April 26, 2004
BASILIO ESTEBAN S. VILLARUZ
Worldwide, social scientist now look back at the ‘ 60s, perhaps the time full merits, or for clues on what went wrong along the way into the ‘ 80s, and ‘ 90s. Those were optimistic years, more than a decade after the devastation of World War II and despite the threat of a nuclear conflict. Internationally, a fair-haired young man in John F. Kennedy led a world power and captured an image for a restless world increasingly the peopled by the youth. He and his wife Jackie were then deemed exemplary, despite the rumblings into the Vietnam War and the fight for the Civil Rights of the blacks. His fall from the assassin’s bullets in 1963 signaled the social excesses and leadership shifted back to the elderly.
More elderly men like Nikita Khrushchev, Charles de Gaulle and Mao Zedong led their own countries, although there were still newer and uncompromising young men in Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra, Nelson Mandela, and the women in Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Golda Meir.
You then heard the “rock ‘n’ roll” that peaked Elvis Presley, swung with the Beatles, reviewed Romeo and Juliet in Bernstain’s West side story and saw the end of the Beatniks. For the ears, this was to lead the into the rip-roaring Woodstock concert with artists and audiences both in drug-trips. Still Benjamin Britten wrote his more euphonious and sublime War Requiem (1962) to commemorate the restoration of the Coventry Cathedral destroyed by the German bombs. He added the poems of Wilfred Owen, with Abraham still sacrificing Isaac despite the warnings of God, to underline the man’s continued murder of his kind. Out in Washington D.C., writers like Norman Mailer and Robert Lowell led marches to the Pentagon in protest against the Vietnam War
The celestial spheres rang with successes. Lunch behind the Iron Curtain and out in the open West were the first man in space is Yuri Bugarin, followed by John Glenn, and the walk on the moon by Niel Armstrong in 1969. Stanly Kubrick warned of a nuclear holocaust in Dr. Strangelove and enchanted with the sci-fi 2001: A Space Odyssey.
For man made miracles, there were the lung heart transplant, the use of the laser light and nuclear energy. Introduced were the oral contraceptives (1955), incubator babies (1969) and the declaration that physic problems are not disease (1962). Confrontation continued, including on stage in Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade, in a book in Solzhenitzen’s A Day in the Life and the film Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf (from the Broadway stage) between husband and wife Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. For sexual liberation there was The Boys in the Band. In dance there was the rise of the mega stars in Rudolf Nureyev, after his defection in 1961 from the old Soviet Union, and in Dame Margot Fonteyn of the British Empire. They were even caught in the drug-den in San Francisco. For the eyes alone, there were the surprisingly fresh but familiar pop art of Roy Lichtenstien, Robert Rauschenberg, Jaspers Johns, Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
In the Philippines, there was this young and dynamic Ferdinand Edralin Marcos of 1965, the first to be re-elected as the president before the decade was over. He and his fair lady, later called “steel butterfly”, created a contemporized myth of Malakas at Maganda (Strong and Beautiful) — who aspired to be an Asian archipelago’s own Jack and Jackie, and still later in more European-styled royalty, symbolizing political and cultural eminence if not hegemony.
When and Who were There
Before this decade closed, the first two Philippine professional ballet companies rose to ambitiously join the rest of the world. To attend to their births, one had a famous Russian ballerina in Sulamith Masserer. The first was to distinguished contemporary of the greatest danseur noble of our century, Erik Bruhn, at the Royal Danish Ballet and London’s Metropolitan Ballet; later he founded the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
The second was sister to the legendary virtuoso, acclaimed Ballet master and People’s Artist, Asaf Messerer. Ahead by a few months, Hariraya Ballet (then cancelled Dance Company) made its debut at the Rizal Theater in 1986. After the small but much used stage at the Far Eastern University Auditorium of the ’50s, Rizal became the theater in Metro Manila where companies from London, Paris, New York and Melbourne performed. Hariraya’s debut was soon followed in July by an equal claim to professionalism by Dance Theatre Philippines on the same stage1. For the Dance Theatre’s debut, Gnatt set an international repertoire. The pieces were his ownThe Miraculous Mandarin (Bartok), Peter and the Wolf (Prokofiev), Prismatic Variations (Haydn-Brahms) with choreographer Russel Kerr, The Flower Festival at Genzano pas de deux leading to the tarantella from Napoli as finale. This was the first time August Bournonville was ever seen in the Philippines.
A strict disciplinarian and a practical showman, Gnatt also set up a lecture-demonstration that became the CORE (Cultural Out-Reach in Education) program of the company. Dance Theater brought this to schools to become it means to maintain the dancer with a meager weekly allowance, and to develop an audience for the dance even out in the far-flung provinces. Unlike Hariraya that had an initial private subsidy (then an unheard of thing in the Philippines). Dance Theatre kept its dancers by also using some of them for a weekly TV show to back up the popular singer Pilita Corrales, with choreography by Julie Borromeo, mostly in the Jazz idiom.
Borromeo was one of the three founders and officers, together with Felicitas Layag Radaic and Eddie Elejar. The company was run like a cooperative with each members voting in major decisions. The system made for internal mumblings and rumblings, but it also made sure of everyone’s commitment. It was perhaps a loose commune, popular at the time. Stellar dancer like Tina Santos (later principal dancer with Harkness and Sanfrancisco Ballets) was just a regular member with an advantageous public relations hype as a TV, stage and modeling personality. As far south as Zamboanga on tour, she was recognized as model-calendar girl. She was predecessor of today’s Lisa Macuja as the media’s personality for the classical dance.
In the Company, dancers shared Philippine ballet history in common. Borromeo and Elejar were trained by Ricardo Cassell, a distinguished American pioneer in Manila after WW II. They are the Radaic all danced for Anita Kane’s school or company at one time or another. This New Zealander raised in the Philippines toured her own group most extensively in her time. This was later duplicated by her pupil Fe Sala Villarica of Cebu in the Visayas, and then by Dance Theatre itself. Kane was a pupil of the Russian expatriate Katrina Makarova from the Russian Revolution, one of the few who helped establish ballet in the Philippines at the very beginning, together with Lubov Adameit, