Thursday, August 24, 2017

New Moves from the New Movers: KoryoLab 2017

A blank stage  is like a pure white canvass waiting for  the brushstroke of colors. It is like a blank piece of paper with a question waiting to be answered. To some the, nothingness can be intimidating but to creators of art it is simple a long luxurious exhale. CCP Choreographers Series is all about providing  choreographers of different levels a chance to breath and express themselves. It is a three part platform that seeks to encourage the act of creating art of movement.  The Wifi is a competition for emerging choreographers, the Koryolab is a presentation of short but completed dance pieces by mid-career choreographers and Neo Filipino is a venue for established choreographers to create and stage major works. 
This weekend Koryolab 2017 will present six bold new works from a diverse group of choreographers . Despite  having different backgrounds, there is a cloud of likemindedness in this group. Perhaps it is their work ethic or their sense of responsibility that  makes them  collectively a group I would call a brotherhood of movers.   

After undergoing mentorship from some of the best industry they will put color on their stage expressing their individual state of mind. Check out what they have to say about their pieces captured from their page CCP Choreographers Series Page


"I feel like [through KoryoLab] I'll be having a larger audience and with that opportunity, I feel like I should be saying something more pressing, saying something about issues that we are really facing." - Russ Ligtas, last March, KoryoLab 2017

Russ Ligtas' "Postcard" is an offshoot of a solo performance of his, entitled "Letters from Manila." An approximation of a performance artist’s daily reverie conjured by the sunset at Manila Bay, "Postcard" is a visual commentary on one of the heaviest issues in today's socio-political

"Right now, I want something different. [I've been looking at] "Budots"? Something Filipino. I like mirroring Philippine society. [I want] something sarcastic, something that the audience can think about." - Erl Sorilla, last March, KoryoLab 2017

Erl debuts "Pidots", a play off the the term "budots", a slang word for bum Filipino people having no jobs in the slum. The dance is based on the innate tribal movements of the Badjao community, one of the indigenous tribes that remain marginalized with lower wage, higher rate of unemployment, and less access to education, leading to high crime rates, rape cases and teenage pregnancy. The groove within Pidots depicts the setup of the Filipino mentality of just going with the flow, no matter what has the government has done or what life has to offer.

"I'm not letting go of my folk dance and contemporary dance roots. But this time, I'd like to add more layers to the movement." - Al Garcia, last March, KoryoLab 2017

Paying tribute to his folk dance roots, Al Garcia presents the neo-ethnic piece "Haya" for KoryoLab 2017. A word which means "to let be", "Haya" tells of the cycle of life and the passing of history and culture from one storyteller to the next.

Every time I see [special children] dancing, I get very interested. I want to know how they perceive music, how they perceive movement, lines, circles..." - JM Cabling, last March, KoryoLab 2017

JM Cabling's fascination with the world of autistic children inspired him to create "Nothing | Special." As part of his research for the piece, JM spent a lot of time with gifted marimba major from the UP College of Music, Thristan Mendoza.

"I want to play with rawness and technicality. [I want to explore] images that create another perspective." - Jed Amihan last March, KoryoLab 2017

Jed Amihan's exploration has led him to create "Onus," an abstract interpretation of how society manipulates our mind, blurring the distinction between true and false, bad and good.

"Sometimes, we as artists show the people what is happening in society, yet sometimes people are in denial. It's very wrong... The issues must be told, through videos, music... Why not through dance?" - Beauty Balaga last March, KoryoLab 2017

From this initial idea comes Beauty's "Dili Jud Dulaan (Definitely Not A Toy)", a work stemming from the 2015 news of a horrific and controversial video featuring a young toddler named Daisy.

New art is always exciting. Let's all be part of their journey and digest their point of view I can't wait for them to fill  the emptiness with something  to remember and think about. 

