Monday, February 25, 2013

Of ballets and ballets and song

Lisa Macuja obliges a fan.
Ballerina ng bayan signs my copy of the program.
Big Mama with the West End Mamas: Ces Campos-Bonner, Gia Macuja-Atchinson and Maya Barredo-Duffy
On their second to the last performance, the ballerinas and balletomanes of Midsummer Night's Dream stand on the sweeping stairs of the Cultural Center of the Philippines lobby to meet the audience for pictures and another round of applause.
Viva Ballet Philippines!
The weekends in the month of heart and arts have become full of trips to shows (visual and performing arts) all over town. But memories of the 21st of February were of a day filled with sensory overload--good thing the shows were all in the boundary of Manila and Pasay cities so getting from one theater to another only took my sister Suzy and me one leisurely stroll. Turns out leisurely wasn't what it was meant to be. We caught the 11 a.m. matinee of West End Mamas, the main act of the palabas "Ballets & Ballads" at Aliw Theater.

Afterwards, we went to the artists' dressing room, largely through the intercession of director Roxanne Lapus who I met in my reporter years at the Philippines Daily Express and interviewed many years after for a cover story on talent managers for The Sunday Times Magazine

Roxanne, daughter of couturier Nena Lapus, is one of those memorable persons who crosses one's life briefly but remains embedded in one's memory. I remember her as an Assumption College teacher who has directed romantic comedies and lately, musicals (The Sound of Music had over a hundred performances at Resort World's Newport Theater). For a time she was on top of promoting and marketing shows when the Metropolitan Theater (what a loss there!) still had regular seasons of performances, especially in the late '70s to the '80s, until Vilma Santos's variety show kept it alive as it was sputtering. Last year, Roxanne helmed "The Legends and the Classics," featuring Cecile Licad, Lisa Macuja and Lea Salonga.

That Sunday I overheard her talking to the young dancers after the show and reminding them to overcome their onstage fears once and for all. Words to the effect that if they themselves don't  decide to overcome those fears that make them hesitate and withhold the giving of their best, they will indeed fall on the seventh pirouette or the fifth leap. 

Teacher Roxanne said what she was saying came from a lived life. I couldn't forget her parting lines to those dancers: if you fell in love with a tarantado 30 years ago and you still didn't get over it by moving on and deciding in your mind and heart not to let it happen again, 30 years after you will fall again for a tarantado cut from the same cloth as the one you originally fell for. I wanted to giggle at that one, but it would lessen the authoritativeness in her voice. Besides, the dancers were nodding their heads in agreement the same way I was, too.

Sometimes it only took a brief encounter like that to be reminded of lessons vital to our existence. So thank you, Roxanne, thank you, Lisa , her singing sister Gia who together with Maya Barredo and Ces Campos and Ballet Manila gave it their all.

From Aliw Suzy and I walked towards the CCP with the intention of taking a late lunch first at our favorite Pancake House by Manila Bay. But we detoured to the box office so we could buy our tickets early for the afternoon matinee of Midsummer's Night Dream. It turned out the show was about to start in 15 minutes! The 3 p.m. in my mind was actually 2 p.m. There was time to wolf down a triangle of pizza and a soda and off we went to our seats.

When the curtain went up, everyone went "Ahhhhh!" at the fairy magic of a set. That was how we were transported to a dreamy forest where lovers' quarrels, mischief and mistakes were eventually sorted out till we heard the familiar strains of Mendelssohn used for wedding marches. The danseur who played the crucial role of Puck simply signed my program "Puck."

Somewhere between the two shows, I received an SMS from a Diliman campus-based friend inviting me to watch later in the evening a Noh performance at the old UP Theater. All I could say was thank you, but, Mamma Mia! I was all "culture vultured" out. At least for a day and until the next trip that will transport me out of reality.

Photos by Babeth and Suzy Lolarga
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