Monday, December 10, 2018

Candice Adea's Second Wind

Candice Adea in Raymonda by Ballet Philippines 

Candice Adea is a household name in ballet. After having surpassed the achievement of many dancers before her with a lustrous career peppered with awards, recognition and international experience, she now belongs to the ballet elite in the Philippines. After a short hiatus from the international scene, she accepted a First soloist contract from West Australian Ballet back in June 2018. She is currently ranked third in the female dancers as the only First soloist in the company. She is the first Filipina to ever join this sixty six year old multi-nationality state ballet company. She jumped into the Company's season mid way through preparations for Dracula and immediately she was made to understudy the lead role for future restagings of the production. Nutcracker is her first taste of being part of the creative process of West Australian Ballet. All things seem to be looking good as she was casted in so many roles. Adea bravely took on multiple roles including the titular role of Clara and Sugar Plum Fairy , Snow Queen and Chinese Ballerina in the Land of the Sweets. This casting decision signals a positive start with the Company. Filipinos who were able to witness her performance as Sugar Plum have described her as a dancer "at her peak" showing a special kind of sparkle in her eyes dancing with her new  family. Her comeback in the international scene seems solid and her outlook about the future is refreshingly positive. She is heavily missed by her following in Manila but her success in Australia is surely inspiring a lot of ballerina dreamers witnessing her story unfold. May people recognize her giant leap and see her glorious second wind bring her forward.

Here's a closer look at her Nutcracker experience. All photos courtesy of Candice Adea.





 Her West Australian Ballet reads  Click Link West Australian Ballet Dancer Candice Adea

Candice Adea was the first Filipina to win at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition taking 1st Place, Senior Women’s Division in 2012 and won a Silver Medal at the USA International Ballet Competition in the Senior Women’s Division in 2010.

Adding more achievements to her name, she was awarded by Gawad Buhay as Outstanding Female Lead Performer twice for her work in Amada (2009) and September Gala (2010), as well as two special awards at the Boston International Ballet Competition in 2011—the Maris Liepa Award for Outstanding Artistry and Lead Role in a Russian Ballet performance.

Candice was trained in the Philippines at the CCP Dance School, the Philippine High School for the Arts, and earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree Major in Dance, from De La Salle—College of Saint Benilde.

Candice has previously been Principal Dancer and Resident Guest Artist for Ballet Philippines, Soloist for Hong Kong Ballet and joined West Australian Ballet in July 2018.

Thursday, September 6, 2018 2018; Creatures Vs Caricatures

Two years ago, I witnessed the 10th year anniversary of the WIFI which originally was a multi-faceted festival celebrating contemporary dance. In 2016 it was a simplified and straightforward competition that left me in awe. Despite the fact that it did not have its usual frills, it achieved its original purpose which was to broaden the concept of contemporary. The vocabulary was expansive and the articulation varied. I was ecstatic that the template of the previous seasons were blurred allowing audiences to see what contemporary really means. It was a collectively strong representation of the genre. While so many dance icons have defined contemporary dance, the common denominator is that it is an art that is not contained in a particular shape, theme or medium. At the same time, dance is still an exploration of movement. In the past, I would be disappointed that people replaced the action word with bad acting or even worse something that served only as shock factor. Last season's showing was  a fitting representation of how far the Philippines has come.

That being said, I had high hopes for this season's new breed of young choreographers.I was eager to find out if the momentum was sustained. Thankfully, I had my fill of good performances from both the competitors and the previous winners. Honestly I did not love everything I saw.  There were still a few remnants of the past. However the point of WIFI is not to please audiences like me (It is impossible to please everyone anyway.) The point of WIFI is for contemporary thought to prevail. In this sense, this season just like the previous one moved a step forward. In this year's WIFI, the range of movement or technique for that matter was generally lacking but the conceptual approach of all the choreographers were very impressive. The story telling was not generic. The nuances of the pieces created space for audiences to have fun interpreting the pieces in accordance to their own set of beliefs. In a nutshell, the pieces were alive colored with meticulously planned emotions and references that audiences can relate to. The standard has been set.

