Review: Opera. A Rebirth in Arabesque

Ballet Philippines does Barredo’s Opera | From @thejacquis’ POV

I was initially thinking of writing this ‘From a dancer’s point of view’, but changed my mind almost immediately as all my dancer friends and nonfriends who watched the final show of BP’s Opera last night came to mind. I seldom share, and more so I never want to impose.

 

I like the dancing

During intermission, the gruff old man seated next to me who had been asleep for most of Act 1 turned to me and asked “How do you find it so far?” “It’s a lot to take in,” I replied. “But I like the dancing. We’re dancers, see (pointing to me and Erica, who was so kind as to share her media pass with me)? So we’re looking at the dancing, too.”

I confess along the way that I’m not a fan of contemporary dance, but am not able to explain it. I’ve always had an aversion to contemporary dance in general and now I realise why. Contemporary dance has always appeared to me an antithesis of hard-earned dance technique, or a filter of sorts where one who is not able to dance well hides behind. I’ve watched local shows with choreographic vocabulary looking like moves straight out of the latest episode of The Walking Dead – aimless free walking, dragging feet, hanging head, a quick spin and drop to the floor like if you wacked a zombie in the face. I’ve been to shows that offer just vocabulary, as in just talking, maybe a bit of hand flicks and shoulder ticks here and there. Sometimes, or more often than I would want to, I find myself asking, where’s the dancing? I hear of horror stories of a nondancer who puts together well-attended shows and gets away with not being a dancer by writing a sound synopsis, hiring the best lights and tech people, renting a harness, and waving a scarf around for most of the performance. Nevermind the dancing because in its entirety it is still considered dance, because it is contemporary dance. There’s a witty concept, an outpouring of emotion, objects held (or ignored) in the dancing space, sound/s, a cool video playing in the background.

Yes the multimedia nature of this collab production between Ballet Philippines and contemporary art powerhouse Silverlens was inescapable. The two video screens placed on each far side of the stage, something new and perhaps aiming for revolutionary, made me wonder though how one was supposed to take that in as well, on top of the a-show-in-itself art installation set and the a-show-in-itself dance.

Wall eye vision challenge aside, the dancing was just good. As it should be. As expected from the top ballet company in the country. And Redha’s choreography was choreography – Death’s spotlight solo at the very beginning, the breaking away in groups, the repetition of enchainments in clever doses, the purposeful action-reaction of the pas de deuxs and sometimes pas de trois, the demand of the steps for whatever level of attack or restraint was called for. Even the standing around and posing as if modeling lingerie did not bother but somehow amused me, and the subtle walking around was far from aimless and was evidently necessary.

And amidst the plethora of mannequin torsos, mannequin legs, oversized heads, steel scaffolding, giant eyeball drop lamps, despite the consuming tendencies of contemporary art as so generously lent by artist Gabriel Barredo to this production, the dancing was not incidental. It was front and center.

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Photo credit: Erica Marquez Jacinto #artaturningpoint

 

Addendum: Please do touch the artwork

I use front and center figuratively, as literally the dancers and the dancing happened not just in front of the installation but behind, above, below, inside and weaving through it. Dancers emerged from ribcages, crawled whilst encased in a cocoon placenta, descended from multi-tiered skeleton closets. At times the artwork was brought along across and around the stage like street lamp posts on wheels or IV racks.

My generation first learned to appreciate art from behind the rope, from outside the glass casing, within the formidable walls of a museum or gallery. But, as I observed firsthand when I spent some time working in a gallery a few years back, the visual arts has since seen a movement towards increased accessibility, form as well as functionality, and a more interactive psyche. Opera, BP’s highly charged, intense, final full length offering of the season, was accessibility, form and functionality, and interactive art manifest. -JJ

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Studio visit: PBT

You’re only one ballet class away from a good mood.

It is week 2 and we are on-edge with hitches on the on-going construction sprouting left and right. I decide to get away from the stress for a day by taking a trip to my home away from home, the PBT studio.

The vibe is spirited in that old familiar studio housed at the Meralco Theatre basement, with the company currently composed of young and energetic dancers all hooked on dance. Warm-up talk revolved around the recent Prix de Lausanne, humourously interjected with some biking anecdotes to break the die-hard balletomania atmosphere of their first work day of the week. A fun, muscle and memory jogging ballet class ensued c/o PBT’s well-loved ballet master, Anatoly, whom everyone fondly calls “Papa”. Stayed a while after class to watch rehearsals for their next show before merrily heading back home, refreshed and feeling 5 pounds lighter. -JJ

 

Warm-up

Warm-up

 

Kim's back sore from the weekend's Swan Lake rehearsal

Kim’s back sore from the weekend’s Swan Lake rehearsal

 

Jimmy in all-white, spandex tights no less

Jimmy in all-white, spandex tights no less

 

Papa Anatoly after-class coaching

Papa Anatoly after-class coaching

 

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The author has been training and dancing with the Philippine Ballet Theatre since her younger ballet years as a highschool student in the 1990s. She is currently guest artist, dancing in the company’s season productions at the CCP, whenever time permits.

PBT's Swan Lake 2010 (photo credit: www.kerwinkaiser.com )

PBT’s Swan Lake 2010 (photo credit: http://www.kerwinkaiser.com )

 

Video clip: Everything old is new again

It’s been a long time coming. It was maybe about 5 years ago when I was first presented with the idea of having a studio, in a loft apartment no less with high ceilings, big windows, and a small space left for where I was also going to be retiring to at night. Some would say I wanted a studio of my own further back as a clueless child, sitting on the barre watching rehearsals, telling dad, “I want to do what you do. I want to be Director.” Of course I grew up, did other things, went far and wide. And now I’ve come full circle.

The loft may be off the table, but the concept is the one running the show. This clip stars the loft that is no longer, Joe Gideon and daughter Michelle who remind me a lot of my dad and sister, leggy Ann Reinking who I shall claim is me, and the happy kind of dancing I love and am hoping to do more of in the new studio. -JJ

Eight weeks | The countdown begins

Today marks the beginning of the road to The Studio, officially resuming construction of our Project2014 building with a “groundbreaking” for the second floor. First order of business was to tear down the posts that were built by our previous contractor and replace them with thicker, stronger ones to hold up the slab ceiling. Here’s a photo of the makeshift wooden stairs (ladder yan eh!) to the second floor, some of the building materials we try our best to keep tidy and in order, and our wilting anahaw displaced and suffocated by all the airborne cement.

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Hugo thinks he’s stepping in as new foreman. Foredog? That dog’s just sunbathing or asleep most of the time. Not the first to be sleeping on the job for sure 🙂

After a stressful yet necessary false start, months of uncertainty, hitting roadblocks and detours every step of the way, we are finally here. And we have but eight carefully calculated weeks to pull through. Eight weeks for the builders to finish, eight weeks for me to prepare The Studio for the summer. Eight weeks until the real work, and the rest of my life, begins.