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A critique on Philippine Ballet Theater’s Cinderella production

By Nina Anonas

I frankly have not watched Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT) in a long time, perhaps years. I have also made a habit of not watching the classics unless I am certain that the dancers are superb. (My last full length ballet was in March 2018 at St. Petersburg, where the exquisite Tereshkina essayed the role of Giselle. I was in tears, in my seat, which I lucked out on. A couple gave up their seats and I and my better half swooped right in. But before that Giselle, the last classic I watched was in what feels like an eternity.) 

A critique on Philippine Ballet Theater’s Cinderella production
Fairy godmother and the season fairies
But, in my support of my new student at the College of Saint Benilde, Michaella Carreon, who invited me, I decided to watch two Saturdays ago.

Michaella Carreon, by the way, was neat and precise in her performance of one of the fairies. It is gratifying to know that I can mentor the next ballerina in my classes. I was reminded of my staunch commitment to support all young, aspiring dancers. I was so pleased I went. I witnessed surefooted, purist dancing, not only from Veronica Atienza who delineated the lead role of Cinderella; the entire ensemble matched Atienza’s undertaking to fill each note with razor movements that shifted back and forth with ease, regardless of the en dehor and en dedan turns that mingled with the quick piqués and turns in fondu coupé derrière

She was relentless in her portrayal of pursuing ideals that seem lost and archaic in today’s world; but nevertheless invigorating to viewers who want to forget the rate of inflation that looms outside the theater doors. 

She leavened the phrases of Prokofiev’s music with a vulnerability and gentleness that were a sharp juxtaposition to her articulate footwork and sweeping jumps. By all intents and purposes, and from what I saw were the capabilities of PBT’s male dancers, there was conceivably no need for the guest artist, Kristoffer Reyes, to have flown in from the Pamela Hayes Dance Company to partner the able bodied, Atienza, except if the considerations were for height requirements.

The pièce de résistance for the evening however, was Ron Jaynario’s choreography, which served as a fitting vehicle for the technicians of PBT. It reminded me of Balanchine’s work; similarly quick, each note impossibly occupied by a step, a demanding combination of movements with seamless transitions that still translated to lyricism on stage. The partnering maneuvers were multi–leveled and unconventional: Cinderella uncharacteristically ending the pas de deux with her head cradled poignantly on the Prince’s knee; or the ballerina’s developpés and tours disappearing flawlessly into arcs and shapes by the deftly assistance of danseurs who simply melted into and away from the architecture of the work. 

His choreography was incongruent, and yet congruent, there was a flash of an upturned hip and a turned in thigh; and yet it was very classical to its core.

The PBT dancers were more than able to concretize the demands of Jaynario’s movement vocabulary; including the work he devised for the stepsisters! Those boys will never underestimate pointe work ever again. But even they rose to the occasion, pitting pirouettes and hops en pointe against each other. They were, as planned, a perfect foil to the tender Cinderella. 

Regardless of the one dimensional sets and some predictable costumes, the more significant point of discussion is that the company looks strong and ready for the next millennium. There was no need for a narrator. Cinderella’s story is, as they say as “old as the hills;” but PBT celebrated it intending to emphasize “the new,” with craftsmanship such as Jaynario’s and 21st century virtuosity, the story unfolded easily without the benefit of a verbal narrative. 

Bravo to the Cinderella production. Bravo to PBT, a Filipino dance company with the verve, technique, and heart to rival the best in the world. Truly, the gift of beautiful, extraordinary dancing in one night.

Nina Anonas, professor and academic adviser at the College of Saint Benilde, Chairman of the Philippine Dance Cup, Examiner of the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet, Founding Member of the Association of Ballet Academies Philippines.

Topics: Philippine Ballet Theater , Michaella Carreon , Veronica Atienza , Kristoffer Reyes
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