KoryoLab 2017
Aug 26 and 27
2pm and 6pm
CCP Studio Theater (Tanghalang Huseng Batute)
Tickets are at Php300 each. For inquiries, please call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704 and TicketWorld at 891-9999 or visit

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ballet Manila's Gerardo Francisco in Transition

A dancer transitioning to become a choreographer (or dancer/choreographer) is an organic progression. With the wealth of experience one gains as a dancer, you are able to increase your vocabulary. With more technique, you become more able to assist the dancers in moving the way you want them to move. With more performances under your belt, you have a better idea of how to rehearse and mount shows. However, creativity and depth while it can be influenced by exposure is not necessarily easy to achieve. It is because of this that the dancer usually steps into the role of the choreographer when he is ready to leave the stage to concentrate on his or her concept. This is the norm but it is not absolute. Gerardo Francisco, Principal Dancer of Ballet Manila joins the likes of Marcelo Gomes of American Ballet Theatre, Justin Peck of New York City Ballet and Erl Sorilla of Ballet Philippines. Still very much at his prime, he has decided to accept the challenge of being both a serious dancer and a serious choreographer at the same time. He has decided to be a maverick of sorts as he tries to achieve more in both paths.

Gerardo Francisco Photo Courtesy of Ballet Manila
Francisco has been creating pieces for Ballet Manila as early as 2003 when they allowed him to represent the company in the 2003 Asia Pacific Ballet Competition with his piece "Hunting". After this, it was as if the universe was telling him to continue this path. He had a string of good fortune with non stop recognition for pieces that he created. For two consecutive years, contemporary solos he created for Ballet Manila competitors won best choreography in the NAMCYA ballet competitions ("Bulag, Pipi at Bingi" in 2008 and "Hilas" in 2009). In 2009 his piece "OFW" won best choreography during the WIFI Body Competition. The same piece was also showcased in the 2016 Shanghai Contemporary Dance Festival in Shanghai, China. Later on he also won Bronze medal in Andong Mask Festival for "Morions" in 2011. While awards are always shiny things that remain in people's minds, I find that the true test is when the pieces remain in the people's hearts. Personally I generally see a lot of heart and energy ingrained in his movement and that I believe that is what made people want to see more of his creations. His works tend to be punctuated with moving beats, sobering patterns and rythmic repetitions. I rarely see subtleties in his work instead he favors strong and dramatic extended movements. I feel that his progression is helping him inch closer to  making his own brand of movement.   It is no wonder why Ballet Manila has been steadfast in their support of his craft. The continuity of his exploration has truly allowed him to mature into the role of a designer of movement. He has moved on to deeper themes, and grander projections of his ideas. No longer constraint with expressing himself with a just a few minutes of music, he has been given more freedom to explore.

Abigail Oliveiro as Ibong Adarna
This year, Francisco  was given his  biggest challenge to date. He was given free reign to create Ballet Manila's "Ibong Adarna" a full length ballet credited to his name. Key words being full length and ballet. With full creative control, he re-imagined the famous  Filipino  story of the mythical bird. When asked how he prepared for this gargantuan task, he calmly explained his process. Ibong Adarna was just an idea that he pitched to Ms. Lisa Macuja. When she accepted and supported the idea, he was overwhelmed with excitement so much so that  inspiration came easy. He fondly recalled how he started to envision the ballet.  He was influenced by "Aguila" that was created for him by Ms. Agnes Locsin. He also reconnected with "Corvus" (crows) which he created for not too long ago. Lastly, he studied the magic of Swan Lake. Studying the three different approaches to the bird, he thinks he has created something distinctly Filipino that people can relate to. Ibong Adarna will be premiered this August 26, 2017 at the Aliw Theatre. Everyone will be thinking of him as the curtains rise. Truly, this is his chance to elevate himself into the big leagues. It is somewhat a test of ability to capture an entire audience for more than an hour. However the outcome, what is more important is that he  continues to create and cultivate. If it's a hit then well and good if not, I am certain he is well on his way to the coveted corner of choreographers. As an advocate of original Filipino creations, I choose to think he will succeed in this task. Why don't we all see each other at the theater and see what this young, award winning choreographer has come up with?! See you at the theater?!

Ibong Adarna goes onstage at the Aliw Theater in Pasay City on : 
August 26 and September 2, 2017 6:00p.m.
August 27 and September 3, 2017 3:00 p.m.
Tickets are available at all Ticketworld outlets, online at, or call 891 9999.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Artist Feature: Novy J. Bereber

Photo by Diego Lorenzo Jose 
I've always been fascinated with people who embrace their uniqueness. Love for oneself is such a simple concept but it seems not many are able to live comfortably with their own skin. Novy Bereber is one of those blessed with the ability to be apologetically him. He enjoys unravelling his fabulosity bit by bit and finds ways to share it with the world, and I mean the world.

