Thursday, July 27, 2017

Archive: Ballet Philippines' Your Highness in Photos

About the Show
In cooperation with the choreographer Eisa Jocson and Mousonturm Frankfurt, Ballet Philippines presented the World Premiere of “Your Highness” at the CCP Little Theater last  July 27-28, 2017. Created with 5 young and dexterous dancers of Ballet Philippines, 'Your Highness' is a concert that prefigures their potential transition into the industry of happiness. It endlessly rehearses their becoming 'real' within the fantasy hall of 'performed happiness': of manufactured desires built upon privilege and the idealized Other. This work was likewise  performed at several major European performing arts festivals last August to September 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Join the Newsies Strike

The involvement of Globe Telecom in the creative process of Nineworks Theatrical has definitely made a tremendous impact in the theatre industry. It is a shining example of partnerships gone right. In recent years the partnership has expanded Nineworks' capabilities and provided artistic liberties that many theatrical groups could only dream of. Nineworks has always had a cult following but Globe with its wide reach has introduced them to new thirsty audiences. Achievement unlocked. With consolidated resources, financial compromises are minimized leaving a better chance of artistic triumph on stage. This was the case when they showcased "The Christmas Carol" last year which captured the hearts of many. Globe has not been getting the short end of the stick either because Globe's name soared with every happy social media savvy audience member. This formula seemingly has been win win for both parties, indeed a fantastic deal.

This time however, Globe and Nineworks have outdone themselves. They have suavely transitioned from doing business handshakes to venturing into an artistic collaboration. Both parties seem to have made a strong point about focusing on the Filipino artist. The Filipinos have always been full of talent but go to any European country and you will find more than a handful triple threats. Just this year I made my theater rounds in London and out came the triple pirouetting, straddle jumping pitch perfect gorgeous performers. Truthfully, there are not enough singer actors who can dance at a professional caliber here in Manila. A lot have the moves but not many can do the tricks. Despite this fact, they chose to bring to Manila Disney's "Newsies", a musical that is famous precisely because of the triple threat mighty hard technical requirements. Instead of shying away from risk, they chose to strike. Initiating an artistic revolution they gave both veterans and newbies in the cast a taste of intense skill upgrading. They believed the Pinoys could do it with the right training. The truth of the matter is whether the critics crush them or not, the cast will go home with all the gifts they have gained from "Training Ground". They already have a win on their side. The question is, did they deliver a win for Nineworks and Globe?

Newsies is largely based on the Newsboy strike of 1899 in New York city. Led by alpha-male New Yorker Jack Kelly, the Newsies raise their voices and launch a strike to counter the Pulitzer broadsheets empire. Truthfully, it wasn't much of a battle for Gian Magdangal who played Jack Kelly. After a hiatus from local theater, Magdangal  came back strong, refreshed and revitalized. With just the right New Yorker swagger he won the audience within minutes. His silvery voice intact and his charms on full capacity, we quickly believed he was the hero that would save the Newsies.

It seemed however that the Newsies didn't need much saving. The ensemble was a force to be reckoned with. No doubt with a lot of mentoring from veteran director Robbie Guevarra, the cast composed of mostly newbies were transformed into fearless Newsies. I was happy to see that most of them really took the training to heart. It showed in their confidence level. My heart jumped a bit as the ensemble took on a grand tap number that was too cute for words. I appreciate the vitality of the dancing. Bravo to PJ Rebullida for whipping them into shape. As for the acting, each guy held on consistently to their individual characters with vigor. In particular, musical theater newbies Ian Ocampo (ballet dancer) and Alex McDermott (TV Host and actor) quite literally swept me off my feet. These newbies were at ease and displayed that they were indeed worthy of being called triple threats. They savored their lines as if it were a privilege (It is!) and demanded to be seen and heard. Their dancing was expansive and their execution (from accent to singing) meticulously on point. For both men, it was a perfectly calibrated performance.  Newsies today, leading men tomorrow. 

Luis Marcelo who played Crutchie a disabled Newsie is perhaps my favorite of the bunch . I like his straightforward animated approach to being the ultimate underdog side kick. But what was memorable to me was his ability to make moments out of silence. When he was being dragged out by the cops he made sure he made his dignity felt with his steely yet almost glassy eyes. He slayed his solo (Letter from a Refuge) belting out emotional notes that seemed to stay with me long after the scene finished.

Jef Flores played Davy the brains behind the strike. While I did like his performance I would have to commend him for something else. His Newsie transformation is perhaps the biggest success of  "Training Ground".  I would never have imagined that Flores would be able to do tricks like a dive roll, a saut de basque (ballet jump), pirouettes and a tap routine. I did not see that coming at all especially because I knew before hand that he was going to be taking on the role of a timid passive Newsie. Kudos to Flores for allowing the challenge to change him. Confidence and commitment is key and he had both in his pockets the whole time. 

