Filipinos have always been imaginative and are known for their positive outlook on life. Dreams inflame their hearts, fill them with hope and resiliency to face obstacles and fuel their passion for achieving goals. This is the same spirit that Ballet Manila brings as it opens its 25th performance season on its 27th year with the vibrant and highly entertaining Don Quixote set to premiere at Aliw Theater in Pasay City on May 27, 2023, at 8:00 p.m. and May 28, 2023, at 5:00 p.m.
“I think dancing Don Quixote as our first full length classical ballet for the year is very appropriate because now is the time to pull out all the stops. Make the dancers and audience just enjoy themselves back onstage and in the theater,” shared Lisa Macuja Elizalde, Ballet Manila’s artistic director and chief executive officer.
Joining the performance is San Francisco Ballet principal dancer, Esteban Hernandez who will fly in to Manila to play the male lead role Basilio. While Hernandez has performed in Don Quixote previously as a Gitano leader, this time, he portrays a major character who he explained is one that many people can surely relate to. “Basilio is a well-liked, fun, almost carefree guy who just wants to make a living and enjoy his time with the people he loves; in this case, Kitri. I think in some way or another people can relate to this sentiment,” he says.
For this staging of Don Quixote, Macuja Elizalde steps in to help Pia Dames prepare for the female lead character Kitri. Macuja Elizalde is ensuring that Dames is in tip top shape for the flashy technical dancing form of Don Quixote: “Stamina, strength and a solid technique are must-haves for dancing Don Quixote. Classes and rehearsals are essential so we just keep practicing every day,” she says.
For her part, Dames is doing ballet sports science workouts to avoid injuries. She explained, “When I did my first full length Don Quixote, I wasn’t fully prepared so I had to fight until the end with an injured ankle and stress fracture. My main goal now is for my body to be healthy and pain-free throughout the whole show.” Although there is pressure to do well, Dames is enjoying the whole journey.
“I know how good Esteban is so I am more than excited to share the stage with him. It’s not every day that you get to partner with someone from San Francisco Ballet, so to have been given the opportunity to dance with him is definitely a highlight of my dancing career,” says Dames.
Sharing her sentiments, Hernandez who always enjoys dancing with different partners, notes, “It feels really special to come to the Philippines and dance with a Filipina principal dancer. I’m really looking forward to getting to know Pia and developing our partnership.”
So as the Filipino audience witnesses these two principal dancers bring the characters to life, he hopes that they will leave the theater feeling inspired, excited, and even moved. “As an artist I put part of who I am into my work so I hope that it’ll also be a great way for us to get to know each other,” Hernandez said.
As for Lisa Macuja Elizalde, who considers Kitri a signature role, she couldn’t be more excited for the return of Don Quixote by Ballet Manila. “I am looking forward to sitting back and enjoying a high quality performance after all the months of work. I am looking forward to watching my company and school revisit a classical ballet that has been such an important and major part of my ballerina life, and I am looking forward to developing more young people to watch and appreciate ballet.”