“A showcase of technical and virtuosic feats’ is how world-renowned prima ballerina and Ballet Manila artistic director and chief executive officer Lisa Macuja Elizalde describes the opening salvo of the company’s 26th performance season, billed as “Ballet Masterpieces,” owing to the excellent lineup of shows that feature two classical ballet productions, along with the enchanting and timeless appeal of Filipino literary classics.
The season is set to open with the propitious staging of Le Corsaire (The Pirate) as rechoreographed by Macuja Elizalde herself. It will be staged on February 24, 2024 at 8:00 p.m. and February 25, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. at Ballet Manila’s home, the Aliw Theater in Pasay City.
For Macuja Elizalde, creating her version of Le Corsaire has always been a dream: “I have always wanted to re-work Le Corsaire. When I was dancing the role of Medora, I found her character to be a damsel in distress waiting for Conrad to save her; getting captured twice. I wanted to change the order of the main dances in Le Corsaire as well because I always felt that there should be a build-up to the main dances.”
She also notes that part of the charm of Le Corsaire is that all main characters are given the chance to shine: “For me, the main draw and importance of staging a Le Corsaire is the fact that there are many principal characters that all have their respective times to shine and show off technical and virtuosic feats as the ballet unfolds.”
From the swashbuckling tale of romantic adventure, Ballet Manila brings well-loved Filipino tales to life with Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang on May 11, 2024 at 8:00 p.m., and May 12 & 18, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. For this special production, Ballet Manila has partnered with Anvil Publishing to keep the legacy of renowned Filipino writer Severino Reyes, alive. The ballet versions are based on multi-awarded children’s book writer Christine Bellen Ang’s retelling of Severino Reyes’ stories.
“The idea to create a ballet from the Anvil Publishing books of Mga Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang came about during my children’s book fair,” she recalls. “I saw the entire collection of children’s books displayed in their school library, and I bought all 12. Then I called a meeting with my artistic team. I put all 12 books on the table and told them to choose one to make into a ballet.”
Finding all stories to be worth sharing to a wider audience, the artistic team had a difficult time selecting only three stories but eventually ended up with those whose themes centered on romance, adventure and comedy. Thus, Ang Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang was born.
Anvil Publishing president Xandra Ramos Padilla considers Ballet Manila’s staging of the Lola Basyang series as an excellent opportunity to instill pride among local theatergoers. “We hope it reaches and inspires more people to appreciate and support different forms of local art and culture. An original Filipino story performed through dance is something that the Philippines can be proud of,” she says, adding that Lola Basyang’s stories are “well and widely loved by generations because they teach values and help instill a child’s love for reading.
“The whimsical illustrations in the picture books transport you to magical worlds—a visual spectacle successfully translated onstage by Ballet Manila,” added Padilla.
Adding even more buzz to the show is celebrated performing artist Mitch Valdes who will be taking on the role of Lola Basyang. Having been active in the local theater and entertainment scene for over 50 years, the seasoned comic singer-actress has played highly-acclaimed roles in such well-publicized productions as Lunes, Martes, Miyerkules, Huwebes, Biyernes, Sabado, Linggo where she won a Gawad Urian Award for Best Supporting Actress, and in the musicale Katy! for which she is remembered for her outstanding performance as Katy dela Cruz. She has also starred in highly-acclaimed movies such as Oro, Plata, Mata; Manila by Night; and Bulaklak sa City Jail.
This time, audiences will see her perform her version of Lola Basyang with her signature wit and humor. Asked how she will make her character different, Mitch gleefully replies: “I will ask Lisa (Macuja) if Lola Basyang can get up from her rocking chair for some choreography. Maybe up on pointe for five seconds!”
On a more serious note, the multi-awarded comedian and actress extolls the concept of having local classics featured along with world-renowned masterpieces. “We’re familiar with all the international classics but this one is a rare chance to see one of our beloved folklores come to life in classical ballet. It will be beautiful because the story is one of our own.”
Completing the 26th Performance Season is Giselle, an ethereal, romantic ballet that tackles love, tragedy and loss, and will be performed on August 31, 2024 at 8:00 p.m. until September 1, 2024 at 5:00 p.m.
“I think calling our 2024 performance season “Ballet Masterpieces” is spot on because of the ballets that are featured. Le Corsaire and Giselle are both full-length classical ballet masterpieces, while Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang will feature three stories in one show. I love how our season will have two major classics!” she shared.
For the rest of the year, Ballet Manila is set to continue to showcase its unwavering artistry and excellence with the world premiere of Gerardo Francisco’s and Martin Lawrance’s cutting-edge version of Florante at Laura on October 12, 2024 at 8:00 p.m., October 13 & 19, 2024 at 5:00 p.m.
Through its continuing partnership with Aréte Ateneo, audiences will get to enjoy Gerardo Francisco’s iteration of the Filipino classical tale Ang Ibong Adarna, at the Areté Theater in November 2024.
Finally, the ballet company continues to celebrate its tradition of bringing the spirit of Christmas spirit alive through its Holiday Cheer Series. This year, the young and young at heart will get to enjoy Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s take on Snow White which will be staged from December 25 to 30, 2024.
“We hope that by the end of our 26th Performance Season, the Filipino audience will re-discover and have a newfound appreciation for classical ballet as well as our vibrant Filipino culture through the shows that we have worked very hard to prepare,” said Lisa Macuja-Elizalde.
To learn more about Ballet Manila and its shows, visit www.balletmanila.com.ph