Winning the top prize of this year's competition is Raul "Buboy" Raquitico Jr. His piece "Transacting Comfort" was indeed superior to all the other intelligent pieces. He explored the concept of materialism as an addiction and distracting social phenomenon. He himself performed the "body" with dancer Jan Lloyd Celecio as the measure of comfort. Raquitico appeared in the corner with his bare body hunched over. Celecio who was in black  in static movements moved towards him revealing a tape measure. In a gentle pas de deux exchange they measured each other. Celecio initiating and Raquitico responding. Celecio dressed Raquitico with a skirt but instinctively Raquitico rejected it. Eventually he obliged and wore the skirt until they danced together with the same  breath. Raquitico acclimatized with the presence of Celecio just like a person relies on temporary comforts. He leaned on him, hovered over him, was lifted by him as if he was as necessary as air. However in the end of the piece he returned to being himself, looking at his comforts as a complex creation that was completely unnecessary. He looked at  Celecio, his self created monster with the measurements that he thought were sound. In the end, he allowed himself to walk away and Celecio wrapped in tape measure stood there stoically as if his life was thinning out. In solid dramatics, the light dimmed and the tape measure unraveled out of his body with a shrieking sound dancing with the light until complete darkness came. Worthy of recognition was how Raquitico translated such an internal complex concept of mental duality into something very easy understand. The strategic use of props was a winning idea. His calm fluid combinations were  very appropriate in depicting his  train of thought. Also noteworthy is his use of space.  His patterns allowed the audience to  really understand the concept of measuring comfort. "Transacting Comfort" was inventive, powerful and engaging.

Second place was won by Jovie Ann Domingo for her piece "Walk Without Pain". Panel judge Tatsuro Ishii said it best when he described this piece as more of a theatrical unfolding rather than a dance performance. He mentioned that the strength of this piece was that it was communicative and emotive. Domingo explored the concept of death with the image of a loved one lingering even as time passed by. In the performance it was unclear to me who was dead and who was alive as they stepped in and out of their respective realms. Dancer Beauty Balaga was in a chair and  Ralph Malaque sat in a table. Both executed corporeal movements imitating an unremarkable day made remarkable by lingering memories. They eventually gravitated  in the same space and they performed a struggle to let go.

Third place went to "Namoka" a piece created by Sasa Cabalquinto. In the program it says  it is an exploration of  the individual self. The choreographer performed it herself. She appeared  dressed in layers and would play out a different emotion as she  took off layers of her costume. While her piece very clearly states it is about a single individual, my take of the piece is a bit different. I would have to refer to the iconic answer of Ms. Universe Sushmita Sen, "Just being a woman is God's gift that all of us must appreciate. The origin of a child is a mother, and is a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.". In blunt imagery  the piece depicted the different roles that women in the world have had to take. In sections of her piece she is seen lost, suffering, wanting, crying. In the more powerful moments when she starts undressing, she shows the image of a nurturing mother. She ends the piece with undressed but commanding. The piece to me is about empowered women.

With the competition ending, the festival director Myra Beltran presented with pride the works of the previous season winners.She was hopeful that the  performances would show maturity and depth after all the gifts they have received as a result of their win two years ago.

Beauty Balaga's new piece "Opinion is like and Asshole Everyone Has It" was quite a departure from her previous choreography. In a monotonous manner,  the dancers came in and followed a straight line  opening their mouths as if they were receiving communion  or giving confession to a cult pastor in an unthinking manner. They congregated and sat in chairs where they moved in unison as a one body. A girl entered  and spoke in sign language and everybody started talking randomly about her.  She went  to them and was  moved by the people without touching her. When she finally ascended they followed her moving around her as she stepped in and out of a chair. Nobody really bothered to save her from falling.  At the end of the piece the girl spoke in sign language again but this time beside a girl with red balloons. The balloons burst one by one. Each time it did, a cult member fell down. At the end, the girl left with immobile  bodies on the floor. To be honest I thought that the piece would have been more powerful with more technique in the execution. The dancers made up however with a very soulful theatrical interpretation. The storyline was all to too relatable. It clearly explained the indifference of people to  the adverse of effect of not sincerely caring about issues.  It was a very cutting emphasis that people care more about the story than the person.The girl was speaking in sign language, nobody understood it but dancers articulated their judgement. She went about them and they followed her story but nobody lifted a finger in actually being there for her. They actually let her fall. They just all reveled in their opinions. What was important was that they were spectators of a story. In the end the balloons signified  that opinions have the capacity to hurt one or more individuals if they are not shaped with the right intentions. Balaga's approach to choreography has definitely evolved. Clearly, she is now more motivated into incorporating communal interaction rather than a straightforward delivery. I view it positively because her point of view is expanding. 