On the technical side of things, there were a few forgivable imperfections. There were mic issues when I watched. The rain didn't help. I loved the structural set made by Ed Lacson. The movable sets punctuated the gritty New York Streets and framed some of the scenes strategically. I appreciated the projections because the innovation complimented the story telling. However, it is also because of this that some scenes were a tad too dark often casting a shadow on the faces of the actors when they are up on the sets. Thankfully the actors have enough light in them to make themselves noticed.

Overall the simple narrative of the story was beautifully packaged with impressive production value with the heart of fired up Filipino artists at the center of it all. This time it's not only a win for Nineworks and Globe. Newsies is a win for the Filipino triple threats. Director Robbie Guevara brings forward what he initially promised, a paradigm shift that I hope will continue to bring inspiration and transformation to the people who encounter it. Let's all join the strike and believe in change. We all could use an upgrade right?! Strike!

or contact Ticketworld at 891-99-99

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Spamalot's Bright Side of Life

Upstart Productions  wants people to see the bright side of life and laughter is their game plan. They bring to theater audiences "Spamalot". Quite obviously a parody, it is a retelling of medieval times. It will bring to  life  familiar characters such as  King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Before you get the wrong idea that you know exactly how this show will go, let me tell you that there is no way it will be  how you imagined it to be (unless you've seen it of course). It's inspiration goes over and  beyond the original movie and crosses over to varied shades of life. Simply put, it pokes fun at everything and everyone. While it is unapologeticaly irreverent  and sarcastic,  the musical was created to fill theaters with sweet sounding laughter. So far it has been largely successful. It's one of those musicals who provide an escape because there is  really is no time to think about dreary stuff when every scene is knee-slapping funny. The amount of recognition it has received internationally should be enough proof that people can relate to the madness.  Needless to say this Broadway hit has  something for everyone to enjoy. 

Directors Joel Trinidad and Nicky Trivino seem to be committed to giving this comedy justice. They have successfully recruited some of the funniest theater actors to join their assemblage of medieval crazies. I can't even imagine how they manage to rehearse the scenes without cracking up.  Veteran comedians in the cast include Noel Rayos, Lorenz Martinez and Chino Veguillas. Adding oomph and star quality are effortlessly glamorous ladies  Rachel Alejandro and Carla Laforteza who will reportedly be wearing eye catching Francis Libiran creations.  So far it looks  like it's a recipe for success, I can't wait to see the cast play with this material. I just  can't wait to laugh. See you at the theater?

The show opens this July 28 2017 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza. It runs until August 12, 2017. For inquiries you may visit

Starring (in alphabetical order): Roxy Aldiosa, Rachel Alejandro, Reb Atadero, Rachel Coates, Domi Espejo, Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Lorenz Martinez, Noel Rayos, Bibo Reyes, Dean Rosen, George Schulze, Edrei Tan, and Chino Veguillas.
Directed by Joel Trinidad and Nicky TriviƱo.
Musical Direction by Onyl Torres
Choreography by the Martinez Sisters

Monday, July 10, 2017

Stepping Forward with an Attitude of Gratitude

Photo by Kiran West 

Art Changes lives. Those who allow it to enter their lives are rewarded greatly.  Like a  love affair, it  puts a glaze into your eyes, puts you in a trance but ironically makes you see more than you normally could.  I call it fascinating  magic. For some it is  a means to escape, for some it is  a means to find joy but for others it is the opium for healing. For a select few, art is salvation.

Marcelino Libao currently a dance  artist of Hamburg ballet understands this. He is reaping the benefits  as we speak. He has been given a world of opportunities because he chose to be a  artist.  He now lives and breathes dance and enjoys it to the fullest. But you see he was lucky. He was a product of  the Steps Dance Studio scholarship program. He had access to some of the best teachers in the Philippines. He was given  the right exposure to nurture his sense of innate creativity. He had the right environment to learn the concept of ethics. Clearly he appreciates what that gentle (or not so gentle) push towards a dream  has brought him. But not all have this luxury. Somewhere in Manila there is a child who does not even have an inkling that he could one day be the next star of Philippine ballet.   Earlier this year Libao had a chance to mentor two former street children who competed in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. Seeing how dance transformed them reminded him of the impact  of scholarship programs. Overwhelmed by the experience he found a sense of urgency building up.   Fired up by an attitude of gratitude, he wanted to do his part in making sure that more people can be transformed by dance.  He was inspired to create  a fundraising project called "Stepping Forward" that will benefit the Steps Scholarship Foundation  (CENTEX)   and Academy One's Tuloy Foundation this coming August 2017.  


