What is classical ballet? For people like me who are not exactly an expert in ballet but absolutely enjoy watching ballet shows, it may be difficult to provide a ready explanation. But since Ballet Manila thought it was time to mount the Revenge of the Classics for its 21st Performance Season, I felt the need to understand it more for better appreciation.
Classical Ballet is defined as any of the traditional formal styles of ballet that exclusively employ classical ballet technique. There are several stylistic variations depending on the place of origin. Their commonality lies in their rigorous techniques such as the high extensions of the Russian Ballet and the intricate footwork of the Italian version.
Techniques are usually named after the creator. Thus, the Vaganova Technique which is used by Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde was created by Russian dancer Agrippina Vaganova. One of the most challenging is the Pointe Technique wherein the ballet dancer has to support full weight on tips of fully extended feet while wearing pointe shoes.
The Swan, The Fairy, and The Princess
And boy, did we see such terrific demonstration of this technique and much more when we watched Ballet Manila’s The Swan, The Fairy, and The Princess. The show featured excerpts of three of the most celebrated classical ballet works of master composer Peter Tschaikovsky namely: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and the Sleeping Beauty.
Vaganova Academy style-trained ballerina Abigail Oliveiro danced the role of Odette for Swan Lake. Swan Lake was composed by Tschaikovsky in 1875-76. Interestingly, Swan Lake was initially a dismal failure. Today however, it is one of the most popular of all ballets.
Another Vaganova Academy style-trained ballerina, Dawna Mangahas, played the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Again, the original production was not a success. From the late 1960’s however, it has become one of the most performed ballet especially during the Christmas season.
The Sleeping Beauty
Katherine Barkman danced the role of the well-loved Princess Aurora. The Sleeping Beauty received more favorable reviews although still not an instant success in its first showing. It became the second most popular ballet though in 1903.
The composer of these 3 popular ballets is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Peter is the anglicized version of his name. Tschaikovsky did not live long enough to see the great success of his works, especially outside Russia.
The Swan, The Fairy, and The Princess ended its performances to a standing ovation after 3 days of showing at the Aliw Theater.
Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde
It is interesting to note that Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde reprised all these roles during her very successful dancing career. She is evidently very happy for being able to provide the same opportunity to the danseurs and ballerinas of Ballet Manila. Lisa continues to aim to bring ballet to Filipinos in a level that can be more appreciated without compromising the level of performance she has been trained to provide her audience.
I must say that Ballet Manila’s The Swan, The Fairy, and The Princess gave my family and I an awesome introduction to classical ballet. Watching it was another wonderful experience of professional dancing and beautiful music. I’m glad that Lisa never tires of sharing her talent and her efforts towards making us realize the true value of ballet in enjoying life.
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