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Have a ballet Christmas

WHAT was ostensibly a webinar about shopping and gift-giving proved to be wrapping for Ballet Philippines’ gift for this season: a Facebook Live premiere with the cooperation of Rustan’s calledA Season of Giving” became a launchpad for Ballet Philippines’ Christmas productions, Christmas Fantasy and Maligayang Pasko.

The speakers at the webinar — which was held on Dec. 14 at the Ballet Philippines (BP) Facebook page — included Rep. Cristal Bagatsing, Tessa Prieto-Valdes, Pinky Tobiano, Dina Tantoco, BP President Kathleen Liechtenstein, and BP Core Dancer Jemima Reyes. The other ladies discussed what they plan to give and hope to receive on Christmas, while Ms. Liechtenstein discussed the production.

“This is Ballet Philippines’ gift of gratitude to you all; our way of saying thank you for supporting BP OnStream,” she said during the webinar. BP OnStream was launched last July to offer an alternative to the performances canceled due to the community quarantine restrictions in place. These included master classes, seminars, and performances. “Through your support, we are able to continue helping the arts and beauty of ballet.”

Christmas Fantasy was choreographed by BP’s new Artistic Director, Russian Mikhail Martynyuk, with music from Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album. The performance begins with a gentle rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Maman. It was staged and shot at the SDA Theater of De La Salle – College of St. Benilde’s School of Design and Art Campus. The staging was understandably spartan: a single candle on a carved table, with a projected backdrop, changing from an Italian village to a Russian ballroom, to a snow scene. Musical accompaniment was provided by a piano, dispensing with an orchestra. Other excerpts performed were from the same album, including “The Sorcerer,” a Polka, the “Italian Song,” the “Tarantella,” and the “Prince and the Sugarplum Fairy” (this time from holiday classic The Nutcracker).

Maligayang Pasko, meanwhile, was choreographed by guest artist Joseph Philips, and was accompanied by classic Christmas carols performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Dancers in Filipiniana costumes created by Patis Tesoro dance to the familiar strains of “Silent Night,” “Good King Wenceslas,” and “The First Noel.”

Core Dancer Ms. Reyes spoke about the differences of performing then and now, used as she is to the Christmas pageantry at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), where Ballet Philippines holds court. “I grew up performing in the CCP. It’s been my home, and I really hold on to that place so dearly. Given the circumstances, given the pandemic, I’m very grateful we’re still able to dance and perform for people who are staying home. Maybe it feels a little different performing in an empty theater, with just cameras in front of us moving.

“But it still is a performance, onstage,” she said. “I still felt like it was a show. For some reason, I was nervous at some point. It felt like the feeling like [when] I’m about to go onstage. That kind of rush. I don’t know why.

“The stage was different, the view while we were dancing was different, but the joy of dancing on stage was the same. Maybe even more now, because I know how precious our time onstage is.”

Watch the performance and other offerings by Ballet Philippines at facebook.com/balletphilippines and at ballet.ph. — Joseph. L. Garcia

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