Stepping Forward is a two-prong project. Consistent with the concept of increasing the reach, there will be two workshops  taught by selected Hamburg Artists. All proceeds from these masterclasses will be directed towards the above mentioned beneficiaries.  There will also be a charity gala  performance on August 12, 2017 at the Globe Auditorium of Maybank Performing Arts Theater. It will feature performances by Marcelino Libao himself, Mayo Arii, Christopher Evans, Hayley Page, Lizhong Wang and Yun-Su Park.  The repertoire consists of  classical and neo classical works. It includes pieces by  remarkable choreographer, John Neumeier. While the intention is to draw crowds for money for the beneficiaries, it was also created to give local audiences a chance to see world class performances that they would need to travel half the world to see.  It is meant to inspire the ballet youth and perhaps even the veterans with  Hamburg Ballet's point of view. 

A product of a scholarship program myself (CCPDS and Ballet Philippines Scholarship Program), I share Libao's vision. I understand his passion. Art (in this case dance), should be accessible to all simply because it is a gift that keeps on giving. It is my prayer that the dance industry supports this endeavor. Let's give this project a chance and hopefully it will open up better possibilities  to help more people experience joy, healing and even salvation. 

We rise while lifting others. Let this be our chance to pay it forward.  Believe that our little steps can make a difference. 



Sunday, July 9, 2017

Philippine Ballet Theatre Revisits La Bayadere


Philippine Ballet Theater restages "La Bayadere" to open its 31st  season.  This 19th century classic has been regarded as one of PBT's trademark performances.The he Philippine audience  has been waiting for its return to the stage.  The word "bayadere" is a French word that translates to "temple dancer". But the word  was rooted  from a Portuguese word that means "dance" Indeed, this ballet makes the dancers dance to the bone. Marius Petipa's choreography demands pristine lines and tempered dancing from the corp de ballet and the the exact opposite from its leads. The title roles  in stark contrast are made to dance a spectacle of sorts while displaying a wide range of emotions. Indeed the technical and artistic requirements of this ballet is sky rocket high.  It has been performed in full and in part several times before  by PBT and has consistently reaffirmed  the quality of the Company's dancers.   It has ably showcased and even launched different generations of dancers including international star Jared Tan (former soloist of Philippine Ballet Theatre) who has come home join the production. This new cast now has the opportunity to show people they can continue the  tradition of excellence. 


Jared Tan is a homegrown talent who was lucky enough to have 
found a solid spot in Atlanta Ballet's roster. Critics abroad are now zooming in on his rise. Recently he was given ample praise from critics for his performance in AB's "Firebird" and "Vespertine" The good reception of two pieces that showcase both his classical and modern technique is quite a good indication of where he is going as an artist. Needless to say it is heartwarming that he chooses to give his country and first ballet home the time of day.  He comes full circle this time around as he revisits a ballet that helped him rise through the ranks when he was with PBT.   In 2004 he first tackled the ballet when he performed the epic character "Golden Idol". In 2008 he performed the lead role of "Solor" as well and was finally baptised as of the Company's reliable constants.   Equipped with improved technique and richer experience he now returns as an international guest star. When asked how he thinks this performance will be different from his previous attempts he says "I approach this performance in a different manner. I am more confident with my technique and so I have the opportunity to deepen my artistry. Also this time I am not performing with my sister and so I can assume the role in a different way. I'm also very intent on  making sure my partnership with my partner translates well to the audiences." If there is one thing on his mind it is that he wants his shows to make a difference for the company. He emphasized that he comes back periodically because he wants to contribute to the dance community. "I may not be a big star in my Company yet but I do hope that my performances can inspire people. I'm giving my 100% to make sure that people leave satisfied with the Filipino artist" 


While Tan's familiarity to the ballet is a plus, the rest of the cast will be entering the stage as debutantes.  He will be partnering two of PBT's rising stars. Award winning dancers Kim Abrogena and Veronica Atienza will debut  as "Nikiya and Gamzatti" in their first lead roles in a full length ballet. Matthew Davo will take on the role of "Solor" in his first principal role appearance. He will be partnered by Pbt's dynamic duo Lobreza Pimentel (as Nikiya) and Regine Magbitang (as Gamzatti) . Having said that this performance will be a moment in all their careers. A seasoned dancer showing his country his heart,  local stars conquering new challenges and rising stars off to make their mark makes for an interesting brew of  heart. Let's all be there for them and see if they make "La Bayadere" as magnificent as it should be. 

July 15, 2017 (Saturday) | 3:00PM & 8:00PM
July 16, 2017 (Sunday) | 3:00PM

Ticket discounts for students and senior citizens are available!

