Even as theaters remain closed due to the pandemic, Ballet Philippines proved its resilience by shifting its 51st season online and opening its 52nd season with exciting new productions, like an upcoming ballet about our national hero, called Ang Tatlong Pag-Ibig ni Jose Rizal.
“Last year we had one goal, and that was to survive and keep ballet alive,” said Ballet Philippines president Kathleen Lior-Liechtenstein at the Zoom launch.
“The Board of Trustees, led by our chairman Antonio Cojuangco, Maan Hontiveros, Mercedes Zobel, Rosalind Wee, Joven Cuanang, Bernie Aboitiz, Greg Yu, Aldine Basa, and Lorna Kapunan immediately transformed Ballet Philippines into our virtual stage called ‘BP OnStream.’ Since then, we've turned into a full testament of the Filipino resilience as artists," she said.
Liechtenstein noted that 52 global ballet superstars — such as Matthew Ball of The Royal Ballet and Anthony Huxley of the New York City Ballet — conducted master classes for over 1,600 students.
BP artistic director Mikhail Martynyuk and guest artists Joseph Phillips and Joshua Serafin conducted company classes for over 6,800 students, while 32 original video productions showcased the core dancers’ training, in collaboration with like-minded institutions such as retail giants, architectural firms, banks and schools.
“This is what made our production such an exciting moment in our 51st season,” Liechtenstein said. “We also engaged with our young audience we fondly call ‘Batang BP’ by providing them life skills and entertaining materials on classical ballet.”
BP also created K-12 Kalusugan for over 2,000 students and teachers, a five-minute series of exercises created specifically for classrooms online, on relevant topics such as self-care, environmental issues, mental health and love for animals.”
“Ballet Philippines survived,” Liechtenstein said. “Ballet is alive because of your support and friendship.”
The world premieres of the 51st season’s last two productions, Dystopian Body and Diyosa, officially ended that season. Dystopian Body showed how the human body evolved despite an environment that didn’t provide the most basic needs of its citizens.
Diyosa is a thought-provoking performance that takes us back to the times when Filipino gods, goddesses and humans lived together in harmony, an idyll that is destroyed due to humans’ greed and selfishness.
What’s in store for Season 52
Mercedes Zobel of BP’s Board of Trustees announced that for the 52nd season, “We look forward to more class video productions and fresh repertoire, as we pay homage to Philippine culture and Mother Earth.”
More ballet legends will teach free master classes, while company classes will once again offer world-class training for BP’s dancers.
“This June, we are officially launching BP dance school’s school year 2021 to 2022, where dance will continue to be taught online safely and effectively while engaging our students,” Zobel said.
Guest of honor was once again Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, who lauded Ballet Philippines’ success at adapting to the new normal and offered a glimmer of hope: “The prospects are getting brighter each day with the rollout of our national vaccination program,” she said.
She added: “We are making a leap towards the resumption of tourism activities, the reopening of borders, and the return to full operational capacity. In times of sorrow, art can uplift. In times of crisis, art can unite. Let us applaud the efforts of Ballet Philippines to keep art and culture alive during the pandemic.”
BP’s artistic director Mikhail Martynyuk said the new season will be interesting: “We add professional master classes on the skill of the actor in the system of Stanislavsky, a man who invented the first dramatic theater in Russia,” he said. “There will be classes on the development of plastic expressiveness, as well as lectures from the Academy of Vaganova.”
Ballet Philippines will participate in the International Theatre Festival of Arts, which will be held from December to February 2021-2022 on the Black Sea coast.
Guest artist and choreographer Joseph Phillips said he was very excited about the new Jose Rizal ballet preview that they will eventually turn into a full-length ballet. “This has given me the opportunity to work with the dancers one-on-one. I can see them breaking their limits, and doing things they may not have thought possible.”
Rep. Cristal Bagatsing congratulated Ballet Philippines on how it has “danced its way through the different tumultuous times in the last 53 years, and how it will dance into the future.”
BP vice chairman Maan Hontiveros offered the closing remarks, saying, “It has been a very, very difficult season for us to go through, but the resilience of the Ballet Philippines team, its dancers and its executive staff, as well as the 100 percent support that the board has, made it possible for us not to just survive, but to actually thrive, and we hope to be able to continue this forward in the 52nd season when we're excited to restart our dance school.”