Ballet and disco may be worlds apart, but they beautifully come together in Ballet Philippines’ Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko, a dance musical featuring the songs of VST & Co. Even if I wasn’t alive during the disco era or when the group was at its peak, I felt nostalgic while watching the musical and I bopped along to the music.
Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko is directed by Ballet Philippines artistic director Paul Alexander Morales, and tells the love story between Teresa, a kolehiyala, and Victor, a construction worker. Also vying for Teresa’s attention is Gabby, the son of a high government official. The story is set in Martial Law Philippines, and the era’s atrocities shape the results of the forbidden love.
Denise Parungao and Garry Corpuz play Teresa and Victor, and both dancers seem to defy gravity as they leapt like the gentle waves on a beach. Corpuz was surprisingly lithe considering his towering height, and Parungao moved like air as Corpuz lifted, twirled, spun, and led her around the stage. Parungao was an excellent dancer, and I was entranced at how precise and exact her movements were. She had a savoir faire that I admired: she had complete control of her body yet she made it look so effortless.
Playing their older versions were ballroom dance champion Ednah Ledesma and former Ballet Philippines company member Butch Esperanza. Most of their scenes are set in their sunset years, with Teresa in a hospital and Victor in crutches, but they performed a poignant number at the end that was a touching resolution to the story.
The music played an equal role in Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko. Parungao, Corpuz, Ledesma, and Esperanza’s elegant performances were complemented by the voices of the singers. For me, the highlight was the soulful voice of Color It Red’s Cooky Chua, who played Ester, a “woman of the night.” Chua had her own love story with Sandino Martin, who played Arturo, Victor’s best friend at the construction site. I watched Martin in the brooding film Esprit de Corps, and it was refreshing to see him in an upbeat and singing role. Jef Flores as Gabby was also fun to watch as he seemed to be enjoying his role.
The story is woven together to the disco tunes of VST & Co., one of the pioneering groups of the Manila Sound in the ’70s. The group is composed of Boy Alcaide, Clod Baria, Fred Concepcion, Ben Escasa, Homer Flores, Chito Ilagan, Joey de Leon, Monet Gaskell, Celso Llavina, Jun Medina, Male Rigor, Roger Rigor, Spanky Rigor, Tito Sotto, Val Sotto, and Vic Sotto. Together, they created disco hits that defined an era.
In the musical, some of my favorite numbers were “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko,” “Rock Baby Rock,” “Kiss… Kiss,” and “Magsayawan.” Because the music is so retro, the choreography was a combination of ballet and modern, making it an enjoyable watch.
Of course, credit must also be given to Viva Voce, the vocal ensemble that made the music more fun, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra for playing the songs beautifully (led by Maestro Gerald Salonga), Bibeth Orteza who created the libretto, and James Laforteza, PJ Rebullida, and Carissa Adea who created the choreography.
I may not have been alive during the peak of disco and Martial Law, but I don’t need to be to appreciate the singing voices, the choreography, and the musical arrangement of Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko. Like many things in life, all you need to do to empathize is open your heart and let the tune carry you.
Ballet Philippines’ Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko is staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater on December 2 (8PM), December 3 (6PM), December 4 (2PM and 6PM), December 9 (8PM), December 10 (2PM and 6PM), and December 11 (2PM and 6PM). Tickets are available at www.ticketworld.com.ph.
Alternating with the cast are Rita Angela Winder and Jean Marc Cordero (Teresa and Victor), legendary Ballet Philippines principal dancers Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan (older Teresa and Victor), Karylle (Ester), Michael Pangilinan (Arturo), Markki Stroem (Gabby), and Kyle Echarri (Lito). They will perform on the December 11 shows at 2PM and 6PM.