Christopher Chan presented "H2 +1". He showed off his signature movement combining held yogic poses and calculated breaths and explosive dramatics. He incorporated a mix of foreign chatter which I'm sure is a thread of poetic thought. While I appreciated the performance greatly for his abilities I honestly did not understand any of it. I do not discount the art but I did want something new from him.

Michael Barry Que's piece is one that I would like to see in a bigger stage. I have to make mention that his casting was quite strategic with some of the best contemporary dancers casted. The mesh of dance experience and innovative spirit was a good mix, something old and something new. Que's set consisted of a clothes line with hangers with black suits. A dancers wears the suit and a few more follow. With much intensity they form an ensemble who dance fiercely  interacting in pairs, in groups and sometimes in dancing in quick solitary moments. Together they dance the life of adults. Adulting forces them to contain their individuality in favor of responsibility complying with the demands of society. The hangers remained in the set as a constant reminder  that they must be clothed with responsibility. At a certain point all of the dancers take out one by one their black coats except for soloist Al Garcia They remained colorless in white. Garcia is then thrust into a web of white with everyone threading their arms and legs  creating a webs of beautiful images. Garcia's coat is discarded but continues to dance but he does so with limited freedom. He conforms to the white movement. For me the message of the piece was brilliantly delivered  with a series of  rich memorable imagery. Clear as day was the depiction of how adulting dulls lives with the requirement to conform, deliver and succeed. Adulting doesn't end with what society expects, that is just one layer of expectations. Even in your intimate lives there will be other layers demanding  a person to conform, deliver and succeed. Perhaps it could come from family, friends, mentors. What is nice about this piece is that it doesn't force a conclusion. It doesn't necessarily portray the extremes of happiness or angst instead it delivers the state of being.  For me as an audience, it allowed me to commiserate and I guess think about my own layers. I believe Que is on the verge of unraveling his own layers.

The WIFI Body Competition was meant to be a platform to explore thought and movement in a contemporary manner. The noticeable shift of perspective from creating caricatures to representing actual creatures of God is such a big step forward. The growth of the previous winners is also a big contribution to the dance world. In closing, I encourage all creators to revel in this step forward. Opportunities like the Wifi should be more than just a stepping stone. It should be  a moment that helps you decide whether you are an artist or not. The dance world can be cruel. Obstacles and noise will always be there to pull you back. The lack of equal opportunities is also very discouraging. Not everyone will like the works as well. I can only hope that breakthroughs like this remind  the artists that to be able to create is a gift in itself. To be able to better yourself is a blessing. But the ultimate reward would be to share it with another human being filling them with a chance to think, imagine and be captivated for a moment in time. May the fight for art be won everyday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Battle or Celebration of the Mixed Bill Program

Season of Flight Choreographed by Norman Walker
Photo by Jojo Mamangun 

Ballet Manila and Ballet Philippines will be sharing this weekend as they open their ballet seasons. Both will be presenting mixed bill programs that commemorate their past. It's a joint throwback.

Iconic 2.0 is the second installation of their iconic trip to memory lane. Featured are the works of local choreographers such as Gerardo Francisco (Ibong Adarna), Osias  Barosso (Ecole), Eric Cruz (Carmen), Lisa Macuja (Fur Elise) and Bam Damian III (El Adwa). Included in the program are the contributions of Martin Lawrence and Simon Hoy. Except for a few, these are major pieces that are familiar to the ballet community because they are often performed by the company. However what would be interesting to see is the debut of the new cast assuming the lead spots in these pieces. Take for example Jasmine Pia Dames performing in Bam Damian's El Adwa and Abigail Oliveiro performing Eric Cruz's Carmen. It's a reintroduction of who the new front liners are for the Company. It is a baptism of sorts that makes me giddy.

Abigail Oliveiro in Eric Cruz' Carmen
Photo by Gnie Arambulo 

Jasmine Pia Dames in El Adwa 

Ballet Philippines on the other hand continues their grand retrospective leading up to their golden anniversary. With the exception of one new piece "Sama Sama" by up and coming choreographer Ronelson Yadao, their season opener is a collection of pieces from the 1970s to early 1980s. Featured choreographers include Brando Miranda (Vivaldi Concerto), Norman Walker (Seasons of Flight) and of course National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes (Carmina Burana). These pieces are quite new to the eye for the newer generations. It is in a way a tribute to neo-classicism as they generally explore the ballet vocabulary in a stylized manner of story telling. Another good reason to watch this show is to see how the Company will utilize their fresh delivery of dancers. Joining the Company this season is Stephanie Santiago, AL Abraham and Earl John Arisola. Santiago is a homegrown talent of ACTS Manila who recently finished her schooling in Joffrey Ballet. AL Abraham is a skilled contemporary artist from UP Dance Company. Earl Arisola was a former soloist for the Company. It's interesting to see how they will contribute to Ballet Philippines' movement.

Carmina Burana
Photo by Jojo Mamangun 

With such a mix of pieces, surely there will be one that audiences will love. There will always be a reason to go to the theater and see our local ballet companies perform. Take your pick or watch both and come home with the satisfaction that you have been part of their journey. See you at the theatre.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Eto na! Musikal nAPO, Nostalgia with a Purpose

Eto Na! Musikal nAPO opened last weekend with rave reviews. It was packaged efficiently as a fun loving musical featuring the timeless music of the APO Hiking Society but it happens to be more than that.  Minutes after seeing the press preview, I was  reminded  of a quote I randomly saw in Facebook. I googled  the words  "softness and strength"   because it was just the perfect set of words to describe this musical's overall message. It goes, " Be soft for the sake of every hard heart; show them with every movement  of your body  that gentle does not mean weak". This musical's walls were built  on laughter and it's spaces were filled with   catchy music  and delightful dancing. Every nook and corner was filled with cheeky mementos of the mid-seventies. It honestly had all the potential to simply be an enjoyable  but irrelevant fluff piece. Thankfully,  their house of theater  made good use of the lightness of being and sent out SEVERAL important uplifting messages. In the process of doing so they also succeeded in re-inscribing history, culture and politics. There are musicals that are sung in Filipino and then there are musicals  that carve out an identity for the Filipino.  Who would have thought that jokes  and good old APO music could be so important?! This musical just proves that art in its vulnerability is still certainly powerful  and so is every Juan De La Cruz. Needless to say, the collaboration between Nineworks Theatrical and Globe Live was a big win for theater and a big win for the Filipino. 

The story revolves around seven friends who share the love for music. Set in the seventies during the on-set of Martial Law, a group of friends discovered who they all wanted to be when they set out on a journey. All seven committed to joining a song writing and singing competition. The group was bonded but they were in  way divided in two groups, the naturals and the follower.  Sonny (Alfritze Blanche) was  the talented composer  of the group. Rick ( Mark Bautista) their go to guy for lyrics.  Ray (Jon Philippe Go) was the young but skilled musical arranger of the group. Butch (Jobim Javier) was the sweet singing  playboy. Then there were the witty and supportive followers  tongue tied mover  Fil-Am Javier( Jeff Flores),  small but terrible Bobby (Vyen Villanueva) and secret lyricist Donnie (Jon Abella).  Their journey to the competition was disturbed by the love predicaments of the naturals.They were also left scarred by an unfortunate incident caused by  by Martial Law.  At the end of this musical, the competing group was left with the followers pursuing their  goal driven by a new purpose.  They found themselves writing their own song challenging  what they thought was uneccaptable norms. They won. All if a sudden they had a platform to share with others their music through TV. In the end, the trio was left with the realization that fear was unnecessary. Their  song won because people believed in their message and in their music. They were not alone. They were no longer followers but leaders in their own right.  

Message Received 

What is nice about the story that  Robbie Guevara and Jon Jon Martin crafted is that it highlights the underdogs as the last men standing. There was a point in the story where Javier, Bobby and Donnie question  if they could still win  with their strongest members out. Javier states, we have a purpose and that's all we need to succeed. In the play, political unrest was troubling but the three with purity of heart braved it out and sang about  their distaste for current social and political landscape. Their youth or skills were no longer something that could hold them back because the opportunity was there to rise up and they grabbed it.   It's a beautiful message to share. There are no little guys only little dreams.

