Helsinki toast Candice Adea to open Ballet Philippines' 43rd season

Helsinki toast Candice Adea to open 
Ballet Philippines' 43rd season
By Walter Ang
June 18, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Adea and Cordero
Ballet Philippines opens its 43rd season with "Songs," a gala of masterworks featuring the work of international and Philippine choreographers on July 6-8 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.

The season is dubbed "Dragon Song," inspired by this year being the Chinese year of the dragon.  "Dragon years are always significant with their great energy and sense of renewal, the beginning of a new cycle," says BP artistic director Paul Morales.

In "Songs," fresh from winning first place in the women's category of the 2012 Helsinki International Ballet Competition, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world, principal dancer Candice Adea will perform in the world premiere of a new grand pas de deux choreographed by former BP artistic director Bam Damian.

The piece was specifically choreographed for Adea and her partner Jean Marc Cordero, who won a Special Jury Award for Best in Pas de Deux Technique at Helsinki.

The pair had performed another Damian piece, "Evacuation," winner of 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay! Outstanding Choreography for Dance Production, at Helsinki as part of their competition repertoire.

Other works in "Songs" include a new piece by Morales and "Les Petit Mots d'Amour" by French choreographer Redha Beintefour, a piece that "embodies man's innermost desires."

Also included is "Moriones" by Agnes Locsin, inspired by the Moriones Festival of Marinduque and originally choreographed for BP2 (BP's junior corps)'s participation at Recontres Festival Du Danse in La Baule, France.

Alden Lugnasin choreopraphs "This is My Life," a solo contemporary piece highlighting the independence and elegance of women.

Candice Adea
The rest of the season includes a reshuffling of BP's Neo-Filipino series from its usual February slot to September.  This year's Neo-Filipino is "Anting," where four noted Filipino choreographers will choreograph dramatist Tony Perez's libretto exploring the world of talismans and amulets of Filipino magical traditions.

In December, BP restages its pop ballet musical "Rama Hari," choreographed by BP founder Alice Reyes, with music by Ryan Cayabyab, and libretto by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

Based on the Indian epic "Ramayana," the show premiered in 1980 with Basil Valdez as the prince Rama, Kuh Ledesma as Rama's wife Sita, and Leo Valdez as the villain Ravana.  The lead characters are dually portrayed by singers and BP dancers.

The season concludes in February 2013 with "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a new production of William Shakespeare's romantic comedy by award-winning Hong Kong-based choreographer Carlo Pacis.

Four BP touring productions are also available for booking.

Former BP artistic director Agnes Locsin's neo-ethnic ballet "Encantada," showcasing the mixture of paganism and Christianity set during the Spanish colonial era.

A one-hour version of former CCP Dance School principal Noordin Jumalon's "Nutcracker" featuring BP2 and BP Kidz (BP's children corps).

Paul Morales' "Crisostomo Ibarra," a contemporary ballet based on National Hero Jose Rizal's novel "Noli Me Tangere," focusing on vignettes of the novel that focus on Ibarra.

"Body Politix," a mixed bill of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works including "Shifting Wait" by Carlo Pacis, winner of 2010 Philstage Gawad Buhay! Outstanding Choreography for a Dance Production.

Season subscribers get preferred seating, a 20% discount on all tickets, a complimentary souvenir program per show.  Donations and sponsorships to BP are tax-deductible.

"Proceeds support our Philippine dance artists such as professional wages and training," says BP president and former Binibining Pilipnas and Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo. "Let's all rally behind and embrace Ballet Philippines, which has brought much pride to the country-after all, it is truly our own,"

Contact 551-1003, 551-7919, 624-5701; Ticketworld (891-9999); or CCP Box Office (832-3704).

*Adea also won a prize last year in the Boston International Ballet Competition. You can read about it here.

Virgin Labfest 2012 has ten new plays, 4 'virgin' playwrights

Virgin Labfest 2012 has ten new plays, 4 'virgin' playwrights*
By Walter Ang
June 18, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Ang Unang Regla ni John"
This years' Virgin Labfest will present ten new works: three sets of one-act trilogies and one full-length (two-act) play at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. (See line-up in sidebar.)

Now on its eight year, the labfest is "a venue for playwrights, directors and actors to bring to life 'untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged' plays."

Tuxqs Rutaquio is the new artistic director, taking over from Rody Vera, who founded the festival through Writer's Bloc, a playwright's group, and Tanghalang Pilipino, CCP's resident theater company.  This year's funding is partially provided by CCP and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

Young, new
"The labfest has grown in popularity and reputation throughout the years among audiences, teachers and theater artists," says Rutaquio.

"We've heard from groups from the regions who have made it an annual tradition to come to Manila to watch.  Some groups have been consulting with us to see if they can create a similar event in their region."

Submissions were screened and shortlisted by Rutaquio, Vera and actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino.  "We read all submission over the summer break.  Most show promise but still need work on technical aspects like structure. We plan on writing back the playwrights whose works weren't chosen for the festival this year with notes to give them advice."

He notes that submissions this year were mostly from playwrights in their late 20s. "This is a good sign. It means we have young playwrights out there who are creating works."

Out of the nine featured plays, four playwrights are virgin to the labfest: Em Mendez ("Ang Unang Regla ni John"), Guelan Luarca ("Kuneho"), Mar Anthony dela Cruz ("Hayop"), and Aizel Cabilan ("Pagsubli"), with dela Cruz and Cabilan having written their first plays ever.

"Isa Pang Soap Opera"
Out of the 77 submissions this year, 16 are full-length plays.  The festival started staging full-length plays last year and continues this year with "Totong Hilot" written by Jose Dennis Teodisio and directed by Roobak Valle.

Teodisio has had his works performed in all previous labfests, up to two per fest in some years, except last year, for a total of nine one-acts.  He is no longer allowed to submit one-acts to the fest.  "This is my 18th full-length play, but my first full-length for VL," says Teodisio. "I write plays because it's cathartic."

Rutaquio says, "Eventually, there are plans to stage more full-length plays and reduce the number of one-acts for the festival."

Revisiting, teaching
The festival usually features a set of trilogies from the previous year.  This year's "revisited" set includes: "Kawala" written by Rae Red and directed by Paolo O'Hara; "Evening at the Opera" by Floy Quintos, directed by Jomari Jose; and "Kafatiran" by Ricardo Novenario, directed by JK Anicoche.

There is no children's set this year due to lack of entries.

This year's festival resurrected its Playwriting Fellowship Program for college students taught by Glenn Mas with script writing workshop, lectures, discussions and script critiquing.

Selected lectures and discussions are open to the public.

"We were able to get funding this year for the program.  Hopefully it will become a permanent part of the festival in the future. The program is part of VL's desire to train young aspiring playwrights.  The festival has produced provocative and outstanding 'virgin' plays that have been recognized by the Palanca Awards for Literature."

Accepted applicants will be given access to this year's selected rehearsals as part of their mentorship and interactions with known playwrights, directors and selected actors.  The program concludes in a staged reading of the fellow's works on the last day of the fest.

The 8th Virgin Labfest (2012) runs June 27-July 8, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City. Call 8321125.

Schedule and synopses of the plays can be read here.

Also published online:

French film, music, dance, fashion featured in FrancoPhil 2012

French film, music, dance, fashion featured in FrancoPhil 2012
By Walter Ang
June 11, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dance film "Blanche-Neige" (Snow White)
This year’s French film festival kicks off the events for the second half of the year of FrancoPhil, a yearlong series of cultural events organized by the Embassy of France in the Philippines and Alliance Française de Manille.

“FrancoPhil is a play on the word ‘Francophile,’ meaning a lover of French culture, and is a celebration of the ties that bind French and Filipino cultures,” says Astrid Renoux, cultural attaché. “It also highlights the collaboration between French and Filipino artists in many of the events.”

Now on its third year, this year’s FrancoPhil is organized with Rustan’s Department Stores. FrancoPhil activities include performances, exhibits, workshops, across different art forms.

The film festival opened last weekend with the Philippine premiere of the romance-comedy “The Artist,” written and directed in the style of a black-and-white silent film by Michel Hazanavicius.

The 2011 film reaped multiple awards from France's Cannes Film Festival and Académie des arts et techniques du cinéma (César awards), the UK's British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta), and USA's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscar awards).

The festival’s opening weekend also featured the by-invitation-only Philippine premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s “Captive,” a Franco-German-Filipino co-production starring French actress Isabelle Huppert.

The film festival will be held in Manila until June 17 at Shangri-La Mall; and in Cebu June 21-23 at Ayala Center. Most films are free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Now on its 17th year, the festival will include an Olivier Assayas retrospective featuring seven of his films “chosen to demonstrate the great diversity in his topics and styles.” Assayas is considered “one of the most significant bodies of contemporary cinema in the whole world.”

This year’s Fête de la Musique, a showcase of “music of all genres from classical to rock bands and DJs” usually done in closed-off streets, will be held on June 23 simultaneously in Manila (Makati Avenue), Cebu (Ayala Center) and Bacolod (Café Joint art district).

Along with various Filipino bands, this year’s featured French group is the DJ collective Chinese Man.

Dance film "O Sensei"
As part of this year’s WiFi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival, FrancoPhil will bring over Emmanuel Serafini, director of Avignon Choreographic Center, for a talk on European Contemporary Dance on June 27 at the University of the Philippines.

Joining Serafini are choreographers Arco Renz (Germany) and Ilana Bellhasen (Israel). The talk is free.

FrancoPhil is also screening dance films (see line-up below) on June 13 and 20 at the Alliance Française de Manille (Nicanor Garcia St., formerly Reposo, Makati), and on June 28 at Lyceum of the Philippines University.

On July 10-14, there will be a free workshop at AFM with French textile experts from Institut Supérieur du Textile Alsace, on the development and use of Filipino natural resources such as nipa.

