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. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Birth of Team Philippines

Interest in ballet competitions have amplified in the last twenty years in a global scale. The global trend, the strong influential nudge from social media and perhaps Candice Adea's sparkling win in the 2010 UIBC have inspired our Filipino dancers to become brave enough to go beyond their comfort zone and into the  artistic combat arena. Nowadays children as young as 7 years old are being prepped to compete internationally. Despite the boost, Philippine representation in international ballet competitions is still considered a small number.  I can count with my two hands the number of people who have joined the four notable career changing competitions in the world (which in my opinion are: Prix de Laussane, USA International Ballet Competition, Varna International Ballet Competition and Moscow Ballet Competition) in the last decade.  2018 is a game changer. 

Recently, Lisa Macuja and Ballet Manila spearheaded a fundraising event for all the dancers competing internationally this 2018. Presented to the audience was a legion of dancers that suddenly blurred territories and affiliations turning them all into one brave TEAM PHILIPPINES. It was quite lovely to feel the synergy of support from the audience. I would say that the event was a true mark of "bayanihan". Giving audiences the chance to support "The Filipino Artist" as one body is such a gift to the community. Not only does it paint a beautiful picture of unity, it also shows that the potential of our dancers is something to be proud of. If the performances were any indication of their showing in their respective competitions, I would say at a minimum our dancers will leave a mark for their exemplary artistry. 

At this time, the first group of Pinoy competitors have started their USA International Ballet Competition journey in Jackson, Missisipi. Often times it's called the Olympics of ballet because of the level of difficulty in the process of elimination. To survive the application round is ready an achievement.Round one of competition  is a display of classical technique. If you survive that round, you will get to perform your prepared contemporary number. After that is a third round where you will be asked to perform 1 classical number and 1 contemporary number. Competition at this level is brutal. With this in mind, TEAM PHILIPPINES is really up for combat.  In historic fashion, the three major ballet companies in the Philippines will be ably represented by their artists. Ballet Manila will be sending Nicole Barosso and Yulian Rey to compete in the Junior Category. They are the first Filipino pair to ever qualify and compete in the Juniors division.They will be 2 out of 153 contestants. 

The senior category has 65 competitors.   Ballet Manila's resident guest artist Katherine Barkman will be competing in the senior category with non-competing partner Joseph Philips. Rising star Veronica Atienza who will be representing Philippine Ballet Theatre. Denise Parungao Jr. Principal Dancer partnered by non-competing partner Garry Corpuz will be performing for Ballet Philippines.  Filipino dancers Eunice Suba from New Jersey Ballet and Derek Drillon are also contenders in the Seniors Category. The phrases "more chances of winning" and "strength in numbers" provides hope that a handful will come home victorious. Get to know  our TEAM PHILIPPINES for UIBC 


Nicole Barosso and Yulian Rey have been partnered together for quite some time. Both are no strangers to competition.  Barosso placed 1st in  the CCP National Ballet Competition in the Juniors Divion in 2016. She also got 2 silver medals from Asian Grand Prix in 2015 and 2016 . Yulian Rey placed 5th in the Asian Grand Prix 2017. At the Philippine Dance Cup he was 2nd Place in the 2012 Junior Division Solo Category and 6th Place in the 2014 Senior Division Solo Category. This promising pair is slithers with elan and appropriately playful in the spotlight. 


Katherine Barkman is obviously not a Filipino but she's lived in Manila for three years and have quite frankly captured the hearts of many. Just like in basketball, let's call her the "import" or "kabayan". She's a polished performer who practically glistens in bravura choreography. Sure-footed, she is able to play with her artistry and enjoy her moments on stage. She won the Gold At the 2015 Asian Grand Prix. This is her second time to join UIBC.

Denise Parungao is Manila's adagio princess. Her silken elasticity is what sets her apart from others. She often excites audiences with controlled extended balances and  generous extensions. She previously won the Luda Adameit Award in the 2011 Junior NAMCYA competition and won first prize in the 2014  CCP National Ballet Competition. 


Veronica Atienza is an unstoppable force of nature. From ambuiguity she introduced herself to the dance industry with a glorious performqnce in the Junior  World Ballet Competition by placing 4th. She has since then consistently pleased audiences with her fusion of  glorious femininity and youthful athleticism.  Her endless lines or multiple pirouettes are always  delivered effortlessly.

Derek Drilon is not based in Manila but has performed in the Philippines a couple of times. I have not seen him live but from what I've seen he can very well be our very own Pinoy Roberto Bolle. He has a princely  aura and a natural charm. His classical lines are impressive. He won the Gold in the Youth American Grand Prix San Francisco Qualifier and placed 6th in the overall final competition. 

Sourced from Drilon's Facebook
Eunica Suba lives in New Jersey and has been competing since she was a child. She was even featured briefly in the famous tv series "Dance Moms". Her latest achievement is winning gold at the Valentina Kozlova  International Competition . Her style is minimalist but she is strong, crisp and moves with oriental  mysterious flare. 

Courtesy of Eunice Suba

With the birth of Team Philippines, I hope that the dance community will display once again the act of bayanihan. With blurred lines and territories, I hope everyone says a little prayer and sends an unlimited supply of light and love to all our competitors as they start their journey. At the end of the day aren't we all proud of them ready? 

To TEAM PHILIPPINES. May you receive the blessing of a charmed experience. May you take home what you need to soar to greater heights.