'Nutcracker' ballet gets modern treatment

'Nutcracker' ballet gets modern treatment
By Walter Ang
November 22, 2012

Ballet audiences are familiar with "The Nutcracker" as it is usually staged during the year-end holidays.

Set to Peter Tchaikovsky's music and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, the ballet's libretto is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King."

The story is about a girl who receives a nutcracker carved in the shape of a soldier on Christmas Eve. After she goes to bed, the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the evil Mouse King. The Nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince and takes the girl to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and different sweets from around the world.

Tchaikovsky's score has been given other ballet choreographies, such as by George Balanchine in the US and Noordin Jumalon (after Petipa and Ivanov) in the Philippines. Local companies sometimes set the production design in a Filipino setting.

The story has been remade into other mediums such as film, including excerpts in Disney's "Fantasia" and even a Barbie movie.

A new Filipino contemporary dance version of "The Nutcracker" presented by Myra Beltran’s Dance Forum takes off from a similar point: paper dolls of American icons.

Beltran has choreographed "Nutcracker Swit," a one-hour contemporary dance piece that retells "the classic as an adventure of a poor young boy, his loves, and desires, in scenes that meld together fantasy and reality."

"The 'swit' is a play on Tchaikovsky's 'suite' and the 'sweets' from the ballet. This show is my imagination of my parents' childhood, from the 1930s to 40s, and of their projection of desires couched in 1950's pop culture," she says. "The dance is filled with wonder, whimsy, and hope."

"The 'sweets' in Act 3 of the 'Nutcracker' ballet is really about desire," Beltran explains.
In her version, the sweets are rendered through popular American culture icons such as Shirley Temple. "We must remember that [Filipino children during those times] were inculcated with desire for American things."

For research, Beltran interviewed her own mother and it was revealed that "she kept her paper dolls from her childhood in a precious little box. When I found them and saw the Shirley Temple dolls and the cut-out magazine paper dolls, I knew I was on the right track."

The production will feature University of the Philippines Dance Company artists Dingdong Selga, Minette Maza, and Nicole Primero, as well as dancers from Chameleon Dance Theatre and Contemporary Dance Network Manila.

Performers from theater group Sipat Lawin Ensemble will also be part of the cast.
Videos used in the production were directed by Sherad Anthony Sanchez using video production design by Eddie Perez.

"Nutcracker Swit" will be the inaugural production of the newly renovated Dance Forum Studio in Quezon City, whose interiors were designed by The Pirouette Movement, University of the Philippines' Interior Design Batch 2013.

"Nutcracker Swit" runs from November 28 to 30, 7 p.m. at Dance Forum Studio, 36E West Ave., Quezon City. Student and senior discounts are available. Contact 0927-784-9579 or danceforum.mb@gmail.com, or visit mbdanceforum.com.

UP performing groups win at int’l fests

UP performing groups win at int’l fests
By Walter Ang
November 5, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

UP Concert Chorus
University of the Philippines Concert Chorus has won three awards on the international scene: 1st Prize in the Folk category of the Festival Internacional de Musica de Cantonigros in Vic, Spain; and the gold diploma and the Audience Prize (People’s Choice Award) at the 9th Cantemus International Choir Festival at Nyíregyháza, Hungary.

In Spain, the group sang “Kruhay” (Beny Castilon); “Pasigin” (arranged by Eudenice Palaruan); and “Ilay Gandangan” (Rodolfo Delarmente) for the Folk category.

The contingent had 28 singers and one pianist. The chorus, celebrating its 50th anniversary, was led by director Jai Sabas-Aracama.

In Hungary, under the baton of president and assistant conductor Emmanuel de Leon Jr., the group sang “Ama Namin” (John August Pamintuan); “Jezus es a Kufarok” (Zoltán Kodály); and “Ilay Gandangan.”

For the Folk concert, the basis for the Audience Prize, Sabas-Aracama led the choir in singing “Gabaq-An” (Ruben Federizon), “Pasigin” and “Kruhay.”

“At the gala concert and awarding ceremony, UPCC performed a tribute to the King of Pop, Eman de Leon, where it received a rousing standing ovation from the audience and festival participants of nearly 2,000 people from all over the world,” says Sabas-Aracama.

The group had performed in several cities in the US before joining the festival in Spain. From September to October, it will give performances in Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Malaysia and Singapore.

UP Arco String Ensemble
UP Arco String Ensemble, after a struggle to raise funds, made it after all to the Festival International de Music Universitaire in Belfort, France.

It was the first time a Filipino group had joined the festival.  Under musical director Edna Martinez, the group was composed of 27 students, all majors of the Strings and Chamber Music Department of the UP College of Music.

Before the festival, Arco performed twice in Paris, at Saint Bernadette Church, organized by the Philippine Catholic Mission in France; and at Unesco Miollis Building, hosted by the Philippine Embassy in France.

After the festival, Arco also performed in Geneva, Switzerland, at Notre Dame Church.
Robert Belot, Belfort’s vice mayor and the city’s cultural head, said the group “has fine quality sound, [is] technically adroit, and brought to the festival something unique and fresh.”

