Swan Lake is one of the most famous and recognizable ballets in the world. For dancers, it is one of the most difficult to execute, demanding technical skill and the ability to elegantly portray a swan using only the body. According to noted dancer and choreographer Nonoy Froilan, if you can do Swan Lake, you can consider yourself a prima ballerina. Ballet Philippines brings this timeless classic to Manila, and I was able to watch it!
Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a beautiful young princess who is turned into a white swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The only way to break the spell is for a virgin to fall in love with her and promise eternal fidelity. Siegfried, a young prince who needs to find a bride, meets her and falls in love, but the sorcerer has other plans, using the black swan.
The ballet was originally composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky from 1875 to 1876, and premiered the following year with a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. However, the most popular adaptation is the 1895 revival by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, which premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, also in Russia.
It has a long history in the Philippines, having been performed by Ballet Philippines seven times from 1978 to 1994. The company has invited respected Filipino dancers and guest artists from Australia, the US, Japan, the UK, China, Canada, Germany, Russia, and more. Now it’s back on the stage after a 23 year break, with an exciting lineup of performers!
Ballet Philippines’ rendition of Swan Lake this 2017 is restaged by Froilan, and features a talented set of six dancers: principal dancer Denise Parungao and company member Garry Corpuz; soloists Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad; and guest artists Candice Adea, former principal dancer of Ballet Philippines and the country’s most laureled ballerina, and Joseph Philips, dubbed the “golden boy of ballet.”
The performance I watched featured Reyes and Maguad, but I was also able to see Parungao and Corpuz perform during the press preview. At the time, I had my preconceptions already. I had seen Parungao and Corpuz perform the ballet Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko and fell in love with how fluid and passionate they moved. I thought Parungao would be the perfect Black Swan, a character knwon for her free-spirited intensity. On the other hand, Reyes was timid, shy, and careful. Ah, the perfect White Swan, a role that was measured and afraid. Oh, how Reyes proved me wrong.
Traditionally, one ballerina performs the role of Odette and Odile, and Adea said that it can be challenging and demanding. Imagine having to portray polar opposites in one show. But Reyes gracefully flits from one role to the other, perfectly portraying Odette’s calculated movements and Odile’s reckless flirtations. Her limbs captured the bows and bends of a swan’s body, her legs cascading like a waterfall at many scenes.
Maguad was similar as the young prince Siegfried. The danseur’s lithe body was the perfect canvas to Siegfried’s agony and his desire to break the sorcerer’s spell and be with Odette forever.
The set, created by Ohm David, was sprawling and majestic. He created a moody forest, complemented by stellar lighting from Jay Aranda. The score, of course, is hauntingly beautiful. The performance I watched had a live score by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Yoshikazu Fukumura, and I got shivers when they performed the Swan Theme. They will be back to score the show on March 3.
Swan Lake is the perfect finale to Ballet Philippines’ 47th season, entitled Wings. Staging a ballet of this magnitude and pulling it off successfully just shows how committed the company is to the craft, and how they are at par with foreign companies. The dancers deserved all the “bravos” thrown at them throughout the show.
Ballet Philippines’ Swan Lake runs from February 24 to March 5, 2017 at the Culture Center of the Philippines, with an 8PM show on March 3, 2PM and 7PM shows on March 4, and a 3PM show at March 5. For more information, visit Ballet Philippines’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube pages. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.