Ballet Manila takes flight with original production 'Ibong Adarna'


Posted at Aug 21 2017 01:15 PM

Ballet Manila takes flight with original production 'Ibong Adarna' 1
Soloist Abigail Oliveiro takes on the title role as the elusive Ibong Adarna. Handout photo

MANILA -- Ballet Manila opens its 22nd performance season on the magnificent wings of a mythical bird as it unveils its most ambitious original Filipino production to date – the world premiere of Gerardo Francisco’s "Ibong Adarna." 

Based on the centuries-old epic about an elusive bird with curative powers, Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde reveals that the ballet has been in the works for the last two years and that she never considered assigning it to any choreographer other than Francisco, who is also one of the company’s most esteemed principal dancers. 

“I believed it was certainly time for him to be given this kind of opportunity,” says Macuja-Elizalde. “He has proven, time and again, that he is very capable of doing the job well. His many awards and successful projects with Ballet Manila attest to his immense talent. And from what I have seen so far, he has certainly outdone himself -- everything about this ballet is stunning!”

With almost two decades of experience in both classical and contemporary dance, Francisco began venturing into choreography by producing one-act dance pieces and collaborating with more seasoned choreographers. This elaborate new work, however, marks his first solo attempt in creating a full-length ballet.

“I really gave it my all,” he reveals. “The story of the Ibong Adarna is a Filipino classic that has found many interpretations in literature, film, radio and television. So it is a very challenging task to retell it again -- but this time as a ballet. At the same time, it is also inspiring because it gives me a chance to contribute in preserving something that’s valuable to our culture – especially for young people like my own kids who are required to study this classic poem in school.”

Macuja-Elizalde adds that "Ibong Adarna" has given the dancers a chance to work closely with a creative team of musicians, singers, actors, writers, and designers, each one contributing to the uniqueness of the show. 

Ballet Manila takes flight with original production 'Ibong Adarna' 2
Ballet Manila’s creative team for Ibong Adarna: writer Anjie Ureta, composer Diwa de Leon, choreographer Gerardo Francisco, actor Bodjie Pascua, artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, soprano Gia Macuja-Atchison, and co-artistic director Osias Barroso Handout photo

“I am very excited about the artistic collaborations that have resulted from this project – from the compelling musical score of Diwa de Leon, to the soaring vocals of Gia Macuja-Atchison as the singing Adarna and Bodjie Pascua’s engaging portrayal of the mysterious Ermitanyo, to the meticulous costumes and sets by Make it Happen Workshop, the dramatic lighting by Jay Aranda, and the audience-friendly narrative written by Anjie Blardony Ureta… and of course, the high-spirited performance of each and every BM artist, apprentice and scholar involved in this production,” she says.

Bringing the epic to life onstage are the artists of Ballet Manila, led by danseurs Rudy de Dios, Romeo Peralta, Mark Sumaylo, Elpidio Magat, Rudolph Capongcol, and Anselmo Dictado alternating as the three princes in search of the elusive Adarna bird, portrayed by Abigail Oliveiro and Katherine Barkman. 

As an added highlight to this event, master photographer G-Nie Arambulo will also unveil her second one-woman exhibit at the Aliw Theater foyer on opening night. 

Entitled "Alchemy en Pointe: A Dance of the Elements," the exhibit features the Ballet Manila artists in stunning images conjured from the interplay of dance, movement, energy, and the elements that comprise nature. Proceeds from the exhibit will benefit the dance scholars of BM’s Project Ballet Futures. 

Ballet Manila’s world premiere of "Ibong Adarna" spreads its wings at 6 p.m. on August 26 and September 2, and at 3 p.m. on August 27 and September 3 at the Aliw Theater.