Photo by Diego Lorenzo Jose 

Novy Bereber is a Filipino who started his dancing career with Dagyaw Theater Dance Company in Iloilo under the mentorship of Edwin C. Duero. He was given encouragement by Osias Barroso and Lisa Macuja to pursue a career in Ballet. With that much needed push he trained under Ballet Philippines until he rose the ranks and became one of their solid senior soloists. During his stint with Ballet Philippines he was given a chance to choreograph for the company. This privilege is reserved for a handful who are undeniably marked with talent and a strong point of view. His success with Ballet Philippines paved the way for even more opportunities to create pieces beyond the CCP walls working with important dance groups here and abroad. Blessed with fulfilling experiences both as a dancer and a choreographer he was able to make a name for himself.

Having seen majority of his body of work, I have through the years gained so much respect for him not only because of his talent in translating thoughts into movement. I have gained respect for him because through his pieces I see who he is as a person. Novy Bereber is a dynamic, energetic artist who has chosen to devote his time and effort to immortalizing the Filipino point of view through his dances. While not all his works are Filipino themed, he has an ample amount of works that ever so gently touched on who we are as a people. For Ballet Philippines he has created "Inay" who tells the story of how the Filipina is devoted to cradling her child even past his childhood whether they are near or far. Also for Ballet Philippines he created "To Whom it may Concern" where he shows the extreme sacrifice of the Filipino artists who migrate out of need. For Philippine Ballet Theatre he created "Angel of the Morning" one of his most controversial works which was intended to remind people about the presence of Igorot ethnicity. I have always  appreciated the patriotism and the meticulous concern for the Filipino.

To Whom it May Concern
Photo by Stan dela Cruz

Photo by Ador Pamintuan
Angel of the Morning

Photo by Ador Pamintuan
Dancer :Erica Jacinto and Lucas Jacinto
Ängel of the Morning
Today, Bereber resides in Australia with his beloved. He continues to do what he does best which is to create art and progressing quide rapidly.  He choreographed the opening and closing parade of Mardigra 2015. Recently  he participated in the 2016 Vivid Sydney Laser Dragon Water Fountain with  his choreography projected in an 82-foot meter high screen  overlooking the harbour.  2017 seems to be a good year for him as well as he has a few surprises up his sleeve. Doing quite well away from the Philippines he has the option to just  revel in his new success. Distance however does not diminish the heart's resolve. He continues to choreograph, dance and teach in Australia but has not wavered in embracing his roots. He works closely with Filipino Australian communities and generously allows his works about Filipinos to be performed. In fact he was awarded Filipino Australian of the year because of his involvement with the community. Quite recently he posted a video of him teaching Parkinson patients a Filipino Igorot dance mimicking the tribal steps. (Click the link : Novy Teaches Filipino steps to Parkinsons PatientsHe consistently uses Filipino beats when he is teaching Contemporary in Sydney Dance Company. When he is needed to contribute to the Philippine dance landscape he hurriedly books a flight and works with Filipino dancers. I believe he will again visit Manila this October to create a new piece for CCP-Neo Filipino. With every achievement he conquers he shares it in Facebook and uses the hashtags #iamiloilo, #iloilopride, #pinoyaus #pinoydancer. He consciously attributes his achievements to his roots. All of this combined creates a picture of consistency and heart. This is a guy who remains Filipino despite the distance. He is completely devoted to being unchanged by circumstances. I used to think of him with high regard because he had talent and skill. Nowadays I think of him highly because he is a  portrait of a Filipino - malakas, magaling at may utang na loob. I wish him well and I hope that he unravels more layers and finds more ways  to contribute to our Philippine dance community.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Philippine Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere in Photos

Philippine Ballet Theater succeeds in their staging of La Bayadere. See snippets of their performance below. 

