Maniya, Makarova, Morishita and other Giselles in Manila | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

STELLA Abrera will be Giselle at the CCP on Sept. 19 gala.
STELLA Abrera will be Giselle at the CCP on Sept. 19 gala.
YOKO Morishita as Giselle with the Albrecht of Rudolf Nureyev

Ballet Philippines’ Blue Moon Season will feature “Giselle” on Sept. 19 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) with Filipino-American ballerina Stella Abrera in the title role opposite the Albrecht of  James Whiteside.


Both dancers are from the American Ballet Theater.


Abrera should be a most welcome Giselle, a role essayed earlier in the Philippines by the likes of Maniya Barredo, Yoko Morishita, Natalia Makarova, Anna Villadolid, Lisa Macuja Elizalde and Katherine Trofeo.


My first Giselle was Barredo and my first Albrecht was Burton Taylor in the late ’70s. In that performance, Dame Margot Fonteyn declared Barredo as a true prima ballerina.


My first foreign Giselle was the great Natalia Makarova, whom I interviewed at the CCP  in the middle of a “Giselle” set. She had very angular and long limbs and neck, and in one quick glance, she looked like Isadora Duncan, but she was slim, much too slim. In fact, a danseur could lift her up with one hand and suspend her for seconds in mid-air without feeling her weight.


Her Albrecht was the then 21-year-old Patrick Bissell—a well-proportioned hunk of a danseur who was also a favorite partner of other great ballerinas such as Leslie Browne, Cynthia Gregory, Gelsey Kirkland, Jolina Menendez and Martine van Hamel.


Amid the eerie “Giselle” graveyard props, Makarova talked about her love of dancing, and how she managed  dancing and motherhood. She also recalled her dramatic defection from Russia in 1970, which she said was prompted by her need to advance her art.


“Dancing purely classical roles isn’t enough,” she told me. “I wanted to do some modern ballets.”


Most important thing


JAPANESE prima ballerina Yoko Morishita in Manila in the ’80s

In her statement to the British press shortly after her defection, Makarova said: “The reason I decided to stay in the West is because the most important thing in my life is my profession, my art—the ballet. I had danced all the leading roles in the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad—all of them. Now I would like to go further, to dance in modern ballets, to do something new in my art. It seems to me that I shall have far more opportunity to do so in the West than in the Soviet Union.”


She told me how she transformed her self for a particular role like the innocent maiden in “Giselle.”


“It is very much an inner vision for me,” she said. “The change for the role starts within me. You can’t afford to lose control. Art is art. When it’s inside you as in a role in ‘Giselle,’ I put the skin of Giselle in me. It is a role you perfect by experience, by constant practice and unending search for artistry. You just have to be involved.”


In the first rehearsal with the CCP orchestra under conductor Regalado José, I watched her movements, and I was instantly carried away by the way she essayed lyricism. Her turns were swift and luminously graceful; her leaps were like those of a giraffe caught in slow motion.


When she wanted certain parts of the accompaniment right, she hummed the part with the orchestra and made corrections on the way: “That’s wrong, that’s wrong. Stretch that a little, just a little before my exit.”


Purity and death


Some two years later, I saw the Giselle of Morishita which left audiences in awe.


Morishita told me “Giselle” was her favorite ballet since it represented two things: purity and death.


She once told a dance correspondent, “Giselle has to be very pure-minded and very young. She has a weak heart. But some dancers play it as if she is dying from the start. I start with the young girl. If she dances with vivid purity, then when she dies, we can be even more impressed with the grief of her death.”


When Abrera dances “Giselle” with the Ballet Philippines and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under Olivier Ochanine, she is bound to give us another parable of purity and death through her own brand of artistry.


Ballet Philippines principal dancers Katherine Trofeo and Jean-Marc Cordero, as well as newly promoted soloist Denise Parungao and junior principal dancer Earl John Arisola, will reprise their roles of Giselle and Albrecht for the other four shows in the production’s one-weekend run on Sept. 20 at 2 and 6 p.m., and on Sept. 21 at 2 p.m.


Restaged by Nonoy Froilan, “Giselle” starts off the Blue Moon Series, a two-week mini festival celebrating Ballet Philippines sapphire anniversary.


Call Ballet Philippines at tel. 5511003 or the CCP box office at 8323704.

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