The Filipino dancers that make up the Ballet Manila have made a huge impression on their first ever tour of the UK. They gave four performances each in Ireland and in London and were rewarded with 8 standing ovations. As well as these, each of the 16 individual dancers got an separate bow. The gala performance on the 1st July was attended by Ray Catapang, the acting ambassador, and his family. Also present were several ambassadors and members of London’s elite society.
The repertoire of the company was both well interpreted and engrossing, and greatly impressed the famous dance critic Graham Watts, who attended two shows and then went backstage to congratulate the Filipino’s. The dancers were greeted with similar euphoria in Ireland when they made their debuts in Cork, Derry, Dublin and Limerick. The artistic director for the tour was Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, the ballet master was Osias Barroso and Jaime Villanueva acted as noth technical director and tour manager.
Elizalde has said that although the Irish audiences were generally quite reserved at the beginning, they warmed up throughout the show and the standing ovations were both unexpected and greatly appreciated. She also said that she got the impression that the Irish hadn’t expected the caliber of dancing to be so high, and it took them rather by surprise.
The Filipino dancers had an extremely tough programme that consisted of Contemporary, Neoclassical, Classical, Modern and also Filipino ballets. The tour programme proclaimed that “East Meets West” and consisted of both Philippine and Western ballet favourites, including “ Sotto Voce”, “Arnis,” “Reve”, “Romeo and Juliet,” “Sayaw sa Pamlang,” “Don Quixote”, “Dulce,”, “Aguila,” “Mga Awit at Savaw” and “Arachnida”.
Elizalde also had praise for the dancers, saying that they had to be incredibly strong, fit and mature in order to be able to dance right through the entire programme and pull it off with such style. Every dancer went out and performed like a principal dancer and they worked very hard to earn the ovations. The tour wasn’t without drama however, and Elizalde herself was injured while performing a sequence in “Romeo and Juliet”.
The ballerina recalled the incident and said that it was the most stressful of all the pre-opening night episodes, She launched herself in the arms of Rome and strained the plantar fascia in her left foot, she then had to have 2 shots of steroids to be able to dance. She added it was very painful, very stressful and then everyone’s jetlag kicked in during the first two days.
With tears and triumphs, this tour was clearly unlike this little band of dancers had ever experienced, and judging by their success, it won’t be long before they come bac to these shores to entertain even more of us.