4.4 Hot If there's another thing that shouldn't be missed this Christmas season apart from Ayala Triangle's LIGHTS SHOW, it is Ballet Manila's latest Christmas offering. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's CINDERELLA is a surprising family treat; an ultimate feel-good ballet that offers more than just form. It calls upon nostalgia, and offers the same beautiful magic of childhood tales. Like Cinderella herself, don't be surprised if you find yourself losing track of the time.
If I am to critique Ballet Manila’s production of Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s CINDERELLA from a technical standpoint, it will be in vain. See, I watched it last weekend with my nephew and niece, and their delight was indescribable. It only goes to show that BM’s desire to produce a family ballet this season triumphs as it captivates young audiences with a familiar story and at the same time, offers a certain level of nostalgic appeal for grown-ups like us.
Cinderella has been living with the three covetous family members since her father died. Her wicked stepmother and two begrudging step-sisters have kept her enslaved and in rags, ever since. And with three women on her way, she has so small a chance to make it to the Prince’s ball. But when her fairy godmother arrives on the night of the ball, Cinderella’s life magically transforms into what she is meant to be – but only for a time. That is because old magic can only do so much, and Cinderella only has until midnight to enchant the Prince.
Macuja-Elizalde’s choreography comes with a fairly gorgeous re-telling of this familiar tale. She opens the piece with an ensemble of animal characters in a cheerfully playful sequence; setting the stage for a two-hour ballet of fantasy, magic and romance. Worthy to mention too, is the entrancing pas de deux of Cinderella and her Prince, which seems to be the center of Macuja-Elizalde’s piece. On its surface is a colorful array of Mio Infante’s enchanting design, and in it’s core -is the graceful allure of romance in ballet and magical theatricality.
Abigail Oliveiro plays Cinderella with stunning grace and control. She personifies this archetypal character with captivating charm, showing more than what the books call “the persecuted heroine.” See, Oliveiro shows more glee and forward acceptance of her condition; thus, granting a more personal and accessible re-interpretation of this character. Mark Sumaylo never fails. To me, that is. As Prince Charming, he plays with breathtaking gusto and dashing charm.
Jonathan Janolo’s rendition of the Wicked Stepmother is an ultimate treat. This cross-gender decision by Ballet Manila is worth the try. Here, Janolo renders a wickedly charming character: equally obnoxious and delightful. Tiffany Chiang and Violet Hong are the sordid Stepsisters, and they portray these with matching rhythm and graceless intent.
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde as the Fairy God Mother only shows herself every once in a while, but in each moment she is on stage, we see how she envelopes the Aliw Theater with her magic and presence. Macuja-Elizalde’s precision and grace still stands, and her character graces each persona on stage in each entrance.
The story of Cinderella was first published in Italy in 1697, and it’s original tale comes with a dark premise and a few gothic themes. Through the ages, the tale evolved into what we commonly know as the “Cindrella story.” It involves a good thing happening to someone who has been kind and good.
But what makes Cinderella a relevant romantic tale is how it perceives love despite false pretenses. Prince Charming first fell in love with Cinderella on the night of the ball. She was dressed in a gorgeous ball gown, and was shinning in beauty and glamour. The following day, as the story goes, he still recognizes her beyond the rags. From a literary standpoint, whether that’s more a fantasy of romantic love or a fantasy of economic security, power and rescue from a lifetime of washing floors may depend on who’s telling it and who’s hearing it and when.
If there’s another thing that shouldn’t be missed this Christmas season apart from Ayala Triangle’s LIGHTS SHOW, it is Ballet Manila’s latest Christmas offering. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s CINDERELLA is a surprising family treat; an ultimate feel-good ballet that offers more than just form. It calls upon nostalgia, and offers the same beautiful magic of childhood tales. Like Cinderella herself, don’t be surprised if you find yourself losing track of the time.
Photos by Mr. Erickson dela Cruz