Ballet Philippines (BP) continues its 45th Anniversary (Sapphire Season) with the Blue Moon Series. Giselle, re-staged by BP’s premier danseur Nonoy Froilan, headlines the Blue Moon Series. It opens on September 20, 2014 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo or the CCP Main Theater (the September 19 show was cancelled due to Typhoon Mario). The “show that brought sexy back to ballet” features live accompaniment by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) under the able baton of Maestro Olivier Ochanine.
The first act of Giselle is lovely and lively. The set design by Salvador Bernal is breathtaking and functional. The cottages of Giselle (Katherine Trofeo) and her mother, Berthe (Angelina Kanapi) and the cottage of Duke Albrecht (Jean Marc Cordero) take the left and right sides of the stage respectively while the center of the stage is dominated by a forest with strategically-located tree trunks. The falling leaves from the ceiling throughout the act and the lighting design by Jonjon Villareal highlight autumn and the joyous festivities mounted by the peasants.
Giselle, a peasant girl with an overprotective mother, is beautiful and radiant while Duke Albrecht looks boyish and cute. The duke woos Giselle despite being betrothed to Bathilde. Their movements are generally sweet and playful. They flirt with each other until Giselle falls madly in love with the duke. Giselle looks energetic despite her heart condition. Maybe love can really cure any malady.
For me, the stage comes alive with the entrance of Hilarion (Richardson Yadao), the gamekeeper who has taken a liking to Giselle. Hilarion reckons that they will wed even though Giselle has rejected him several times. Hilarion exudes power and virility that might have come from his close association with animals, from the manly costume he is wearing or from the beard on his lower face. I do not know what it is, but he is oozing with masculinity. Hilarion strides across the stage like he owns the whole CCP complex. Despite the limited mime role in the first act, he is believable as the cocky alpha male of the village.
The peasants pas de quatre dance tirelessly and always with a smile on their faces. The other peasants move like a well-oiled machine to make the stage seem uncluttered even though there are around 50 people on it at one time.
The second act is a juxtaposition of the first. The once lively Giselle is now dead because of Albrecht’s treachery. Her body is buried in the middle of the forest that is haunted by the Wilis. The stage has taken a 180-degree turn to reflect the mood transition—it is bleak and spine-chilling. The stage is bare except for Giselle’s tombstone and a couple of trees. The light is dim which greatly contrasts the appearance of the Wilis.
My favorite scene is the entrance and grand dance number of The Wilis, led by their queen, Myrtha. Imagine Queen Myrtha and 13 pairs of beautiful ballerinas dressed in dazzling white with white veil to boot dancing in unison. It is a sight to behold! It is just somewhat unnerving when one remembers that the Wilis are spirits—women who died because they were jilted at the altar.
Another scene I like is the lone dancing scene of Hilarion—his death scene. Hilario visits Giselle’s tombstone but he is cornered by the Wilis. The Wilis condemn him to death and make him dance until his heart gives out. Hell hath no fury like a wilis scorned! I think that Yadao makes the best out of his time on stage. Lastly, I like the almost-death of Albrecht and Giselle saving the two-timing bastard. The Wilis make Albrecht dance to his death, but Giselle prolongs his life until the first rays of sunrise appear. As the sun rises, the power of the Wilis fades into oblivion and their curse over the duke disappears. I dislike the duke character, but Cordero dances with so much finesse and precision that I might have forgiven him as well, if I were in Giselle’s shoes.
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