Saving Giselle: Ballet Manila gracefully dances despite losing home

Days before the scheduled performances of Ballet Manila’s production of Giselle, the dance company’s home stage was damaged in the fire that razed Star City. 

Saving Giselle: Ballet Manila gracefully dances despite losing home
Ballet Manila’s production of ‘Giselle’ is on point despite the unexpected setback that required them to perform on a different stage.
But the show went on.

Despite the tragic event on Oct. 2 that destroyed the Star City compound and rendered Aliw Theater inoperative, Ballet Manila did not fail to live up to the theme of its 24th performance season.

During its performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater on Oct. 17, Ballet Manila chief executive officer and artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde tried to hold back tears as she assured the crowd that they will work harder and rise once again. 

Before the show began, Macuja-Elizalde gave an emotional speech to thank the people who supported her dance company.

“I realized that, in the wake of tragedy, divine providence has stirred many hands and hearts to encourage and help us,” she said, adding “We are determined to continue our mission and vision to bring the ballet to the people, and more people to the ballet.”

As the show began, enchanting music filled the CCP Main Theater. Conductor Alexander Vikulov and the Manila Symphony Orchestra provided the live music accompaniment which transported the audience to the medieval Rhineland village.

The curtains rose and, at first glance, the set, costumes, and props were a visual delight. 

The nobleman Albrecht in his disguise as Loys, played by principal dancer Elpidio Magat, joined the peasants and his character was immediately masked by his charisma and sophisticated dancing prowess, which made the titular character fall in love with him.

Principal dancer Joan Sia in the role of Giselle was a match made in heaven. The moment she stepped out of her little cruck house, her radiating smile perfectly captured her character’s charm, grace, and naiveté.

Her Act I variation was a true stand out. Sia’s movement, from her arabesques to her piqué turns, was the right combination of energy and daintiness. The scene of her madness and death was also a stunning and heartbreaking display.

Principal dancer Mark Sumaylo breathed new life to the character of Hilarion. His portrayal was relatable for someone who has nothing to give but love to the person he cares about. 

When Act II commenced, the 24 Wilis and their synchronized movements were a treat to the eyes.

When Hilarion met his demise after he visited Giselle’s grave, it showed Sumaylo’s strength as a dancer. The way he danced the grueling and demanding choreography with so much emotion made the audience feel sorry for what his character had to endure.

However, the height of Act II was Giselle and Albrecht’s pas de deux. Sia and Magat left a lasting impression with their take on love after death. Giselle never blamed Albrecht for her death and even protected him from the fatal punishment of the Wilis. 

The nobleman almost had the same fate as Hilarion but it was Giselle’s forgiveness and undying love that kept him alive. As the sun rises and the Wilis fade, Albrecht ran to Giselle tomb’s and wept to show his regret—which brought the bittersweet ending.

Giselle showed the company’s resilience and strength. According to Ballet Manila, many people thought that their 24th performance season was over after the fire that damaged the company’s home base, but they were still able to come up with a powerful and spectacular production.

“I would like to thank CCP, Ballet Philippines, the Manila Symphony Orchestra, the ballet and performing arts community for lifting our spirits and pledging their support,” said Macuja-Elizalde.

The two remaining shows for this season, The Sleeping Beauty and Carmina Burana and La Traviata, will be performed on new dates and venues which will be announced soon. 

Topics: Ballet Manila , Giselle , Lisa Macuja-Elizalde , Alexander Vikulov , Elpidio Magat
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