Talent doesn’t grow on trees. Once discovered, it is nurtured and tended to until it reaches its full potential. Only then can you sit back and appreciate your work, as you continue tweaking it to perfection.
In a nutshell, this is how Ballet Manila artistic associate Osias Barroso explains his task of developing the dance company’s roster of dancers into world-class talents.
And Barroso is on the right track. Just last week, nine of Ballet Manila’s young dancers entered the semifinal and final rounds at the Second Asian Grand Prix International held in Hong Kong.
Soloist Elpidio Magat and demi-soloist Joan Emery Sia won bronze in the Pas de Deux division, demi-soloist Arnulfo Andrade Jr. was named Most Promising Male Dancer and ranked fourth overall in the Senior division.
Company member Stephanie Cabral placed fifth in the Junior B division and received a scholarship to the Asian Grand Prix Summer Intensive Program to be held in August 2013.
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Ballet Manila artistic director, commended the participants for their strong showing in the international competition. A total of 170 competitors from 10 countries joined this year’s event.
“I am very, very proud not just of the BM delegation but of all the Filipinos that represented our country in this competition primarily because they did their best and gave their all during the competition,” says Macuja-Elizalde. “The result is that the international ballet community has taken notice of the high quality of dancers coming from the Philippines.”
Barroso says the dance company’s rigorous training in the Russian Vaganova method and its exposure to the classics gave their dancers an edge over their competitors.
“Ballet Manila dancers showed a lot of style, artistry and strength during the competition and the dancers stuck to the original choreography of their variations,” says Barroso. “Joining a competition like this reaffirms the tradition they’ve learned from Ballet Manila.”
Macuja-Elizalde adds that competitions offer the company an opportunity to gauge its standards with that of the international dance scene.
“It is also a great way to introduce dancers to each other and get them learning from each other, winning scholarships to further their dance education, and making lifelong friendships,” she says. “It is also a great way to network, to find a job or audition for a company, a platform to expose your dancers to the world.”
Apart from the four, the other BM dancers who joined the competition were Anselmo Dictado, who ranked seventh overall in the senior division, Earvin Guillermo who reached the semifinals, and Krystel Mangulabnan, Missy Elizalde and Jessa Balote who were all finalists in the Junior B category.
Barroso notes that the process of harnessing talent is a slow, steady process. In the case of Magat and Sia, they were partnered at the last minute when another ballerina was not available to dance with the danseur.
“It was quite by chance that I noticed Joan,” he explains. “She didn’t really show potential before, but early this year she seems to have transformed when she lost weight.”
The duo, as well as Andrade and Cabral, represented Ballet Manila last June at the Fourth Beijing International Ballet Invitation for Dance Schools, which Barroso said was a tougher competition than the one in Hong Kong. Competitors for the Beijing event were pre-selected based on video submissions.
“In a way, only the best dancers from all over the world were invited to join the contest,” he explains. “And the fact that our dancers made it to the competition was already an accomplishment.”
Since that time, Sia and Magat had a chance to perfect their partnership. In fact, they will be making their debuts in a full-length production of “Giselle” this October, part of Ballet Manila’s 17th performance season.
Barroso says the two have been practicing the whole ballet since early this year, and not just the Act 2 Pas de Deux, which won them their prize in Hong Kong.
“It’s really all just a matter of marking their places on stage, which would be easy,” he says.
But the challenge of a good production of “Giselle” lies mostly on the ballerina dancing the lead.
This early, Sia realizes the need to buckle down and practice as the show is just two months away. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” says the young ballerina.
Ballet Manila opens its 17th season with a restaging of “Alamat: Si Sibol at Gunaw,” an original Filipino ballet choreographed by Barroso and junior principal dancer Gerardo Francisco. The show features Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Nazer Salgado, Yanti Marduli, Francis Cascaño, Missy Elizalde and Elmoe Dictado. Performances will be on Aug. 24-26 and Sept. 1-2 at Aliw Theater.
This will be followed by “Don Quixote” on Oct. 6-7; “Giselle,” Oct. 20-12; the world premiere of Hazel Sabas-Gower’s “Sinderela Atbp.,” a retooling of the classic ballet, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1-2 and 8-9; and “Ballet and Ballads” featuring the West End Mamas, Feb. 15-17, 2013.
This year also sees the second installment of Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s “Swan Song” series, where she formally bids farewell to her signature dance roles. Performances include “Don Quixote” on Oct. 5 and 7, with the Kremlin ballet’s Mikhail Martynyuk as Basilio; “Giselle,” Oct. 19 and 21, with David Makhateli, formerly of the Royal Ballet; and “Carmen,” Oct. 26-27.
Ballet Manila now offers a Season Subscriber package for all its performances, except shows for the “Swan Song” series. However, season subscribers may avail of tickets for the “Swan Song” performances at special rates.
For tickets and other inquiries, call Ballet Manila at 5255967, 4000292, or Ticketworld at 8919999; or ticketworld.com.ph. Visit www.balletmanila.com.ph for other details.