by KRISTOFER PURNELL
Do you believe in fairies?
Regardless of what you believe in, there may be a group of fairies enjoying life just as we are, only with a touch of magic. One need not look far for where the nearest fairies are—Ballet Philippines brought them as part of the magic of its golden anniversary celebration.
Fresh off a magical trip to a German forest in Swan Lake, Ballet Philippines landed itself in Athens where lovers and fairies find themselves in a number of situations in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Originally written by William Shakespeare as a comedy, the ballet version of the play is accompanied by music composed by Felix Mendelssohn—the company gave the score a neo-classical spin to breathe new life into the story, making it truly enjoyable for all audiences.
To make the performance even more special, Ballet Philippines sought once more the help of Carlo Pacis for the choreography. He was also the choreographer for the company’s 2013 run of the same ballet. For this version Pacis tapped Ballet Philippines’ principal dancers Nelson Yadao and Denise Parungao to take on the lead roles of Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the Fairies—funny enough, Nelson and Denise have been a part of Ballet Philippines for a combined 18 years but A Midsummer Night’s Dream was their first time to be partners as leads.
Of course credit must first and foremost be given to the Bard himself. It seems a signature of Shakespeare to dive into our history and mythology and give it a touch of his brilliance to bring out an amusing tale filled with love, magic, and everything in between. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a perfect example of that blend, given how even with a multitude of characters it is easy to follow a story that delivers a few laughs here and there. But combined with Mendelssohn’s music and Pacis’ choreography, the magic was amplified, the dancers adding a bit more to Shakespeare’s vision of how fairies deserved to be seen, even if just on stage.
The standout performer of this 50th-season run is clearly the crowd favorite Puck, performed by Victor Maguad who gave the character the right amount of mischief and hilarity, balancing well with his skill and flexibility as a dancer. Another standout was Jemima Reyes as Hermia, one of the lovers in Shakespeare’s tale. Despite her character being human, Jemima gave Hermia a fairy-like feel, dancing lightly on her feet. During the lovers scenes, or even if just opposite Earl John Arisola’s Lysander, she shone the brightest.
Admittedly, while considered a lead role, Denise’s Titania seemed underused given how good a dancer she is, but the wait paid off in the final performance when she and Nelson’s Oberon did one final pas-de-deux that wrapped up the magic of the ballet—just before Victor’s Puck brought down the curtain on the audience.
The technical aspects of A Midsummer Night’s Dream cannot be overlooked, as well. Stage designer Eric Cruz put together an interactive set where the dancers could not only perform with grace and flair but also made it seem they were tripping it on the light fantastic toe, just as fairies would in an Athenian forest. Jay Aranda’s lighting marked
the difference between humans and fairies quite well, making it less confusing for viewers while still allowing the dancers to shine.
Ballet Philippines has always believed in delivering the best performances to its patrons, and following up Swan Lake with A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a perfect choice for its golden year. Once again the company has shown how magical the art of dance can be, even if it all could just be a dream.