Ballet Philippines launches new studio; to stage revivals for 45th season | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

PAUL Morales and Margie Moran-Floirendo at Studio One, constructed from container vans
PAUL Morales and Margie Moran-Floirendo at Studio One, constructed from container vans
AGNES Locsin’s “La Revolucion” opens the 45th season.

The famous sunset at Manila Bay at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex was the perfect setting for the opening of Ballet Philippines’ (BP) new studio and the launch of its program for its 45th year.


The latter is called the Sapphire Season; it will see the revival of BP’s most popular works and bring back the choreographers and alumni to work with the present company.


It was said that at every end of the season, BP founder and former artistic director Alice Reyes would  declare that the company was operating in the red. Still, the company survived.


After 45 years, BP is bigger and bullish than ever.


“It’s just guts,” said BP president Margarita Moran-Floirendo.


The company had 18 dancers when she and artistic director Paul Morales started their term in 2009. Today, the number has grown to 45.


To accommodate more members, BP put up the 200-sq m Studio One, built from four container vans donated by shipping heiress Doris Magsaysay-Ho.


The structure was erected on a budget of P1.5 million. The BP alumni  held their first fundraising event with a Zumbathon at the new studio. The proceeds will go to the renovation of BP’s facilities.


Floirendo said  another studio, Ballet Philippines Dance School, had opened in SM Aura. It offers ballet classes and studio fitness workouts.


BP’s big event is a benefit show, the Romantic ballet “Giselle,” on Sept. 19-21, with American Ballet Theater guest artists Stella Abrera and James Whiteside. ABT’s  artistic administrator Cristina Escoda, a Filipino-American, quoted a reasonable talent fee of $5,000 each.


In October, BP will embark on a five-city tour to  Pasadena and San Jose, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Vancouver, Canada.


The tour is sponsored by the Department of Tourism, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Duty-Free Philippines, and San Miguel Corporation.


Some dancers will also be trying their luck in international competitions.

Jemima Sanielle Reyes and Victor Manguan will join the US International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, in June. Monica Gana will take part in the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, in July.


Although the dancers will have to shoulder their expenses, BP will provide the costumes and coaching. Floirendo is helping out Manguan with air fare.


Salary scale


ALICE Reyes’ “Cinderella”

BP works with an annual budget of P30 million, 60 percent of which is earned from ticket sales.

“We’re aiming to be self-sustaining,” said Floirendo.


Aside from season subscriptions, the dance school has also been a major source of revenue. With the new studio at SM Aura, BP expects to raise more money.


Asked if BP dancers were better off today, Floirendo replied: “It’s only recently that some have been given housing. They are covered by accident and health insurance. Intellicare donates P300,000.”


The salary scale ranges from minimum wage to P26,000 a month for the principals, while apprentices are given allowances.


“We were in the red once,” Floirendo admitted. “For the rest of the seasons, we’ve been breaking even. You just have to work hard. I handle expenses, so I make sure not a single cent is wasted.”


“Margie and I tango a lot,” said Morales. “She earns and I spend. We have come to the point that we respect each other. With the size of the company, it takes a lot to pay for monthly salaries, and also to  impart professionalism. Mahirap siyang habulin. You still have to be a vanguard about it.”


Landmark piece


RHEDA’S “Je, Tu, Elle” is performed at the new studio.

For the repertoire of the   Sapphire Season, Morales chose the best from BP’s well-known choreographers. Agnes Locsin’s “La Revolucion,” a modern-dance homage to revolutionary leader Apolinario Mabini, will open July 25.


The dancers went on an intensive workshop at the choreographer’s studio in Davao City. With libretto by Dennis Marasigan, music by Ryan Cayabyab and lighting by Katsch Catoy, “La Revolucion” won  Outstanding Dance Production at the 2008 Gawad Buhay Awards.


September is packed with three weekends of different shows. Aside from “Giselle, there is  “Blue Moon Gala,” which will present a contemporary repertoire.


Former BP artistic director Bam Damian will reboot “Minamahal, Sinasamba” and his trademark difficult partnering moves.


French choreographer Rheda Benteifour enhanced “Je, Tu, Elle,” a sensual but feisty ballet for five dancers. Although it is literally translated as pronouns “I, You, She,” the real meaning is “I kill her.”


Choreographed 20 years ago, “Je, Tu, Elle” challenged the soft and pretty ballerina stereotype. Benteifour explained  it aimed to show woman power with the dancers attacking each other and competing for domination.


He added more difficult moves, such as multiple pirouettes in open positions ending in dives to the floor.


“People were shocked. At that time, ballerinas didn’t fall on their knees and stand on their heads. It was a landmark piece,” said Morales.


Filipino superheroes


The Homecoming Gala on Sept. 28 will feature its alumni and past guest choreographer Norman Walker.


Reyes’ comedy, “Cinderella,” is the Christmas offering on Nov. 28-30 and Dec. 5-7.


The season ends with the new musical on Filipino superheroes called “Manhid.” It started out as a project with Morales and his best friend, then unknown writer-filmmaker, Auraeus Solito, and the Eraserheads. Though done 20 years ago, the script foretold the failings of the Edsa Revolution.


“Manhid” is also a collaboration with Tanghalang Pilipino, to be choreographed by Morales and Alden Lugnasin. It will have a longer run on Feb. 20-28, and March 1-8.


Morales pointed out that BP wanted to make its shows more accessible to the public, with discounted rates and promotions.


“When I was an independent artist, I could never watch a Ballet Philippines show because I could not afford the P1,000 ticket. On our part, we want more people to see it. This is not just for the elite. Ours is a national aspiration which we want to give to the people.”

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