More master classes, original dance videos: BP aims for world-class status

Ballet Philippines president Kathleen Liechtenstein

After a year of organizing a successful virtual platform, Ballet Philippines (BP) is in a position to push the envelope for its 52nd OnStream season despite the closure of its home ground, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

The company has risen above difficult circumstances by providing a vehicle for possibilities via, a portal to livestreamed classes, videos of old and new works, profiles of company members and a children’s section, among others.

BP president Kathleen Liechtenstein said the priority this season is to keep the company in shape with daily online classes conducted by its Russian artistic director Mikhail Martynyuk and American guest artist Joseph Philips. BP will continue to offer free master classes, taught by an international roster of artists, for both company members and dance aficionados.

Aside from technique, she said, dancers will learn acting to enhance their performance.

Russian film actor, thespian and teacher of stage dance Olga Nasyrova, from Russian Institute of Theater Arts, is scheduled to give one of the master classes. In May, actor Alexei Andreev from Moscow State Pedagogical University taught basic acting in the Stanislavski method, in pure Russian. This famous technique helps the performer create a backstory for the character or role, and deliver a more truthful portrayal.

Aldrian Ocampo

Videos in the pipeline

At press time, the season’s repertoire is being developed. Martynyuk is out to prove the company’s mettle in the classics by restaging Marius Petipa’s “Paquita Pas Classique” for video. This is considered a cornerstone of classical ballet, with difficult solo variations and exacting ensemble work.

It will be interesting to see how Martynyuk executes it, considering that the original was intended for a cast of 16, with a single danseur. BP’s rendition will be down to its core of 10 dancers, with more males in the corps.

Liechtenstein announced that two videos are in the pipeline. One is “Tatlong Pag-Ibig ni Jose (Three Loves of Jose Rizal),” choreographed by Philips.

“Rizal’s first love embodied innocence and freshness in the person of Leonor Rivera,” Liechtenstein said. “The second was mature love, as represented by Josephine Bracken. The third one, fatal love, was for his country.”

The dance was filmed at Yuchengco Museum, against a backdrop of Rizal memorabilia and photographs.

BP is creating a “cultural kit” for its second video in partnership with the fifth district of Manila, which covers Ermita, Intramuros, Malate, San Andres and south Paco. Through dance, Martynyuk is highlighting famous landmarks in these areas.

Philips is also choreographing a piece on mental health. At the press launch, he mentioned that BP is exploring the possibility of acquiring works that are performed in major companies. The company is set to participate at an international winter dance festival in Sochi, Russia.

Jemima Reyes

The season that was

The press launch of BP’s 52nd season was more of chest-thumping for its 51st. Last season, BP conducted 365 company classes, which were joined by 6,847 participants. It also organized 52 online master classes, which attracted 1,167 attendants. Ballet stars, such as Vadim Muntagirov of the Royal Ballet and former American Ballet Theater principal Jose Manuel Carreño, plus several international ballet masters, taught pro bono.

Early this year, seven certified teachers of Gaga, a movement language based on individual performers’ physical and visceral experiences and imagery, conducted a workshop where recording was not allowed. The teachers are former members of the Israel-based Bathsheva Dance Company led by Ohad Nahrain, progenitor of Gaga. Plans are afoot for a second workshop.

Liechtenstein said BP produced 31 original videos to showcase the dancers. The website has uploaded 16. All these videos were produced with partners who helped defray production costs.

Asked how BP raised the budget for that, the BP head kept mum about a marketing tack developed to persuade sponsors. The videos were shot in different locations, such as theaters around the city, museums, the Manila House deck and the beach in Calatagan.

One of last season’s successful videos, Martynyuk’s “Galvanized House,” will be sent to an international competition, said Liechtenstein. The video shows the relationship between movement and music on one hand, and an unconventional house designed by architect Carlo Calma on the other.

Ultimate goal

Also announced at the launch was the reopening of BP’s Dance School through its virtual program. Classes in different levels—from kindergarten to professional, including adults—will be offered.

School director Rhea Bautista said, “While it’s true that there are limits to teaching dance online, it helps us focus on things that truly matter. Students increase understanding of their bodies, breaking down their techniques—and strengthening both these fundamentals.”

Ultimately, said Liechtenstein, the goal is for BP to bid for world-class status. “Post-COVID, BP plans to perform outside of the Philippines, and not just focus on Filipino communities. To be looked upon by big companies, you need to dance on the international stage with a repertoire that appeals to international audiences.” —CONTRIBUTED