“The workshop is open to Filipino weavers, fashion enthusiasts, and the general public,” says Renoux. “It aims to help participants produce nipa-weaving for the textile industry according to international standards.”

Contact Alliance Française de Manille at 8957585 and 8957441. Add “SCAC Manille” on Facebook.

Also published online:

Bonus! Here is the schedule of the dance film screenings (click image to enlarge):

Another bonus! Here is an excerpt from the dance film "Blanche Neige" (Snow White), one of the films to be screened.

Al Gatmaitan serenades the ladies

Al Gatmaitan serenades the ladies
By Walter Ang
June 4, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tenor Al Gatmaitan used to serenade his girlfriend in college. “She liked it when I sang to her,” he says.

Audiences will get their turn to be serenaded by Gatmaitan in Philippine Opera Company’s “Ang Bagong Harana,” a musical revue featuring traditional and contemporary Filipino songs.

Gatmaitan has been singing since he was a child but never thought he could do it professionally.  “Every Sunday, I’d go with my lola to hear Mass and I’d sing my heart out in all of the songs. My brother would hit me with his elbow because I was singing too loud.

“I’d imagine myself being there in front, singing with the choir, but it was always the old ladies of the church who sang, so I thought, 'Nah, it’ll never happen.' I had to be content with my fantasies.”

Almost not
Growing up in Bulacan, Gatmaitan figured he might become a priest.  “My great-grandfather was a priest, my other grandmother is a Franciscan sister, and I have an uncle who’s also a priest.”

He realized he could “really sing” when he’d won a few singing competitions in elementary school. When college came, his father wanted him to take up engineering.

“Ahh! I hate numbers,” he says with a laugh.  “But I didn’t know what course to take up.”

Most of his friends took up pre-med at University of the Philippines and he “went with the flow” until a dorm-mate mentioned the existence of the Conservatory of Music.

“I was a probinsyano who didn’t know that there was such a school, how ignorant!” He promptly shifted courses.  “My entry into the conservatory was so amazing, as if I’d found a home. I had my first formal training as a singer.  It was heavenly!”

His father didn’t object and became one of his loyal supporters and strict critics.  “I once sang at a party without memorizing the lyrics and my amang reprimanded me.”

After graduation, he'd started performing for local theater groups but decided to pursue further studies in Italy.

Studying more
“Our first requirement at the conservatory was to sing Italian anthologies.  It was weird because I felt stupid singing songs I didn’t understand.”  He eventually “really fell in love with the language” and pursued a scholarship to earn a Diploma in Teaching Italian Language Abroad from University of Dante Aleghieri.

While there, he scored more scholarships to study at Teatro Calabria (Acting and Diction); Spazio Teatro (Actor’s Formation); and Conservatorio “Torre Franca” di Vibo Valentia (Intensive Vocal Formation Training).

He was able to train under Maria Francavilla.  “She’s a good friend of the late great tenor Luciano Pavarotti. She helped me a lot in my singing.”

“Before I left for Italy, I was doing quite well in theater in Manila but I wanted to sacrifice a bit since my studies would help me hone my craft.  One of my theater professors told me once, ‘For us artists it doesn’t matter if you eat just one piece of bread a day as long as you get to do what you have to do, which is to perform, and that’s your responsibility.’  I think my sacrifice paid off because now I’m sure how to use my instrument.”

Coming home
He’d started landing roles in Italy but was committed to returning.  “I missed home!” he laughs.  “And it’s a really different feeling when you perform for your own. Filipino audiences are more intimidating because we’re hard to please but it’s also more rewarding, more meaningful.”

Since his return, he’s performed lead roles in “Noli Me Tangere” and “Banaag at Sikat” (Tanghalang Pilipino); “Tales of the Manuvu” (Ballet Philippines); “Skin Deep” (Philippine Educational Theater Association); and “Hibik at Himagsikan nina Victoria Lactao” (Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas), among others.

He joins nine other classically trained singers in “Ang Bagong Harana,” “which was envisioned as love song to our country,” says POC artistic director Karla Gutierrez.  This restaging of the show (the show had its world premiere in 2008) is partly to celebrate this year’s Independence Day.

Conceived and directed by Floy Quintos, the show includes a traditional children’s songs suite, a kundiman suite, a tribal songs suite and a folk songs suite.  There is a bodabil suite that doubles as tribute to Sylvia La Torre (considered the Queen of Kundiman) and an OPM suite which includes classics like Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak.”

While he serenades audiences in “Ang Bagong Harana,” Gatmaitan will also be serenading a special lady.  “My mother passed away when I was five years old. Though my father remarried and my stepmother became my nanay, I grew up with my lola.  I was a lola’s boy. I had hoped she’d see me perform but she passed away before I even started. In every performance, I tell myself, ‘Lola, this is for you.’”

“Ang Bagong Harana” runs June 6-10 at Carlos Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati City.  Contact 8817168 or 0917-5272880; or Ticketworld, 8919999.

Also published online: