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Ballet Manila dances again with classics for its 25th season

THE MAIN role of Kitri in Don Quixote will be played by Katherine Barkman.

AFTER a fire destroyed it in 2019, followed by the coronavirus pandemic which kept its doors shut for a further two years, the Aliw Theater in Pasay City if finally reopening. Its inaugural performance is also Ballet Manila’s return to the stage with the first of three productions of its 25th performance season, Of Hope and Homecoming.

“Once again Aliw Theater is open, and live performances are back, and there is a rebirth and a renewal of the ability to perform to a live audience,” Ballet Manila CEO and artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde said during a press conference on Feb. 8 at the Aliw Theater.

Due to the uncertainty of mounting a full season, Ms. Macuja-Elizalde waited for the other ballet companies to finish their shows last year before opening a full season for Ballet Manila.

She described it as a “radical” move to open the season in February instead August as the company used to do.

ROMEO AND JULIETJust as radical is the 25th season’s opening production, British choreographer Martin Lawrence’s reimagining of Romeo and Juliet in a modern Filipino setting with a mix of musical genres.

The ballet is set in a quaint Philippine town with dancers dressed in hip costumes, performing to a mash-up of the original Prokofiev score along with popular OPM songs, and tracks from the musical West Side Story.

“I really wanted it to be a mixture,” Mr. Lawrence said of combining contemporary music and with the original classical score.

“Prokofiev is so heavy all the way through [that] I needed to give it some variety,” he said.

There will be performances on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 5 p.m.

DON QUIXOTEThe season will continue with the classical ballet, Don Quixote.

“My ballet teacher in Russia said that company dancers get strong with putting up classical ballet,” Ms. Macuja-Elizalde said. “So, I really wanted there to be a full-length classical. And the easiest classical performance to put on if you don’t have that many dancers is Don Quixote.” Ballet Manila currently has 30 dancers.

The main role of Kitri will be played by Katherine Barkman. Mentored by Macuja-Elizalde from 2015 to 2018, Ms. Barkman was a principal dancer at Ballet Manila before moving back to the US in 2018. She is currently at the San Francisco Ballet.

Ms. Barkman will be in town to dance alongside Esteban Hernandez, a principal danseur at San Francisco Ballet, who will play Basilio.

“Coming back to the full-length Kitri, I had a lot more time dancing excerpts of Kitri over the last few years,” Ms. Barkman, who began dancing the role at 19, said at the press conference via Zoom. “To return to the full-length, the biggest difference that I hope will be evident is a more authentic and natural approach to the character,” she said.

Don Quixote goes onstage on May 27 at 8 p.m. and May 28 at 5 p.m.

IBONG ADARNAFinally, the performance season will close with an original Filipino work, Ibong Adarna by Gerardo Francisco.

Mr. Francisco’s choreography for the ballet has received multiple accolades including Gawad Buhay awards for Outstanding Male Lead for Modern Dance, Outstanding Modern Dance Production, and Outstanding Choreography for Modern Dance.

Mr. Francisco noted that this version will be shorter, and an LED screen will be maximized for visual effects.

Ibong Adarna goes on stage Aug. 19 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 20 at 5 p.m.

“This is an auspicious beginning. It may be a simple beginning but it’s a beginning, nonetheless. And from here, we are just starting and we are going to soar,” Ms. Macuja-Elizalde said.

All performances will be staged at Aliw Theater, Pasay City. For tickets, or call 8891-9999. To know more about Ballet Manila and its shows, visit — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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