Batang Bata ako nalalaman ko to
Inamin ko rin na kulang ang aking nalalaman
Ngunit kahit ganayan and kinalalagyan alam ko
na may karapatan ang bwat nilalang
kahit bata pa man kahit bata bpa man.

Throughout the play, the cast would always blurt out "Bawal Magmura". Each time there would be small reminder that things could be said a better way, things could be done a kinder way. I love that very slight hint of how vulgarity was unacceptable then and certainly it should be unacceptable now. It was a purposeful reminder done in such a witty way. I appreciate the unapologetic opinion against Martial Law as well. 

Another point that was well taken was that there is a need to look back at the past. The past should be relished, enjoyed understood and protected. In the beginning the gang cleverly starts with the first song being "Lumang Tugtugin" (Old Songs) bringing back tunes like "Leron Leron Sinta". It appropriately grounded and prepared the audience for the throwback to APO's own music. It's a reminder that we should never forget traces of who we are. 

Throwback Thursday

Perfectly timed on a Thursday, the musical was filled with nostalgia.  Eliciting laughter was the constant references to how Manila used to be back in the seventies.  It was  a  adorable poke at the primitive past with telephone booths, love buses and partylines.  Surely familiarity made it a hit  for audiences of that generation. At the same time the throwback in contrast to present  ridiculously complicated times was quite funny too. The witty references were almost like a meticulous education  of social climate of that time.  It was very intelligently  written and the relatability factor was  on point. Everything was easy to digest. 


The homage to the APO Original Pinoy Music was exemplary .Thanks to Daniel Bartolome ( Musical Director) the  songs' melodies were not overpowered by the changes made to adapt to a theatrical staging. Songs were seemlesly incorporated into the story. Some of the songs were sung in a different perspective and context. It refreshing to witness something new. More importantly it highlighted  the universality of APO's music. Collectively,  cast was committed to singing the songs harmoniously. There were however undeniable standouts. Newbie Jobim Javier nailed all of his songs with gusto. For a newbie in theatre, there was absolutely no trace of hesitation or self-doubt in his performance.  His comical timing, suave physicality and strong voice really gave life to his character "Butch". Watching him approach theater with so much joy and energy was exhilarating. The Sonny and Jane tandem played by Afritze Blanch and Marika Sasaki was too cute for words. The chemistry was believable and their contrast hilarious. Blanch was the ultimate leading man. Sasaki fit the doe-eyed loyal girlfriend to a tee. Their duet "Show me a Smile" made me smile.   Jeff Flores was adorable as Javier. I would think it was a breeze for him as the  role was  almost tailor made to his reality. Energetic funny singer who came from the states who speaks tongue twisting Tagalog, easily Jeff Flores. The most memorable scene for me was not from the cast leads but from Raul Montesa who plays  the father of Ray. He sang the song "Pag-ibig" with so much authenticity that it broke me. Truly I was inconsolable  for a couple of minutes.  This is the first time I have seen Montesa perform in a tagalog musical and I was beyond impressed by his capacity to silence an audience with his powerful facility. What a gift to see this man perform in his native tongue.

Alfritz Blanche as Sonny and Marika Sasaki as Jane 

Jobim Javier as Butch 

I wouldn't say the musical was  perfection personified but it was nostalgia done well and with purpose. A little refinement in scene transitions, a little polishing in the group scenes and maybe a bit more light in some group scenes  would be advantageous. As it is, the musical was light and entertaining yet relevant and absolutely timely. It seems Nineworks Theatrical and Globe live wanted to emulate the spirit of APO Hiking society. Their updated KKK outlook was replaced by the producers' CCC. They were creative, collaborative and courageous. Bravissimo. Thank you for choosing to use gentle,soft heartwarming  art for a greater purpose. 

