November 29, 2014
We are all familiar with the story of Cinderella from the classic 1950 Disney full length animated film. We know her Wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters who maltreated her. We know her Fairy Godmother who magically helped her get to the Ball. We know about the Prince and his kingdom-wide search for the owner of glass slipper the mystery lady who ran off at midnight left behind. We can see all this and more in the latest offering of Ballet Philippines this holiday season, Cinderella as choreographed by National Artist for Dance, Alice Reyes, who was present last night.
Instead of the traditional Prokofiev score, Ms. Reyes used various pieces by Tchaikovsky to create the perfect musical score for the ballet she had in mind. She added various original elements, like the dance of animals in the garden and the two mischievous brothers of the prince, to lighten the mood for her target audience, the children.
This is already the fifth staging of this original Alice Reyes ballet since she premiered it first in 1981. The restagers this time around are BP Dance School Director and Ballet Master Victor Ursabia and Ballet Master Ramon Victoria.
The sets and costumes were originally designed by Salvador Bernal, himself a National Artist for Theater Design. The palace set was so opulent and grandiose with meticulous details, enhancing the elegance and vibrancy of the dances performed.
Cinderella was played by a young, upcoming soloist Denise Parungao. She has such a pretty smile and and kind face, perfect for her lead role. Her very slim and lithe physique gives her a very light feeling when she dances, even as she performs difficult moves. (Monica Amanda Gana alternates in this role.)
The most elegant dancer on that stage last night was the regal Rita Angela Winder who portrayed Fairy Godmother, certainly younger and more beautiful than the one we know from the Disney cartoon. Her stage presence is riveting, always drawing audience attention to her dignified stance. (Katherine Trofeo alternates in this role.)
The male characters play second fiddle to their female counterparts in this program as they mainly play consorts and dance partners. Even the Prince had to dance in groups of multiple dancers during Act 1. Richardson Yadao is a Principal Dancer of BP but he seemed to lack the regal stature and presence to be the Prince. There were some male members of the company (was that JM Cordero?) looked more "princely" than him, sad to say. He did show why he earned his rank in the company when he danced his solo spots with excellent flourish in Act III. (Earl John Arisola alternates in this role.)
However, definitely the most memorable characters for the audience in this show are the Wicked Stepmother Brunhilda and the comic Stepsisters Griselda and Prunella.
Last night, Brunhilda was played by Isabelle Garachon, the wife of the French Ambassador, who was a professional dancer back when she was younger. Her face was made up to look scary and stern, but she had a natural sense of humor with her facial expressions. Her moves seemed more flamenco-inspired than ballet, very graceful. BP President Margie Moran-Floriendo will alternate in this role, I am very curious on how she would pull it off. There is a third alternate, Butch Esperanza, a guy -- now that might be fun!
The role of the two step-sisters are probably the most demanding of the whole cast. They had to do physical slapstick comedy in balletic style. That is as difficult as it sounds, but it had to look like they were having a lot of fun doing it. Dancing the clumsy and heavy-footed pair last night were Ma. Celina Dofitas (as Griselda) and BP Principal Dancer Katherine Trofeo (as Prunella). They were a riot with the kids and kids at heart in the audience. People were actually laughing out loud at their antics, as unseeming as it may be at a ballet. (Edana Mae Labitoria alternates as Griselda. Rita Angela Winder alternates as Prunella -- now that is something to watch out for!)
I am not really a ballet connoisseur by any measure, but judging this as a casual viewer, this is one full-length ballet my daughter and I truly enjoyed watching. The humorous elements Ms. Reyes added into her choreography really enhanced the enjoyment of the show. I would say that the degree of difficulty of the dancing was heightened because of the sense of comedy it had to project to the audience in the form of dance. This show proved that ballet can indeed be fun to watch!
Here is the cast schedule of performances released by Ballet Philippines: