by KRISTOFER PURNELL
Images from BALLET PHILIPPINES
What is it about the story of Cinderella that makes it so appealing to children? It could be the wonderful dresses she wears, or how magical that ball was until midnight struck, or maybe the glorious moment when the glass slipper she left behind fit her perfectly.
Even after so many years, the fairytale popularized by the Brothers Grimm has remained one of the most endearing stories of all time. It is no surprise then that Ballet Philippines chose to restage Cinderella in its 50th season. The company took a step further by selecting it as its Christmas offering, so families can enjoy the rags-to-riches story come to life onstage during this Yuletide season.
This is now the sixth time Ballet Philippines is doing Cinderella, and once again 2014 National Artist for Dance and the company’s artistic director Alice Reyes helms the choreography with the help of regisseur Nonoy Froilan—the latter performed in the company’s first three runs of Cinderella in the 1980s, which were also choreographed and directed by the former.
Alice is not the only National Artist involved in this year’s production, which brings back the original set and costume design by Salvador Bernal, as well the musical score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky specially arranged by Francisco Feliciano. Even after nearly 40 years since the country first saw the three National Artists’ works, their magic is still as powerful as Cinderella’s fairy godmother herself.
Alice’s vision in 1981 was for Cinderella to be an enchanting show for children. Staging after staging, her production has continued to gather children of all ages dreaming of one day wearing a glass slipper and perhaps meeting their own Prince Charming.
Everyone is so familiar with the story of Cinderella that even without words one can see how entrancing and enchanting the production is. As soon as the curtains were drawn, the audience are caught in wondrous awe by the magnificent stage design that Salvador Bernal envisioned—from the castle rooms to the forest grounds, he evokes his own kind of lasting magic.
The dancers themselves prove with a well known tale like Cinderella they are still able to make it an even better telling through their movements, as proven by the gallant opener performed by the boys of the company led by the princes Charming, Fortune, and Desire (Earl John Arisola, Victor Maguad, and Erl Sorilla).
Undeniably the stars of the show are the two stepsisters Prunella and Griselda, performed in the gala by principal dancers Jemima Reyes and Denise Parungao. Having done such graceful roles in the past, it was utterly amusing to see the two dancing with comedic exaggeration, performing with such refined poise while being extremely entertaining. Lording over the two is guest artist Liza Dela Fuente as the widow Brunhilda, who rolls back the years with each twirl and step that could match her talent of her onstage stepdaughters. The three undoubtedly stole the show each time they were on stage, and their fellow cast members knew it whenever they performed with them like Maguad’s Fortune, Sorilla’s Desire, and Lester Reguindin’s Dancing Master.
Every child, of course, will focus on the poor girl on her knees scrubbing the floor, clothed in rags but eyes shining with hope and dreams. Monica Gana perfectly portrayed the role of Cinderella, which she first took on in 2014, as a charming and kind girl. From the moment she set foot on stage, she just overflowed with grace, which elevated her throughout her performance but particularly during the forest and ball scenes while Salvador Bernal’s costumes shone in full glory.
Cinderella’s dance with the three princes is graceful, even with the interference of the stepsisters, and it even got better during the wedding dances. As everyone performed their final dances, it was Monica who continued to steal attention because, in true Cinderella fashion, she literally rose from the floor with nothing but courage and kindness. Her nuptial duet with Prince Charming, thanks to Alice’s choreography, gave the show a brilliant finish.
Such is the magic that Alice Reyes gives to Filipino dance that, in turn, the character of Cinderella gives to children—the story of a girl with a glass slipper who lived a night to remember. Perhaps that is the true appeal of Cinderella, how it makes everyone believe that “happily-ever-afters” indeed exist.
Ballet Philippines’ Cinderella will have its final runs this Dec. 14 and 15. Check ticketworld.com.ph for tickets and ballet.ph for inquirires.