Peter San Juan as Fakir 
Julafer Fegarido as Fakir

Julafer Fegarido as Fakir

Kazier Policarpio as Golden Idol
Jared Tan as Solor and Kim Abrogena as Nikiya 
Joel Matias as High Priest and Kim Abrogena as Nikiya 
Kim Abrogena as Nikiya 
Veronica Atienza as Gamzatti and Kim Abrogena as Nikiya
Veronica Atienza as Gamzatti and Jared Tan as Solor 

Jared Tan as Solor 

Joel Matias as High Priest and Lobreza Pimentel as Nikiya 
Lobreza Pimentel as Nikiya
Lobreza Pimentel as Nikiya

Lobreza Pimentel as Nikiya and Matthew Davo  as Solor 

Matthew Davo as Solor

Regine Magbitang as Gamzatti 

Veronica Atienza Lead Shade 

Mikaela Samson Lead Shade 
Lobreza Pimentel Lead Shade 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Spamalot, British Humor at its Best

Upstart Production's "Spamalot" makes a mockery of life in one single blow. I was a happy camper the whole time as I witnessed a delightful roast and toast of practically every human being and issue out there. In all fairness chances of being stoned for producing discriminatory stuff would be unlikely as they threw shade on both camps almost all the time. I truthfully did not expect that something called "SPAMalot" would be anything close to what felt like a re-education of history, present day current events, gender sensitivities, love and even self affirmation. I doubt any writer can adequately describe  the storyline as it was constantly leaping from one time warp to another. Despite this, the material is very easy on the eyes, necessary for the mind and exhilarating for the heart. The absurdity of the storyline was translated flawlessly by Joel Trinidad and Nicky Triviño. As if the material wasn't funny enough they took it a step further by adding a generous amount of Filipino adlibs. After all relatability is almost always a good thing.

Spamalot's Excaliber (known to have extraordinary mythical powers) was the stellar cast who had their fair share of magic. With a small cast, each talent's stage exposure was maxed out. Barely any time to breath they were in and out of the stage consistently performing tirelessly with perfect comedic timing. Lorenz Martinez who played King Arthur was on stage 95% of the time. Indefatigable, he nailed every joke (and there were many). He went big bold and better each scene until he became a friend to the audience. The Knights of the round table all appeared to be comfortable with their respective caricatures. In fact, I believe they were hamming up on stage with so much joy it's hard to tell if they actually consider this a day's work. (Noel Rayos, Bibo Reyes, Dean Rosen, George Schulze, Edrei Tan, and Chino Veguillas.) Domi Espejo as Patsy was the perfect side kick. As Alfred was to Batman, as Smithers was to Riverdale's Veronica Lodge, he served the production as the perfect slave. His silent but hilarious  silences was a good contrast to King Arthur's non stop chatter. Not to be upstaged by the gallant knights he blew me away with the song "You are not Alone" a duet with Martinez. His sarcasm was crisp and on point making this scene one of my absolute favorites. Reb Atadero as Herbert (Just watch the show to know who Herbert is) made my ribs hurt from laughing. Partnered with Noel Rayos as Lancalot, I saw no reason not to hoot uncontrollably with the audience. Rachel Alejandro as the the Lady of Lake was ravishing dressed in Francis Libiran's glorious gowns. Truthfully, it added a whole lot of theatrical glamour to the show. But Alejandro was not just beautiful in this show. She showed up ready to show off her divalicious musical chops. What I liked about her performance is that she literally shed her showbiz skin and was not afraid to look foolish on stage. She obviously took the opportunity to showcase another side of her. I'm excited to see her continue her journey in theatre. The cast obviously were smart enough to catch on the principles of British Humor. They were creative in finding humor in everything. They understood the importance of laughing at oneself. They believed that sarcasm is one of the foundations of comedy. This restaging of Spamalot was indeed British humor at its best.

Courtesy of Upstart Productions

Courtesy of Upstart Productions 

The ensemble as a whole worked hard on making people see the bright side of life. Healing laughter filled the theater and briefly, all was good in the world. Not enough is bright out there, so it  would be best to take a bite of spam, I am certain you'll enjoy it a lot.

Run ends August 12, 2017. Tickets available for purchase at Ticketworld.

Book & Lyrics by ERIC IDLE
. A new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture "Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” from the original screenplay by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
. Original Broadway Production produced by Boyett Ostar Productions, The Shubert Organization, Arielle Tepper Madover, Stephanie McClelland/Lawrence Horowitz, Elan V McAllister/Allan S. Gordon, Independent Producers Network, Roy Furman, GRS Associates, Jam Theatricals, TGA Entertainment, Live Nation
. 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 Triviño. Musical Direction by Onyl Torres. Choreography by the Martinez Sisters.