Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Conversations: Vincent De Jesus Triple Threat Concert

Conversations. Sometimes it's all I need after a bad day. Sometimes, it's all I need to complete a beautiful moment. Sometimes, it's all I need to feel alive after a monotonous dull week.  Other times, it makes me cry, mad, frustrated. After two hours of Vincent De Jesus, I left the theater feeling as if I had just had the most intense conversation with a friend.  It replenished my soul like a good old cup of coffee. His music befriended me, comforted me, loved me. And when the time came for him to rant and grieve through his songs, I wanted to return the favor and give him a hug. I wanted to tell him "It's ok Vincent. May Forever. I promise". I wanted to sit beside him and cry with him but reality disrupted my thoughts and the curtains closed.  Hindi pala kami close. Laughing inside, I reminded myself that  he doesn't know I exist and that this was the first time I saw him in person. Just like that the conversation ended. But just like a good one, I was left with emotions  that I think will stay with me for awhile. 

Bed of Tears 
I loved the whole show but there were some spots that stood out.  Ricci Chan swayed me with his performance  of  "Twenty Four Years Old" .  Tearful, I listened to him and heard the pretty melody and lyrics that made me crumble.  Bituin Escalante started singing the first few lines from the song "Kasalan Ko" and immediately she silenced the crowd and drew them in. In contrast to the anguish that the song has she performed every lyric with sensitivity. Having heard this a second time, I felt that she really took the time to share with the audience the depth of this musical creation. I appreciated the sensory bliss. But what overwhelmed me was the layers she brought to the performance. (Uh Oh..... I think the memory is making me tear up just a bit.)


A Barrel of Laughs 

Both the Care Divas and the Zsa Zsa Zaturninah Suites provided comical breathers that were embraced by the audience. The combination of colorful actors, playful music and simple yet intelligent humor was simply a beautiful triumph. The usual slapstick was replaced by the comedy of life. 


Story telling
Pas De Deux from Songs Without Words was performed by dancers PJ Rebullida and Erick Dizon. The music alone was stirring. For a moment or two I closed my eyes and just listened to the melancholy dripping from each note. I opened my eyes and I got goosebumps from these two gentlemen who told the story of the song. Rebullida threw his arms to embrace Dizon and Dizon melted away. Left in space was a memory of what used to be there. Dizon slid away but kept his hand on Rebullida as if the thought of breaking completely free was threatening. Their performance was so powerful that I was reduced to mush. I wanted a happy ending but there was none, there were only regrets. 


All of his presented pieces spoke volumes about De Jesus' unique mind.   In the end, I say thank you for the music. Thank you for clothing us with your healing and loving music. He says he is demented, delightful and deranged. The combined madness is the source of his  "hugot" masterpieces. I say he is ALSO  deep, delicate and devoted. The new set of ds push him to create with care and with love.  Hats off to a genius.  I say thank you Vincent De Jesus  for allowing your music to be there for people.  Thank you for the much needed chat. Bravo.

How shall I say it? Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have … And music transports me immediately into the condition of soul in which he who wrote the music found himself at that time. I become confounded with his soul, and with him I pass from one condition to another.” —"The Kreutzer Sonata"

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Substance on a Platter: Ballet Manila's Romeo and Juliet

Ever since I was young, I've always believed in giving respect to the theater. The stage  to me is not just a venue but a representation of the collective triumphs of artists. It is a place that glorifies the hard work of artists. More importantly it is a place that  sends a message to  non artists that the artist's life is worthwhile.  Having said that  I always get disappointed when newbies perform in their comfort zone and calculate every move they make.   When that happens it feels that the stage was  was not given ample respect. Personally, heart always weighed more to me than any other factors of a show. Ballet Manila's Romeo and Juliet  affirms that they have attained a level of maturity that practically ensures that each dancer understands the concept of  going full out. I saw   an ensemble  that offered their heart for the taking. Ballet Manila was a picture of  youthful endurance, artistic freedom and generosity. No doubt about it Romeo and Juliet will always focus on the leads  but it was refreshing to see  an ensemble fully invested in  telling a story. They supported the  characters con gusto with their dynamic execution of the quick-footed choreography. 

Katherine Barkman as Juliet showed that she was a sensitive artist. The ballet required numerous arabesques but each seemed different as she swept across the floor with a different breath each time. She paced her emotions with care as if to ensure that the audience felt everything with her. She had the audience ( well me at least) aching for a different ending even if everyone knew the story's tragic ending. Layers of emotion unfolded  like beautiful colors. I particularly enjoyed the balcony scene and her death scene. On a technical note, I love how her feet melt down nicely on the floor. The choreography  requires intricate transitions  in the pas de deux which she performs with complete trust in her partner. 

Rudy De Dios as Romeo was charming. He was focused on his portrayal of  the love stricken man tortured by thoughts of distance. I would have wanted to see a more boyish Romeo in Act 1 to establish the contrast as he introduces a more mature man towards his death. 

Barkman and De Dios are competent dancers. Their partnership was clean but despite their physical compatibility but did not have the Nuryev Fonteyn magic all couples aspire for. Truth be told, I thought  the  elegant Mark Sumaylo would be a good Romeo to Barkman. Organic chemistry was not quite there but I believe through time they will be able to make converts out of people. Eventually there will be a clamor for   team KatheDy. 