Catch Eto na! Musikal nAPO! at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater from August 3 to 26, 2018. Tickets sell at Php 1,500 (Zone D), Php 2,200 (Zone C), Php 3,000 (Zone B), and Php 3,500 (Zone A) and may be purchased from Ticketword at 891-9999.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lia Cirio Makes Her Entrance

To live the life of a dancer would be to commit to the unending cycle of entrances and exits. It is the acceptance that the conventions of ballet would demand a routinary sequence of preparation, performance and moving forward to the next level. Each entrance you make whether it is the studio to rehearse or a stage to perform in determines who you are and who you will be as an artist. It gives you a glimpse of how you will exit the world of dance.The cycle is mandatory is fulfilling itself but success is never a certainty For a non-dancer the uncertainty of it all and the amount of sacrifice it requires seems inequitable.  But then again, once in awhile success stories of people remind us that the  roads less traveled could sometimes give a lifetime of blessings. Filipino-American Lia Cirio's ballet career is a glorified example of how this potentially frustrating life could turn out to be a tale filled with happy ever afters.

Cirio is currently one of Boston Ballet's Principal Dancers. While the globe is filled with Filipinos making a name for themselves in the field of dance, Cirio is one of the few who have attained the highest rank possible in a high profile company. She has even been hailed as "one of the most accomplished actress-dancers in Boston Ballet" by the Patriot Ledgers. Looking at her roots, her journey seems to have been easy peasy lemon squeezy. At sixteen she was awarded a Level One award from the Advancement of the arts and was Presidential Scholar in the Arts Finalist. In the same year she was given an apprenticeship in Boston Ballet. She went from apprentice to corps de ballet and then soloist in a very short time. At 24 she was named Principal Dancer. This olive skinned medium-sized Asian girl with broad shoulders managed to quickly inch her way to the top despite the hundreds or thousands of statuesque pristine ballerinas crowding her way. At 29, she leveled up and created, along with her brother Jeffrey, Cirio Collective. This company is one that is committed to artistic cross collaboration. She now manages it in the capacity of Associate Artistic Director. At 32 she is about to explore choreography for Boston Ballet and will premiere her first work sometime in November. With a timeline like that, one would assume there was a fairy godmother working overtime to help her perfect each plie and tendu. At a time where racism has taken a new life form, Cirio seems to have been sheltered by a magical force field. Talking to this ballerina and seeing her move on stage however grounded me back to reality. Cirio is unscathed and continues to progress  not by any  miracle but because she is  a force to be reckoned with. 

Cirio was flown in by Ballet Manila to star in their American Ballet Stars Gala. This is her very first time to see the Philippines, meet her relatives and perform for her countrymen. I went inside the dressing room expecting to meet a very straightforward cutthroat type of over achiever. Instead I met a bright eyed "familiar" face who immediately reached for a hug. She had a warmth in her eyes that easily put me at ease. She also had that infectious electric energy that made you feel her inner strength. It's quite uncanny because she was very excited about getting to know her heritage but in an instant she exuded the typical Filipino charm. 

When asked about her journey as a Filipino-American artist, she confirmed that just like any successful artist, she had gone through the mandatory aches and pains. It was not without sacrifices that she got this far. With evident intensity, she shared her gratitude for her family who was the driving force of her success. She mentioned all the teachers that believed in her as instrumental in her journey. 

When asked if she thought her being Filipino was in any way a deterrent, she explained the sensitivities she encountered. Growing up she says she never felt she was different. She was lucky enough to be discovered and nurtured by a company who believed fiercely in the power of diversity.  Boston Ballet's leadership has always been focused on simply the art of dancing. With a very open-minded company she never really experienced any discrimination. However when she started getting principal roles she did have to deal with the expectations and standards of the audiences. A woman of color getting roles usually reserved for  the stereotype of fair skinned dancers is an issue for some. This she overcame by giving the roles a flavor incomparable to anybody. It was a conscious effort to give and give more of herself so that they would enjoy her as an artist and blur the lines of color. While she recognizes this as a sacrifice, she is not burdened by it knowing she is paving the way for more Asian women to follow her lead. Now at the peak of her career, she is focused not on getting the accolades but more intent on the amount of art  and inspiration she can  share with others.

Cirio honestly declared that she feels there is much to be discovered about her Filipino roots. Beyond pancit, adobo and Filipino holidays she isn't quite sure what exactly is distinctly Filipino about her. She was ecstatic at the prospect of coming here and interacting with the locals and discovering the persona she (willingly or unwillingly) represents in a global scale. She was already floored with her simple encounters with prima ballerina Lisa Macuja and the Ballet Manila Dancers. She reckons the  complete experience will build her up as both a dancer and a person.

