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Ballet goes to the drive-in theater with ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘Tuloy Ang Pasko’

By Stephen M. Morrison Published Dec 20, 2020 12:05 am

After a four-month odyssey that overcame obstacles, the artists of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance Workshop made their debut on the silver screen—at the Mall of Asia’s pandemic friendly drive-in theater—two nights ago with their wonderful, warm-spirited Christmas show.

The show will have two more screenings today, Dec. 20, at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Viewers will have their temperature tested and will be directed by torchlight to their parking spot. Before parking, a fleet of friendly, helpful attendants will give each attendee an individual bag filled with Popeye’s crispy spicy chicken sandwich, fries and Coke to enjoy as they wait for the sun to set, and for the screen and the dancers to come alive. It looks like a 1950s drive-in movie scene.

The show was conceived by National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes, who believed that no matter what happens in the pandemic nothing will stop Filipinos from finding ways to celebrate Christmas—even if it’s just in a parking lot in their cars.

At the first screening, we tuned our radio to 88.7FM and were soon transported to Christmas favorite The Nutcracker. The CCP dancers rehearsed for months to bring this much-loved Christmas classic to an audience looking for Christmas escape and pandemic relief.

The company is made up of some of the Philippines’ highly regarded dancers, displaced from their company by the pandemic. After theee months of rehearsing in masks, they went into a 14-day quarantine following strict government protocols. The show was filmed over a six-day period, with the dancers remaining in isolation in the CCP building.

The Nutcracker’s Chinese dance “Tea”
The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker was magical. The company performed the crowd-pleasing Act 2, choreographed brilliantly by former BP resident ballet master Adam Sage, and much-loved pieces such as Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Chinese, Russian and Arabian dances.

Just as wonderful and even more poignant was the aptly named Tuloy Ang Pasko, an original piece conceived, created and choreographed by six of the company dancers and set to a toe-tapping, hum-inducing score composed by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.

Gawad-winning former dancer Nonoy Froilan plays Val, an old man celebrating Christmas alone in LA, far from home amid the pandemic. An old friend from his barkada sends him a photo from a Christmas Eve in their youth of them readying their plaza for Christmas, falling in love and enjoying—and dancing through—all their wonderful memories and traditions of Christmas.

With a cleverly constructed set designed by Eric Cruz conjuring a village plaza, replete with church for midnight Mass and gazebo for whispered assignations, and wonderful 1970s-era costumes, Val finds his old friends, the joys of Christmas as his memory of his youth and his Christmas barkada dance across the stage.

The cast of Tuloy ang Pasko on the set.
Tuloy ang Pasko

After a day of rain that magically stopped by the time the dancers appeared onscreen, the sky continued to clear as the show went on—the background lights of ongoing MOA building construction almost looked like sugar plum fairy lights themselves.

If you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Christmas and hesitant to actually head into a crowded mall, head instead to parking lot 16 at the Mall of Asia for the 5:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. shows today.

Make sure to arrive at least 20 minutes early to get both your parking spot and your Popeye’s treat. After all, even during the restrictions of our pandemic year, tuloy ang pasko.

To purchase tickets log on at smtickets.com or call 8470-2222 for inquiries.