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One dance, three stories

Ballet Manila brings back Peter Tchaikovsky and his masterpieces


By Sara Grace C. Fojas

Three tales, one stage. Who could forget Odette, the princess-turned-swan by an evil witch’s curse; The Sugar Plum Fairy in the Kingdom of Sweets; and Aurora, the beautiful princess who slept for 100 years, awakened only by true love’s kiss. From when we were kids and, to this day, these stories make us believe in magic, true love, and happy endings.

In Ballet Manila’s The Swan, The Fairy, and The Princess, these three tales came together recently on a three-night run of bliss and enchantment to open the second act of its 21st performance season.

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Beauty and Grace From left: Dawna Mangahas as The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Katherine Barkman as Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Abigail Oliviero as Odette in Swan Lake

The performance started with Peter Tchaikovsky, as played by veteran theater and TV actor Miguel Faustmann, sitting on a chair, eager to tell his stories about Odette, The Sugar Plum Fairy, and Aurora. On the pit was the Manila Symphony Orchestra for the ballet’s live musical scoring lead by Maestro Alexander Vikulov of Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Odette in The Swan Lake opened the show. She’s a Swan Queen with porcelain skin played by Abigail Oliviero. In her performance, it was not her curse that was highlighted or the fact that she needed a man to save her from dark magic, but her beauty.

Tchaikovsky narrated that the original ending of the story was tragic, where the swan and the prince died in each other’s arms, but everybody loves a happy ending, and so it was changed and the swan and the prince married each other and the spell was finally broken.

The next tale was about the Sugar Plum Fairy in the popular Christmas story of The Nutcracker.

With Dawna Mangahas as the Sugar Plum Fairy, the excerpt was about the fairy in the Kingdom of Sweets meeting The Nutcracker portrayed by Gerardo Francisco. Together they celebrated his victory after he defeated the King of the Mice and his army.

The finale in the Tchaikovsky medley was a well-loved fairy tale that had been passed from generation to generation, the one that introduced us to happy endings and true love’s kiss, Sleeping Beauty. The dazzling Princess Aurora, portrayed by Katherine Barkman, was adored by the whole kingdom, her sweet disposition made every guy in the kingdom as well as the audience fall madly in love with her. On her 16th birthday, as the evil witch Maleficent pricked her finger and, bound to a curse, she fell into a deep slumber and everyone else fell asleep with her. Her Prince Charming who kissed her 100 years later was played by Kremlin Ballet’s premier danseur Mikhail Martynyuk and everyone in the kingdom was alive once again, without curses and spells.

The three masterpieces brought Tchaikovsky back to life. Centuries after they were created, his tales are still loved by every member of the family, from grandma to the little toddler in his daddy’s arms, and they will continue to be loved for generations to come. Everybody had a dose of happily ever after that night, not minding the rain and strong winds outside because, for a while, the audience was inside Tchaikovsky’s magical tales once again.

Ballet Manila’s 21st performance season pays homage to some of the most memorable and technically challenging classical ballets ever made. Named as Revenge of the Classics, the new season also features Rebel: EDSA 30, a symbolic retelling of the events that transpired during the EDSA Revolution; Don Quixote, a retelling of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel; and Cinderella.

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