As a dancer, Cirio has been commended for her boldness, sophistication and athletic pliability. Her physique fits the profile of a bravura dancer or a neo-classical ballerina. When she said she was doing swan lake for the gala I assumed she was doing the black swan grand pas de deux. In rehearsals, she surprised me with her white swan transformation.  In a role I would not associate with her, she had me mesmerized. Watching her articulate the ethereal swan was quite an experience. When we were talking about her art she said that her only goal was the pursuit of finding herself in every role that she takes on. Bit by bit she wanted to unravel her soul by finding the feeling in her steps. As I was watching her give breath to her every movement, I felt the sincerity in her words. She  humanized the role of the white swan, pouring out visibly all the emotion she could muster. She was not simply the soft ethereal creature that needed saving. She was a feathery swan in movement but her flow and expression was punctuated by the boldness inside her. Her dancing was full bodied yet sensitive. It was nice to see her brand of uniqueness. Filipino pride swelled up inside my heart knowing the rest of the world have seen this girl shine under the spotlight.

Beyond her dancing duties for Boston Ballet, Cirio is busy with Cirio Collective. With her brother Jeffrey Cirio of American Ballet Theater, they  plan out their season while they are performing in their respective companies. During their off season, Cirio Collective launches into the creative process of choreography and rehearsals. The Company is now on its fourth season and she looks back at the new pieces that they have done fondly. In their fifth season, they will attempt produce choreographers from within the group. This exchange will definitely allow the dancers to understand the roles of both the choreographer and dancer more and will surely transform the people involved.   The Company  provides a safe space for artists to go deeper into their art by means of interaction.  She looks at this project not just as a performing group but an advocacy project for dance artists. She also looks forward to the possibility of bringing her company here in the Philippines through the generosity of Ballet Manila. 

After my encounter with Lia Cirio,I realized that she is the personification of a typical ballerina- hardworking, dedicated, humble. She is living proof that the ballerina mandate can take you far. But frankly, I believe what has helped her achieve what she has in such a fast pace was her giving spirit. With every entrance she makes she delivers with the intent to give back and that's why her every exit is a satisfying end and beautiful beginning.  Throughout her journey, she would gather all the energy, lessons, support that she received and deliver performances with optimum gratitude. Filled with loyalty for the people who have been part of her journey, she finds different ways to give back through her dancing. Her visit here in Manila was the perfect example. She came  excited to perform for a crowd she's never met knowing they have supported her from a distance. She came wanting to inspire them beyond entertainment. That giving spirit is what makes her a progressive, evolving and sincere artist. It's what makes her a true example of an empowered modern woman worthy of emulation. While her visit was brief, I reckon she left a trail of happiness in inspiration with the local dance community. May this lovely woman make her way back to the Philippines very soon so we can all relish her art and her spirit. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Victory for the Philippine Ballet Community

A competition such as USA International Ballet Competition really brings out the very best in it's competitors. The screening process alone was a competition of over three hundred applicants with only 119 emerging victorious. The competition format of three elimination rounds day after day definitely makes it one of the more challenging of competitions.  Not only are the dancers competing for attention during the master classes, they must stand out in both classical technique and contemporary technique. The birth of Team Philippines was already such a big gift to the ballet competition. After ten  years of waiting, we now have a chance to repeat history and gain another win for the Philippines following Candice Adea's  sparkling silver in the same competition. It's  a first to have more than one pair competing at a time. This year we had six natural born Filipinos join and one adopted USA Candidate representing local ballet company Ballet Manila (See TEAM PHILIPPINES) It is also the first time that the three major ballet companies of the country are represented in the same competition (Ballet Philippines, Ballet Manila and Philippine Ballet Theatre).   However, it was their  collective performance that  definitely made history. 

In the Juniors category, Nicole Barosso completed all three rounds and graduates from this competition with the label finalist. Julian Rey Enciso who competed and partnered her did not make it to all three rounds but together they gained a following with their spirited dancing. Their pictures show how much heart they put in their performances. The pair was coached by Ballet Manila Associate Artistic Director Osias Barosso who just happens to be Nicole's uncle. 

