Sunday, March 26, 2017

New breed of ballet stars take flight in Ballet Philippines' Swan Lake

Eugene Obille, Joseph Phillips, and Candice Adea

Ballet Philippines’ 47th season ender Swan Lake turned out to be the coming out party of the company’s new breed of ballet stars namely principal dancer Denise Parungao and soloists Jemima Reyes, Garry Corpuz, and Victor Maguad.

This production, restaged by Nonoy Froilan from the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, saw the young quartet’s debut in a classical ballet lead role. Despite some slips owing to inexperience, each showed flashes of brilliance during their respective performances that I was able to see. One could easily imagine each of them following the footsteps of the production’s guest dancers, Candice Adea and Joseph Phillips.

Obviously, the hot ticket during the limited two weekend run was the International Gala featuring Candice Adea and Joseph Phillips. Having the most experience between the two of them compared to the other pairs, there was a sense of ease and security watching them as they embodied their respective roles. It was hard to believe that after all these years Candice Adea has never danced Odette/Odille before. But it didn’t look like it especially during Odille’s variation when she nailed the opening turns twice eliciting cheers from the audience. Joseph Phillips as Prince Siegfried provided solid support for Candice (whether she be Odette or Odille) never overshadowing his partner. His solo variations here may not have the flashy leaps and turns of his previous performances in Don Quixote or in the Flames of Paris Pas de deux during The Great Classics, but there was a sureness in it that just made me sit back, relax and enjoy watching his performance.

The young pair of Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad were the leads during the opening night, marking a huge step up for these two. The most technically daring among the leads, Victor executed a brilliant sextuple pirouette early in Act I while Jemima completed her trick laden fouettés, throwing some doubles during the first half and then rotated spots at the second. A far cry from their lead roles in the feel good ballet Peter Pan, both had to dig deep and plunge into emotional depths to fulfill the acting demands for Swan Lake. Their superb performances in their starring role debuts in Firebird for Jemima and Crisostomo Ibarra for Victor somehow paved the way for them to be cast in here.

The other pair of Denise Parungao and Garry Corpuz looked very tall together with each possessing limbs that seem to last forever. Denise’s arms were divine especially towards the end of Act II that actually drew gasps from the audience. Garry, the tallest member of Ballet Philippines, used his extension to maximum effect. Although he played it safe with his pirouettes, his leaps were exemplary with a hang time that make it seem like he pauses for a beat while in mid-air. He also displayed abilities to do double tours in both directions which is a neat trick. Denise, after being sidelined for almost a season due to injury, blossomed as Odette/Odille. Just like a swan, she has transformed into a woman while her previous roles in Giselle and Cinderella, she felt like a girl back then.

The orchestra, under the baton of Yoshikazu Fukumura, was on top form although I couldn’t help but cringe whenever I heard the harp part which was actually an electronic keyboard simulating the sound of the instrument. This further highlights the lack of harpists that our country has which I hope could be remedied as soon as possible. I also have to mention that when I saw a show that didn’t have the orchestra and just had recorded music, the tempo was noticeably faster. No wonder that some of the dancers were a bit off and encountered some difficulties during their performances accompanied by the orchestra. Having to perform on stage at a much slower tempo than the one they’ve been rehearsing with could really throw off their timing especially when jumping and turning.

Ballet Philippines’ latest staging of Swan Lake had been ambitious and also risky considering that all but one of the leads had never danced their roles before. The company’s 47th season was billed as Wings, and with Swan Lake, the young ones who had their baptism of fire with this production had just spread their wings and took their first real flight. And it would be interesting to see how these dancers and the rest of the company will soar as we gear towards their golden anniversary a few years from now.

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