Arco’s repertoire included the Tsaikovsky Serenade for Strings; Serenade for Strings by Elgar; and Concerto Grosso by Corelli. Filipino masterpieces Rombino from the Children’s Quartet by Bueneventura and Buencamino’s Pizzicato Caprice were also performed.

“In its second and last concert at Belfort, the audience gave a prolonged feisty applause and standing ovation,” says Ruben Defeo, head of the UP Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts. “UP Arco had to reciprocate the warm reception by giving two encores. The organizers invited UP Arco to render another concert on the last day of the festival.”

Scene from "Screen: Macbeth"
UP's Department of English and Comparative Literature’s production of “Screen: Macbeth” was performed at National Taiwan University, Taipei, for the 6th Conference of the NTU Shakespeare Forum.

This production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” premiered last year and features video projections as part of its staging, thus the inclusion of the word “Screen” in the title.

The conference theme “Shakespeare across Media” aimed to explore how Shakespeare had been translated in various forms of media.

“The production’s use of film fitted the conference theme superbly,” says cast member Ricky Abad.
The contingent had seven actors in multiple roles, with direction by Anton Juan; dramaturgy by Judy Ick (who also played Lady Macbeth); technical direction by Meliton Roxas; and video design by Winter David.

“The show was received very well. The organizers were pleased, and look forward to more Philippine participation in the future. The biggest achievement, I think, was that ‘Screen: Macbeth’ identified the Philippines as the Asian country that could do Shakespeare in English well. The acting was praised. It was deemed passionate.”

For details of UP Concert Chorus’ touring performances, visit www.upconcertchorus.org or call 9296963, 9818500, 0927-4284629 or 0917-6283739.

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British dance company does outreach in the Philippines

British dance company does outreach in the Philippines
By Walter Ang
October 15, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Photo by Ige Ramos.
Hope for Children
Philippine representative Kevin Connolly,
DanceAid founder and CEO Laura Wilson,
Pangarap Shelter for Street Children
resident Erick Soberano,
Flava lead member Kyle Richardson,
Big Dance Company founder Fiona Richardson,
Pangarap Shelter for Street Children
executive director Br. Francisco Tanega.
Big Dance Company (BDC), based in Cornwall, England, sent a delegation to Manila for outreach and interaction activities with three charity groups that assist street children.

The group spent a day visiting the Philippine Community Fund (PCF) School in Tondo; Childhope Asia Philippines in Paco; and Pangarap Shelter for Street Children in Pasay.

The group gave workshops, performances, and danced with the children.

BDC founder Fiona Richardson said: “We can’t save the world with our dance outreach, but we can help get rid of a lot of ignorance, we can help build compassion.”

Reaching out
BDC first visited the country in 2010 upon the invitation of Shirley Halili Cruz, whom the group met at the Dance Excellence festival for young dancers in Los Angeles in 2009, to participate in the annual Dance Xchange Philippine International Dance Festival.

BDC brought over its most popular dance group, Flava, a hip-hop group which was a semifinalist in “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2008.

BDC visited children on the Smokey Mountain dumpsite in Tondo for an outreach with Philippine Community Fund, a charity group founded by British national Jane Walker.  BDC has returned annually since to conduct outreach activities at the site.

Flava has won competitions and represented the UK at the World Hip-Hop Championships. Last year it performed with Halili Cruz Ballet Company in Cornwall.

BDC works with young people in the UK to tackle antisocial behavior and gun and knife crime.

This year
This year BDC brought over a group of younger dancers.

“Some of the Flava dancers came, but we included dancers from Tricky Crew, our under-14 group, and Sweet Flava, our girl group.  The youngest in our group this year is 11 years old.  It’s important to let young people see what’s going on in the world,” said Richardson.

With BCD this year is UK-based DanceAid, a charity group that raises funds for charities through dance-related activities such as performances.

Laura Wilson, founder and CEO of DanceAid, said: “BDC is one of the many dance schools working with DanceAid to raise the UK to its feet to dance to make a difference for suffering children in the UK, Africa and Asia.”

“[Laura] knew we would be performing in Manila, and thought that we might want to help them out, and we have been ever since,” said Richardson.  “I am hoping to plan a big project next year with these charities to help more and get these talented young people on a stage with a captive audience.”

Ongoing aid
Wilson, who has a master’s degree in Conflict, Governance and Development from the University of York, founded DanceAid as a way to bring together her passions in developmental work and dance.
“We were inspired by the work being done by another charity we work alongside, Hope for Children,” said Wilson.

Among other projects for Manila charities, Hope for Children collects donations for PCF’s school (built from recycled shipping containers), which gives free education to street children in the Smokey Mountain area; for Pangarap Shelter for Street Children, a shelter and recovery center for homeless and at-risk boys aged 8-17 years; and for Childhope Asia Philippines’ Street Education Program, where 20 full-time street educators are deployed to teach street children on-site.

Hope for Children’s projects in the Philippines are monitored by its representative Kevin Connolly, who has been living here since 1996.

This was Wilson’s first time in Manila.  She came over to help set up funding protocols from DanceAid to its Hope for Children Manila charities.

“We visited to see what the situation is here, and how DanceAid can help more and organize a DanceAid day for the children, who, we already know, love to dance!”

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