Round 1
Nicole Barosso and Julian Rey Enciso
Photo by Richard Finkelstein

Round 2 Choreography by Gerardo Francisco "Fugue"
Nicole Barosso and Julian Rey Enciso
Photo by Richard Finkelstein 

The Seniors Category was  battle among sixty six competitors. What is worthy of mentioning the pool was a mix of famous veteran competitors. In this category most participants if not all  are already in the professional level. It's no longer a battle of just technique. Ultimately it's a test of overall star quality. 

Denise Parungao from Ballet Philippines looked like a sublime beauty in her pictures from Round 1 of the competition. She was a picture of delicacy and grace. She performed the grand pas de deux from Giselle with non competing partner Garry Corpuz from the Hong Kong Ballet.  Sadly she was eliminated early on. Nonetheless it was a great feat to make it to that stage. It was a good chance to show international audiences that purists in ballet exist in the Philippines. 

Denise Parungao and Garry Corpuz in Giselle Pas De Deux
Photo by Richard Finkelstein

Long and limber Veronica Atienza from Philippine Ballet Theatre chose to perform Esmeralda and Giselle variations for Round 1 Classical Category. For round two she performed a piece choreographed for her by PBT Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Ronilo Jaynario entitled "Leap Of Faith". Leap of faith it was, Atienza  has very little professional contemporary experience but she still survived the round with ease. For round three she had to perform three solos. For the classical section she performed Black Swan variation and Diana variation. Atienza is known for her fluid multiple pirouettes and quick corner turns. She reportedly performed numerous triple pirouettes that thrilled the audiences. For contemporary, she performed another premiere of a new work by Jaynario entitled "Tribal Princess".  Atienza was coached by Philippine Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Ronilo Jaynario and Ballet Master Anatoli Panasiukov. 

Round 1 Seniors Esmeralda Variation
Veronica Atienza
Photo by Richard Finkelstein
Round 2 Seniors Ronilo Jaynario's  "Leap of Faith"
Veronica Atienza 
Round 3 Diana and Acteon
Veronica Atienza 

Katherine Barkman is no stranger to the USA International Ballet Competition. She was a semi-finalist in the Juniors category in 2014 representing the USA . She returns with 2002 Gold USA IBC medalist non competing partner Joseph Phillips still representing USA but under the mentor-ship of Ballet Manila. In round one they performed the Grand Pas De Deux of Don Quixote. This being a signature piece of Barkman, they effortlessly made it to the next round charming the crowd with their flirtatious technique . For the contemporary section they performed "K.B.J.P", a daring pas de deux  crafted for them by Augustus "Bam" Damian.  For round three they performed Grand Pas Classique. For the contemporary session they performed "The Distance Between Us" choreographed by  Simon Hoy. Under Ballet Manila, they were coached by  Lisa Macuja and Osias Barosso. This BM pair  included in Pointe Magazine's live interviews. 

Round 1 Don Quixote Grand Pas De Deux
Joseph Phillips and Katherine Barkman
Round 2 K.B J P Choreography by Augustus Damian
Katherine Barkman and Joseph Phillips
Photography by Richard Finkelstein.

Round 3 Grand Pas Classique
Joseph Philipps and Katherin Barkman
Photo by Richard Finkelstein 

The recently concluded gala announced that  Veronica Atienza  got the Special Award for Jury Encouragement for Women Seniors and Nicole Barosso got the same award for Juniors. Yunting Qui from China won the gold. Soobin Lee from  Korea and  Katherine Barkman from the USA won the  silver. Chisako Oga from the USA won bronze . While Team Philippines did not get the top prize, their performance certainly left an impression.  What this competition proves is that the Filipino dance community is now an empowered one. Our dancers are brave enough to take on global challenges such as the USA IBC. Team Philippines represents a generation of dancers  who are willing and and able to represent our country's colors in a global landscape. Moreover , their success proves that even in the dimmest of situations, our dancers have the ability to shine. The numbers show a David and Goliath playing field. There were countries with double digit representation but at the very end, the Philippines belonged to the top crop of finalists and awardees. The win just proves to show that art is the ultimate equalizer. It's anybody's game.