David Campos ballet takes Manila by storm
The Spanish ballet company reinvents ‘Sleeping Beauty’and ‘Giselle’
David Campos, Spanish-Catalan choreographer, and Irene Sabas, Filipina partner and codirector of their exceptional company, descended into the local dance world, and transformed dance idiom into a new language, fusing the classics with the spirit and passion of the contemporary artist.
In the “Sleeping Beauty,” David Campos, unveils what would only exist in dreams, marrying fiction with present-day reality, and beyond.
Like a movie on a full-screen, it starts with the choreographer conducting classical ballet class. A look at a wall clock jolts him and he flies off, racing down winding stairs, into a busy street in Barcelona, almost gets knocked off by a passing car, flips over and in a split second of the mind, finds himself in an office face to face with a prospective sponsor who turns the pages of his ballet designs and production proposal, only to wish him good luck in the pursuit of his dreams. All too real for those in the audience, who have lived and continue to live in pursuit of an ephemeral dream.
The ballet itself opens with the sinister presence of a black-shrouded Carabosse, in a rose-covered palace, threatening a group of timorous fairies, dressed in floppy tutus and green wigs. Their dance is a mixture of the comic and their futile attempts to protect the infant Princess Aurora kept in a crib resembling a caracol.
Enter fairy godmother with her magic wand, threatening the evil Carabosse. Carabosse predicts death to the princess when she grows up. By a mere prick in the finger, from a shaft of light like steel (not the traditional spinner’s needle).
On full screen, we see the lovely Princess Aurora growing up, a child playing in a swing, in a kind of enchanted forest. We see her later as a young and lovely girl, a picture of innocence, at the threshold of womanhood.
The character is danced by the lovely Elline Damian, a superb Filipino ballerina, deserving of the title prima ballerina with impeccable technique and the most enchanting physical qualities.
Watching friends and lovers from the tower of her castle, the Princess stands fascinated until hundreds of shafts of light, like shooting stars pierce the air and one steely light finds her finger and she falls into a swoon, cursed by the evil Carabosse. But her fairy godmother appears and commands that death shall not claim her but that she would only sleep for a hundred years.
David Campos’ hundred years begins in 1912 and encompass many events in the world, and images of great as well as ignominious leaders are flashed on the giant movie screen. The Bolshevik revolution, Hitler and the fall of the Third Reich, America with its emblematic leader, Roosevelt, at the threshold of war, the disintegration of the Communist myth, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more current affairs, such as Barack Obama.
A sleeping princess is discovered in the forest, blanketed by the golden leaves of autumn. Scientists in protective nuclear suits carry her off to their laboratory, where they attempt to revive this lovely creature from another age. Her awakening is both a traumatic and delightful realization of life after a sleep of a hundred years.
The princess is thrust into the digital age, into the discovery of love for and friendship with a man, the scientist who discovers her, and who in a moment of sleeping repose, awakens with a kiss (quite the opposite of the old fairy tale).
Vincent Gros is the prince who awakens the woman in her.
A take-off from the old fairy tale is an almost faithful interpretation of the Blue Bird pas de deux danced with assured strength and classical technique by Eduardo Espejo and Aileen Gallinera, two Filipinos of international stature.
Aurora, with her modern-day prince, watches television where she sees the wedding of the sleeping Princess Aurora, and as she sees herself on the screen, she whispers, “I am her” repeatedly. She suddenly gets up and runs into the wedding scene, and tries to claim the groom of a hundred years ago.
The end sees the Princess and her modern-day Prince as bride and groom, dancing the grand pas de deux from the old fairy tale, the sleeping princess.
The mystery lies in the interpretation of Aurora’s dream… Was she truly the princess from the fairy tale dreaming of a future detached from her own real world, or was she a modern day young woman who simply walked into a dream and an unreal world?
Rather than set the ballet in the traditional German village, David Campos chose to place the opening scene in today’s disco, where young people meet, drink, dance, and indulge in dangerous flirtations, as Giselle (versatile Aileen Gallinera) does when she meets Albrecht (Jesus Pastor).
When the party ends, the couple, in a state of light intoxication, walk away perhaps in anticipation of a short-time romantic liaison. Out of the dark night, two hoodlums appear, obviously attracted by the young Giselle, whom they brazenly accost. Her new-found “friend” Albrecht tries to protect her, but is no match to the two . He flees, leaving Giselle at the mercy of the two hoodlums.
She escapes in the hollow tunnels of the underground trains, a helpless prey. The sight of her flight, her heavy frightened breathing juxtaposed with the swift passing trains produces in the spectator, the audience, a sensation of helpless nervousness.
Finally caught into the clutches of the merciless pair, she is raped repeatedly and left for dead. Later, police and ambulance rush the almost lifeless body of Giselle into a hospital’s emergency ward, as her friend, Albrecht who led the police to the scene of the crime, sits despondent and remorseful in the waiting room. The giant screen projects the victim’s vital signs in a monitor, until the dreaded moment that spells death.
Taking off from a Spanish-Catalan myth of maidens of the waters, rather than the tale culled from the traditional story resurrected by Heinrich Heine into a ballet libretto, David Campos floats images of maidens in white, from the waters of a lake. Water gushes, menacingly, until women’s forms fall like zombies into the ground. These are not beautiful maidens. They are frightening specters that trudge forth, pulled into the stage by black-clad and hooded figures, straight from a scene of nightmares.
The dancing—better described as visions of attacking female ghosts—begins. A rapist ventures into the terrain of the ghostly maidens, is attacked and the specters feast on his remains. The other one falls into the trap and is promptly disposed of in a macabre dance of death.
Giselle, frail and ethereal, joins the sisterhood of vengeful spirit-maidens, but is still warm with a loving human heart. She sees Albrecht as he appears with flowers for her grave, his heart weighed by true grief and remorse. Here both Gallinera and Pastor proved their mettle as great actors as well as strong dancers in the classical tradition, although imbuing their dance with a more dramatic-contemporary character.
When attacked and threatened by the maiden-ghosts, Giselle steps in between the vengeful group and the man she loved. Here, Campos snatches snips of steps from the traditional act II variations, fusing them cleverly with his contemporary style, for the famous pas de deux. The transformation is seamless, as in the hands of a master.
As in all nightmares, the rising sun casts away the frightful shadows of the night. Albrecht is saved, as the maiden-ghosts disappear into the waters, and Giselle, loving and forgiving joins them.
Then, in a surprise ending, the wide movie screen shows an elderly man, quietly walking by the waters edge, bringing tiny flowers in his hands. He plucks each one as in the old ballet and drops them lovingly into the water, where he imagines seeing the face of his lost Giselle.
It is Albrecht, still nursing a broken heart. he walks away, and he too disappears from view, as he walks into the forest, leaving the audience in tears.
A touch of genius has stepped into our small circle of dance. Those who supported this risky project deserve our gratitude: the Spanish Embassy led by Ambassador Jorge Domecq,
Instituto Cervantes, Fundacion Ramon Llull of Cataluna, and Cultural Center of the Philippines, and all the generous sponsors who brought this magic on stage.
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