Balletcenter Cebu and the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel presented the full-length ballet “Giselle” for two successive nights recently at the Onstage Theater of Ayala Center Cebu. Both nights registered enthusiastic audiences.
“Giselle” was dedicated to the memory of Fe Sala Villarica who founded Balletcenter in 1951 and served as its artistic director for 53 years until 2004 when she retired. She also founded the Arts Council in 1960. She passed away recently, leaving a void difficult to fill. But she continues to inspire many.
“Giselle” is a romantic ballet that dates back to 1841 when it was first presented in Paris with the immortal music of Adolphe Adam. Its original choreography was lost. However, over a hundred years ago Marius Petipa created a new one for the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, capital of imperial Russia.
The Cebu version has been choreographed by Balletcenter’s co-artistic director Nicolas Pacaña who has based it on Petipa. Nicolas himself was a student of Balletcenter under Villarica.
In 1972 he went to the United States on a scholarship granted by Baroness Merriem Lanova when she came to Cebu with Ballet Celeste, junior ballet company of the San Francisco Ballet.
Nicolas went on to become the principal male dancer of the Boston Ballet and later on, of the Atlanta Ballet. He took roots in Atlanta, setting up a ballet school and company with Gregory Aaron as co-artistic director.
In 2004, they came to Cebu and took over Balletcenter whose studio is at the third level of the Ayala Center. Every year they present a main event eagerly awaited by balletomanes. In 2013 it was “Swan Lake” and in 2014, “Cinderella.”
Nicolas and Greg, along with company manager Josh Romayla and studio manager Baby Declaro were there to welcome the opening night crowd which included Arts Council trustee Angelina Labucay-Escaño and her son Dr. Clint Escaño.
Before the curtain went up, Gregory Aaron was on stage to give words of welcome, thanking the audience for their presence. He mentioned that he first met Nicolas when he went to see him perform as Albrecht in “Giselle” in Boston. The friendship and cooperation remain since then.
Dancing the title role in the Cebu production was Balletcenter’s female lead dancer Genette Terez, while male lead dancer Mhynard Etis was Albrecht, the prince who is disguised as a peasant to win the love of Giselle.
Carlo Padoga was Hilarion, the peasant boy who is also in love with Giselle, and uncovers the prince’s disguise, revealing his engagement to a princess. Giselle dies of a broken heart. That ends Act I.
The second act takes place by Giselle’s grave in a forest clearing, at night, when the Willis appear. These are the souls of brides who die before marriage. They emerge at midnight and until dawn haunt the coutryside. Woe betide the man they meet whom they dance to death.
Aika Moro as Myrtha, the queen of the Willis, made a grand entrance to great applause. Like her, the Willis all wore flowing white tulle tutus, making for a very surreal scene.
As the story goes, eventually Hilarion wanders into the scene and is dispatched to death by Myrtha. Then Albrecht comes into view bearing flowers for Giselle’s tomb. The Willis pounce on him, but Giselle appears and helps him dance all the way up to sunrise, when they disappear.
Also in the “Giselle” cast were three pairs to do the Peasant Pas de Deux in Act I—Cecille Nolasco and Clinton Dignos, Hannah Arias and Eddie Carl Garcia, Jamyma Aragon and Khynlod Genson.
On other nights, Myrtha was danced by Jillian Vestil and Helga Beuken. Lead Willis were Judith Po, Tzarina Catipay, Kissy Deanne and Chona Ko.
On opening night presenting bouquets of flowers to the stars were the Marco Polo’s sales and marketing director Lara Constantino-Scarrow, and banquets manager Tess Catipay who had a daughter in the cast.
During curtain call Nicolas and Gregory joined the stars as everyone clapped and cheered to their heart’s content. Later, the curtains were opened once more for a rush of parents to go up the stage, pose for pictures, and join the general merriment.
‘Little Red Riding Hood’
Next day at the same venue, Balletcenter presented the children’s ballet “The Little Red Ridding Hood,” whose cast included most of the studio’s young students.
It was directed by Etis, while Rollaine Nuez compiled the music and did the original costuming. The principal roles were performed by the more seasoned company members.
Janine Vestil was Little Red Riding Hood; Vestil, the mother; Darwin Evardo, the grandmother; Padoga, the wolf; and Eddie Carl Garcia, the hunter.
“Giselle” will have repeat performances on Dec. 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m; and “The Little Red Riding Hood” on Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. at Ayala Center Cebu.
Beneficiaries of the performances are the Arts Council of Cebu and the scholarship program of Balletcenter Cebu.