For ticket inquiries and orders please contact:
PBT office at (02) 632-8848 ; 09493252545; 09951580538
CCP Box Office at (02) 832-3704
Ticketworld at (02) 891-9999

The role is quite challengng. There's a lot of character dramatization, in addition to the technical side of dance. I am very grateful that I was entrusted tp play the role of Gamzatti. I hope and pray I will be able to do justice to the role

I feel humbled to be portraying the role of Nikiya. I find it both technically and artistically challenging since it will be my first time to do a major role with the company. However, with all coaching and guidance given by our Artistic Director and Ballet Master, I believe I was able to discover more about myself, enhance my strengths, and work and improve more on my weaknesses.

I feel very thrilled and fortunate. Gamzatti has always been one of my dream roles in ballet, and now that I have the chance to portray her character in this production, I am more than happy and excited to perform it on stage

I am grateful to be given the role of Nikiya. It is my first time playing Nikiya and I will do my best to portray the character accurately and in my own unique way. I think showing what I can do technically and artistically on stage will always be my favorite part of ballet. I would love to capture the attention of the audience and help them understand the whole story of La Bayadere. I am excited to see it all come together and hope that it will be an enjoyable show for everyone.

I am blessed to be portraying the role of Solor, my first lead role in a full-length production. Aside from the opportunity to partner with so many talented dancers, my six years with PBT have allowed me to grow beyond my expectations. I'm very thankful for the trust that our Artistic Director and Ballet Master have given me. I feel motivated to prove that I can rise to the challenge and make them proud.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Philippine Ballet Theatre's "Bayadere Hugot Lines"

Photo by Stan de la Cruz

A few years ago, in an interview, I was asked why people would want to watch our ballet show "La Bayadere". If I'm not mistaken it was in ASAP one of ABS CBN's fun variety shows. I tried my best to be witty and answered, "If you are a lover of romance, a lover of drama, a lover of action then this ballet is for you. The story we wish to share is one that can rival the teleseryes of this time." Years have passed and I realize my answer is even more true today. Anybody who has watched or is familiar with "La Bayadere" will tell you that the story is a tragedy far worse than the normal heart ache.

La Bayadere is set in royal India. A temple girl (Nikiya) and a noble warrior (Solor) falls in love and they swear their fidelity to each other. Meanwhile the high priest is also in love with Nikiya and vowed to destroy the union. Solor is ordered by the Rajah to marry his daughter as a reward for his good service. Overwhelmed by her beauty and aware of his duties, he agrees. This is the beginning of a tug-of-war of love. Each character ends up hurt and all eventually pay the consequences of their actions. There is destiny, death and destruction. Sounds melodramatic doesn't it? Well, it is! It's a story that people can easily relate to. Indeed the story is all about dramatics. This ballet has so much texture and so much depth. Unfortunately not many are familiar with it.

I'm hoping that more people will come and see what this technically and artistically demanding ballet has to offer. Since hugot (both a noun and a verb that describes expression of innermost feelings) lines have become a social phenomenon, I decided to have a little fun and ask the cast what hugot lines would best describe the ballet. Perhaps this would make the seemingly elitist ballet closer to the audience it seeks to capture. This post is dedicated to hugot hungry millennials. Have fun reading the collection of lines shared by the cast. Have even more fun watching the show.


1. Huwag na huwag kang magmamahal ng taong di pa tapos magmahal. (Hugotsnap)

2. Umaasa parin ako. Sana ako pa rin. Ako na lang. Ako na lang ulit.

 3. Tanghali nalang ang tapat.

4. At sabi mo hindi ka katulad ng iba. (Hugotsnap)

 5. Don't put yourself in a situation na kailangan mo pa siya papiliin . Just leave. (hugotsnap)

 6. Alam ko namang mahal pa natin ang isa't isa pero bakit ayaw mo na? (hugotsnap)

7. U Turn ahead. Akala mo tuloy tuloy na, pero may kailangan pa pala siyang balikan. (Lobreza PImentel)

Photo by Stan de la Cruz 

8. Mahal mo, mahal ka, Pero may mahal na iba. #Saanakolulugar  (Regina Magbitang)
Photo by Stan de la Cruz

 9.  Nagmahal, nasaktan, namatay,  nagmulto. (Kim Abrogena)

Photo by Stan De La Cruz 

10. Nikiya alam mo ok ka sana eh.Maganda, mabait, matalino, talented!Kaso may kulang sayo!."Ako". (Matthew Davo)

11. Hindi ko NIKIYA nawala siya sa akin... Kaya eto SOLOr ako ngayon. (Jared Tan)

July 15, 2017 (Saturday) | 3:00PM & 8:00PM
July 16, 2017 (Sunday) | 3:00PM

Ticket discounts for students and senior citizens are available!

For ticket inquiries and orders please contact:
PBT office at (02) 632-8848 ; 09493252545; 09951580538
CCP Box Office at (02) 832-3704
Ticketworld at (02) 891-9999