Ballet Manila’s long-running “Ballet & Ballads,” with its unique fusion of dance and song numbers, has always been a crowd-pleaser.
The production has become a must-watch for ballet-lovers who want an extra musical treat. But the show is also for concert-goers who get to enjoy a sampling of ballet.
Ballet Manila artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde says putting together a “Ballet & Ballads” production is always a nice challenge. BM’s latest installment, “Heart 2 Heart,” doubles as a post-Valentine show and goes onstage at Aliw Theater starting Feb. 21.
“I always try to have a good mix of Filipino, neoclassical and classical ballets,” says Macuja. “But I prioritize the new ballets. We always need new repertoire. As a ballet company, we constantly need a new infusion of dancers and talents to continue to grow.”
Three choreographies are being premiered: Ernest Mandap’s “Lune,” Francis Jaena’s “Shutter,” and Gerardo Francisco’s “Corvus.”
“Lune” is a short, witty take on the 1920s era of the Charleston and the two-step. “Shutter” is characterized by jazz-like movements.
“Corvus,” the Latin word for “crow,” combines fast movements and defined showmanship to articulate the powerful image of the bird it is named after.
Also performing are the all-male “Aramica” and the edgy neoclassical choreography “MAZN,” both by Augustus “Bam” Damian III.
“Heart 2 Heart” features the music of the London-based West End Mamas and Papas.
“The West End Mamas made its Philippine debut in last year’s ‘Ballet & Ballads,’ and they ended up winning an Aliw Award as Best New Artist,” says Macuja-Elizalde, who is excited that sister Gia Macuja-Atchison, a member of the group, will be home again. “That’s why this year we decided to double the fun by bringing in the Papas, too—that is, their husbands who are all seasoned performers.”
West End Mamas and Papas are all accomplished artists. Gia was in the original cast of “The Lion King” for five years where she played Princess Nala. She also performed both the roles of Gigi and Ellen in the West End run of “Miss Saigon.”
Maya Barredo-Duffy performed as Kim in “Miss Saigon” for many years around the UK and in London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and was in the cast of “The Lion King” London. She also played Eponine in the Asian premiere of “Les Miserables.”
Cez Campos-Bonner has played Kim in “Miss Saigon” in Asia, Australia and Europe, including London’s West End run. She has also played Mabel in “The Pirates of Penzance” at London’s Savoy Theatre and the roles of Tuptim and Lady Thiang in “The King and I.”
Nick Bonne played Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He also played the lead role of Rusty in “Starlight Express” and was in the cast of “Miss Saigon” where he met Cez.
Gerard Duffy has just finished playing the lead role of Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He was in the West End run of “Mamma Mia” playing the role of Father Alexander and covering the main roles of Sam, Bill and Harry. Other West End credits include the lead role of Chris in “Miss Saigon” and Enjolras/Feuilly in “Les Miserables.”
Robert Atchison is currently the orchestra leader of “The Lion King” in the West End. He is the violinist for the internationally acclaimed London Piano Trio, touring regularly all over the world, and is artistic director of the Gibbs Music Festival in Danbury, Essex.
Atchison will play the music to the moving dance piece “The Last Poem,” featuring Macuja-Elizalde and Ballet Manila principal dancer Rudy de Dios, as choreographed by Damian.
The Bonners and the Duffys will take on the bouncy “Eto Na—Doobidoo” number. There will also be medleys featuring the West End Mamas and Papas, notably the hit tunes from the musical “Les Miserables.”
For “Heart 2 Heart,” even their kids are getting in on the act.
Macuja says audiences should watch out for a piece called “Jammin’,” featuring a violinist, a surprise guest-trumpet player and 16 ballerinas on pointe.
Another highlight is the “Harlequinade” pas de deux, which has special significance for the ballerina. “I first danced this in St. Petersburg as a graduating student from the Russian Ballet Academy in 1984, with Bakhitjan Smagulov as my Harlequin. It was a full-circle moment teaching it to my daughter Missy, who is dancing it in some shows.”
For tickets to the Feb. 21 and March 1 shows, contact Ticketworld at tel. 8919999 or ticketworld.com.ph. For inquiries, contact Ballet Manila at tel. 5255967 or 4000292. Visit www.balletmanila.com.ph.