From a field of 212 contestants from 15 countries, dancers from Ballet Manila emerged with medals and citations at the 2013 Asia Grand Prix competition held Aug. 13-18 at the Y-Theater in Chai Wan, Hong Kong. Most notable among these is the Silver medal win of 14-year-old Rissa May Camaclang, the youngest Filipino to be awarded in an international ballet competition.
Out of 12 Ballet Manila delegates, 10 made it to the finals and eventually brought home six medals and three certificates from the competition. Aside from Camaclang’s Silver in the Junior B division, BM also brought home the following: two Silver medals in the Pas de Deux division for Dawna Mangahas and Elpidio Magat; two Bronze medals also in the Pas de Deux division for Joan Emery Sia and Alfren Salgado; and a Bronze medal in the Senior division for Dawna Mangahas.
Young danseurs Magat and Arnulfo Andrade Jr. placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the Senior division, while Jessa Balote landed fifth place in the Junior B division. Seniors Mangahas, Magat and Andrade also received the “So Danca” special award for their division.
Other members of the delegation were Junior B finalist Missy Macuja Elizalde, semifinalists Camille Santiago, Anselmo Dictado and Sergio Capa III, and Violet Hong.
Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde said she is satisfied with the results. “It was very competitive, especially since boys and girls vied for medals together in the same division. Fortunately, they trained with so much dedication for the AGP and we are glad that their skills and hard work did not go unnoticed.”
She commended the remarkable performance of Silver medalist Rissa May Camaclang and fifth-placer Jessa Balote. The two girls are part of Ballet Manila’s Project Ballet Futures scholarship program, in which children from underprivileged communities who show great potential but cannot afford ballet education are auditioned, trained and nurtured by BM.
The Asian Grand Prix International Ballet Competition was established in 2011 by former dancers of the Hong Kong Ballet, in an effort to encourage excellence in fledgling ballerinas and danseurs. Hosted by the Youth Ballet of Asia, it recognizes exceptional achievement and provides funding assistance to young dancers for their continued training and development.
Macuja-Elizalde believes the Russian Vaganova training, daily classes and rehearsals and the performance experience of the Ballet Manila candidates gave them an edge over the other delegates. She says they were also fortunate to have had BM alumna Christine Rocas of the Joffrey Ballet, and Russian mentors Margarita Kullich and Vladimir Kim give special coaching sessions to the AGP and Beijing delegates.
Rigorous training was also given by the BM faculty that includes Macuja-Elizalde, Osias Barroso, Rudy de Dios, Jonathan Janolo, Eileen Lopez, Mylene Aggabao and Sofia Sangco-Peralta.
Dawna Mangahas, who also became a semifinalist at the 2nd Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition last July—despite recovering from a recent injury—is a ballerina to watch, said Macuja-Elizalde. “We know she will grow even more as a performer now that she’ll be taking on lead roles in “Le Corsaire,” “La Bayadere” and “The Nutcracker” as part of our 18th season this year.”
Barroso, Ballet Manila co-artistic director, took special note of the performances of Joan Emery Sia and Alfren Salgado in AGP. “They nailed their ‘Giselle’ pas de deux, which is rarely done in competitions nowadays. Some may think it is not technically challenging, but when properly done with style and strength, ‘Giselle’ can leave an impact especially in style, musicality and artistry. During the finals, they danced ‘Le Corsaire’ and during the Adagio, people were gushing about Joan’s exquisite line. Alfren also danced his variation really well.”
“It is a learning experience that will enhance their own growth as dancers,” said Macuja-Elizalde, who has also won honors for the country in similar competitions.
She was the first Filipino ballerina to bring home a laureate prize, a Silver medal, from the 1987 Asia-Pacific Ballet Competition in Tokyo. She also completed the senior division semifinals at the 1990 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, and won fifth place at the 1992 International Diaghilev Ballet Competition in Moscow, Russia.
Barroso, for his part, became the first Filipino classical danseur to reach the semifinal round of the First International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition held in Nagoya, Japan.