Newbie but goodie Jasmine Pia Dames sparkled as the Mercutio's harlot. Teamed up with Gerardo Francisco, they gave a remarkable performance. The unlikely pair  commanded the stage.  Despite her height, it was hard to miss Dames' energy. She obviously enjoyed the spotlight. She made use of her seconds of fame.  I silently cheered for her as she joyously leaped, kicked and turned. Her size is quite a challenge considering Ballet Manila's roster of tall dancers but her performance  was just too good not too notice. 

The legendary partnership of Lisa Macuja and Nonoy Froilan on stage had me snapping away like a crazy photographer. I didn't want to miss  a single moment. This was a beautiful reunion. I honestly didn't expect much dancing from the couple as they played character roles but Paul Vasterling had them  lunging, lifting and backbending. All of which were of course done in the highest standards possible. 

The ballet performed was the vision of Paul Vasterling who is currently CEO and Artistic Director of Nashville Ballet. Ballet Manila is the first to perform his version in Asia. What makes his version unique was the pace of his story telling. Romeo and Juliet usually clocks in at least two hours and a half without intermission. This however was an audience friendly ballet. It was a speedy performance that was easy to ingest. Compared to other versions this has more technical dancing to enjoy. Juliet's friends  even  had mini solos consisting of different turns including fouettes.  My only disappointment was that when Tybalt died, Lady Capulet's time to grieve ended too quickly. This is usually one of the highlights of the ballet but it seemed like it was done in a minute. Lisa Macuja is an excellent actress and I would have enjoyed seeing her milk that scene leaving the audience in tears. Instead we had to move on to the next scene. 

To end, Ballet Manila's tragedy had a happy ending, with an appreciative audience clapping until their hands hurt. With good ballet technique, inventive choreography and a committed cast, success is inevitable. Substance on a platter simply works. Perfection can never really be achieved but that was a pretty darn good effort to stay on top. Bravo Ballet Manila. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crossroads : Philippine Ballet Theatre's Dancing in One Voice

The goal of every production is to stimulate emotions. The stage was built to stir the feelings of an otherwise resting heart. Philippine Ballet Theatre's (PBT) second season offering definitely jolted mine awake. Like caffeine it allowed me to feel  everything from  happiness, turmoil, love and even a bit of sadness. 

Fourteen choreographic pieces were created by PBT's artistic director and resident choreographer Ronilo Jaynario. For this benefit show, the intention was to highlight the supposedly orgasmic experience of dance, music and vocal stylings of reputable singers, quite an original concept. 

Opening with "The Prayer", Joni Galeste and Mark Pineda performed a beautiful lyrical piece.   In tune with the song's tone quality  , it did provided a sense of yogic calm. The synchronicity and the fluidity of the dancers' partnership  gave the audience a chance  to savor the aesthetics. Aside from their solid technique, perhaps it was divine intervention that gave the couple a definitive glow. 


Particularly noteworthy was "Summertime" performed by Lobreza Pimentel and Matthew Davo. This jazzy ballet displayed technically very difficult backbend lifts, contortionist exhibitions and partnered extensions. Extraordinary was Pimentel's ability to remain strikingly fierce throughout the demanding  two minute extravaganza. She was flirtatious, sassy and even a tad devilish. Davo ably partnered her armed with his boyish charm. Their performance matched the temperament of the song leaving the audience wanting  more of their bite sized goodness. 

Kim Abrogena and Kaizier Policarpio brought a whole new meaning to the words "Hold me in your arms."  They performed a romantic pas de deux to the song " How do you keep the music playing" . It was poetry in motion as they nailed the dance  highlights, Deliciously extended partnered arabesques, ala secondes and attitudes were a delight to see. With Abrogena sweet as pie, Policarpio hammed up and danced like a debonair. 

The best offering of the night for me was a contemporary piece performed by Ian Ocampo and Regine Magbitang. Packed with emotion they gave meaning to the song "Just Give me a Reason". Through movement they shared with  the audience a conversation. There was love, longing, hope and hurt. It was almost too real. They filled the theatre with a powerful energy that left my heart pulsating in the rhythm of their music. I particularly loved the suspended shapes and the unexpected assisted leaps.  Magbitang was agile and completely solid throughout. Ocampo's lines were picture perfect. 


I would love to say that the string of choreographic successes that I mentioned set a trend for the evening. Jaynario is a very good choreographer who often challenges his dancers to do more than they think they can do both emotionally and physically.  This is proven by the winning performances mentioned earlier.  But I thought for this particular production  it wasn't enough that you create individual pieces that are good. Yes the pieces made me smile, cry, feel romantic even, but some of it also made me a bit sad.  

Philippine Ballet Theatre's dancers are world class. They are capable of  displaying  a high level of skill and artistry  under the whip of Jaynario. They are schooled to perfection. It was a bit disappointing that there were conceptual decisions that  made it seem like the dancers could not carry a show based on the Company's excellence.  Ballet is a visual art form, I thought the very vague and generic narrated introductions were highly unnecessary. After all, the lyrics were already sung and the bodies already moved, it was like the audience  members were incapable of comprehending the material. The concept was presented to the would be audiences as a revolutionary concept  combining singers and dancers yet they had just finished a similar concert format show. Numerous runs of Serye at Sayaw delighted audiences in different parts of  Manila. 

I understand the concept of producing material with  commercial appeal but I do not necessarily agree that showing pieces that are more appropriate on tv variety shows is reflective of the Company's thrust. I salute PBT  for their display of athleticism. I applaud them for their soulfulness and commitment to whatever they were made to dance. While I'm certain many people loved this show I  hope  that  PBT can combine their millennial spirit with a little bit of  familiar classical taste in their future explorations.  I can't wait to see PBT shine bright  again with their crowd favorite "Nutcracker".