which provides dance scholarships to public school students.
After the preview, we were given the chance to chat with the principal dancers and soloists. I'm glad I've personally met the pretty and kind principal dancer Ms. Dawna Mangahas and the humble soloist Mr. Elpidio Magat. Both will perform the piece "Paquita" so watch out for them. Of course, all the other dancers were great, they shared about their passion for ballet and I admire them for being so dedicated with their craft. I'm also surprised to find out that they were young and yet they strive hard to become the best dancers that they can be.
And of course, the greatest way to end the press launch is to hear it from Ms. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. They've worked hard for the repertoire and hoping that people would get the chance to watch them. The preview is awesome and enthralling. So, I bet the whole concert would be as fascinating.
If you want to see something new and refreshing do watch Ballet Manila's 20th Anniversary Concert on February 28, 7:30 p.m. and on March 1, 3:00 p.m. at the Aliw Theater in Pasay City. Tickets are available at ticketworld (www.ticketworld.com.ph).