The timeless tale of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers will once again be mounted as a full-length ballet by Ballet Philippines (BP) this month. “Romeo and Juliet” may be one of the most popular and enduring ballets but it is only being restaged in its entirety by BP this year after three decades.
National Artist for Dance and BP’s artistic director Alice Reyes had a quick reply when asked why they chose this particular ballet as its first performance for 2019. “Why not?”
Indeed, why not? For starters, it’s a very expensive ballet to mount. The sets play an important part in eliciting conflicting feelings of wonderment and helplessness in its lead characters. When “Romeo and Juliet” was first performed by BP with Reyes as choreographer in 1981, the sets by the late National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Bernal were large and imposing. Reyes described them then as “the best in the Ballet Philippines repertoire.”
Subsequent restagings in 1984 and 1988 made use of Bernal’s larger-than-life sets. This time, however, BP received a P1 million grant from the Locsin Partners to recreate (“revitalize” is the term they used) Bernal’s sets.
“It’s really so expensive to do this, that’s why I’m telling everybody they have to catch one of the seven performances. We cannot do this ballet without the sets. I would have to rethink it,” Reyes said.
She said that the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin who designed the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) “loved this production” so BP president Margarita Moran-Floirendo and I went to Locsin group and said, ‘We have to do this.’”
BP also brought in guest performer Joseph Gatti, an internationally celebrated danseur, to essay the title role of Romeo. He is partnered with Denise Parungao who will dance the role of Juliet. The Manila Symphonic Orchestra will provide live music during the three evening performances at the CCP on Feb. 15, 16 and 23.
For the afternoon matinees on Feb. 16, 17, 23 and 24, the performers will be BP lead dancers Ronelson Yadao and Monica Gana, and Victor Manguad and Jemima Reyes.
With his lean frame and ready smile, Gatti is perfect for the role. This is not his first time to take on the role of the young, lovelorn teen.
“I did it back with the Cincinnati Ballet and then again with the Boston Ballet,” Gatti said. “As I get older, I try to find different ways to portray Romeo whether it’s body language or a point in the ballet where maybe I show a little less and then build more.”
What he always keeps in mind, however, is that Romeo is very young. “He falls in love for the first time, it’s love at first sight.”
Born in Warwick, New York, and raised in Orlando, Florida, Gatti began dancing at the Orlando Ballet School. In 2003 he was coached for the Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition in New York where he was awarded the gold medal and a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, eventually graduating with honors.
For BP’s restaging of “Don Quixote” last year, Gatti was the guest performer.
“It has been such a heady experience for us all at rehearsals—each pair with their own dynamic interpretation and dramatic portrayals of the roles of the two lovers,” Reyes said.
Call Ticketworld at 8919999 or the CCP Box Office, BP Box Office at 5511003. Vsit facebook.com/balletphilippines or www.ballet.ph.