Int’l ballet stars to perform for Filipino ballet scholars

I did the following story for VERA Files

The real beauty of Ballet Manila’s latest project bringing together eleven international ballet stars in a once-in-a-lifetime production is that it will benefit talented Filipino students in public schools who dream of becoming ballet dancers.

On Friday and Saturday (June 8 and 9), at 7:30 p.m.,American Ballet Theatre’s Paloma Herrera and Maxim Beloserkovsky, The Royal Ballet’s David Makhateli and Natalia Kremen, Mariinsky Theatre’s Daria Pavlenko and Yevgeny Ivanchenko, English National Ballet’s Dmitri Gruzdev, Kremlin Ballet’s Aleksandra Timofeeva, Norwegian National Ballet’s Yoel Carreno and Yolanda Correa Frias, and the Philippines’ own Lisa Macuja-Elizalde will perform in a grand production, dubbed “World Stars of Ballet,” at the Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City.

The show, presented by Ballet Manila and Manila Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with D & D Art Productions, will raise funds for Project Ballet Futures (PBF), Ballet Manila Outreach Service.

Prima ballerina Macuja-Elizalde, who is Ballet Manila’s Artistic Director/School Directress, nixes the myth that ballet is only for the rich. In a recent TV interview, she said the appeal of ballet transcends economic status.

She said that from her experience performing all over the country, she had observed that once people in poor communities are exposed to ballet, they appreciate it.

That inspired her to establish PBF in 2008 with the objective of bringing the fine art of ballet accessible to more people, especially the underprivileged.

PBF is a dance scholarship program that provides free ballet education to public elementary and high school students. The scholars undergo training in Ballet Manila School — the training arm of Ballet Manila.

PBF is currently training 55 students from the Philippine Christian Foundation in Tondo, Manila and public elementary and high schools in the cities of Pasay, Makati, and Manila. Under Macuja-Elizalde’s tutelage, scholars are introduced to the rigorous Russian Vaganova method which develops the body and the mind. This type of dance education builds an artist’s confidence and nurtures emotional intelligence while mastering styles and techniques.

Two of the PBF scholars, Jessa Balote and Jamil Montebon, were recently interviewed for CNN’s Eye on the Philippines series.

To help the young dancers master the athletic nature of their training and achieve their full potential, Ballet Manila provides them meals, a glass of milk and vitamin supplements six days a week.

“We aim to produce potential ballerinas and dancers who are equipped to meet the demands and challenges of professional dancing,” Macuja-Elizalde said.

On the “World Stars of Ballet,” Macuja-Elizalde promised it would be “an exciting evening of great artistry, and very athletic and graceful dancing!”

The repertoire, which will combine classical, neoclassical and modern dance pieces, will showcase two firsts — the Apollo Pas de Deux and Diamonds Pas de Deux, both Balanchine ballet highlights that have never been performed in Manila.

Also to be featured are the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas, Giselle Pas de Deux, Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, Don Quote Grande Pas De Deux, as well as original choreographies done especially for Ballet Manila, Green, Widmung, Sotto Voce, Reconfigured, Arachnida, Diane and Acteon and Dancing to Verdi.

Macuja-Elizalde is particularly proud that two couples of Ballet Manila who have been accepted to the Beijing International Ballet competition will be performing side-by-side the ballet superstars. They are Stephanie Cabral/ Arnulfo Andrade Jr, and Joan Sia/ Elpidio Magat.

A legend herself as the first Asian ballerina dancing solos in the prestigious Kirov Ballet, Macuja-Elizalde is not new to sharing the stage with world-class artists in various parts of the world.

Her outstanding dance career, which started when she was eight years old, covers more than performing. She loves her role as mentor which is what she is at Ballet Manila and Project Ballet Futures.

Macuja-Elizalde has reached that stage in her career when she feels “it’s time to pass on the torch” to the next generation of ballet dancers.

She is retiring from full-length ballet due to acute tendonitis. Last year, she partnered with Makhateli in the iconic Swan Lake as a start of her series of farewell performances.

Every performance of Lisa Macuja-Elizalde has become high value. Catch her with the other “World Stars of Ballet” in one spectacular dance show for a cause.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

June 5, 2012 8:30 am  Tags: ,   Posted in: Arts and Culture, Vera Files

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