The ballet “Le Corsaire” (The Pirate), inspired by a poem of Lord Byron, is a tale about pirates, a damsel in distress, kidnapping and human trafficking.
Gasp. Human trafficking?!
Yes, said ballet icon Tita Radaic in a statement read during a recent press conference at the Cultural Center of the Philippines: “There is a historical dimension to ‘Le Corsaire,’ a glimpse into one of the oldest ‘industries,’ not too edifying, quite shameless, really, and that is kidnapping and human trafficking.”
In short, Radaic said, the ballet is about “the abduction of young maidens for sale as chattel in public markets and bazaars. It harks back to our own precolonial experience when men, women and children were kidnapped (I am not going to mention by whom and which religious groups, so as not to hurt present sensibilities).”
She added: “A perfect example are the pintados of Iloilo, terrified people who escaped to higher grounds away from the coastlines, when marauders plundered their villages and carried off entire families for sale in the slave markets of Asia.”
“Le Corsaire” will be presented by Philippine Ballet Theater (tel. 6328848) at CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo on April 5-7, 8 p.m., with a 3 p.m. matinee on April 7.
The lead dancers are played by Veronica Ylagan (alternating with Joana Galeste) as the heroine Medora; Lemuel Capa (alternating with Nordic Caraig) as Conrad, the pirate; Matthew Davo (with Ian Ocampo) as Ali, the slave; and Regine Magbitang (with Lobreza Pimentel) as Gulnare, Medora’s friend.
At the press con, the media was treated to tantalizing excerpts from the ballet, with Magbitang playing Medora.
“Le Corsaire” has been presented by Ballet Manila at least twice in recent years, with prima ballerina Lisa Macuja, no less, as Medora. A journalist, tongue-in-cheek, asked if Philippine Ballet Theater was not “intimidated” by this.
Radaic, a member of PBT’s artistic council, rose to the defense of her company.
“The word intimidated does not apply here,” she declared. “We have our own way of interpreting the same story. The same subject can be expressed differently.”
And Ronilo Jaynario, PBT artistic director, added: “The postures of the PBT dancers are different; the artistry of our dancers is different.”
Another dance icon, Julie Borromeo, a PBT trustee, called attention to the wealth of artistic talent in the country.
“We could be the greatest Asian country in the arts,” she said. “It’s said that even before they can speak, Filipino kids can sing and dance. Now Singapore, with government support, is trying to be great and they have noticed Philippine productions.”
Borromeo concluded: “We are starting to be great. Our future politicians [with support] and our wonderful newspapers can make a difference.”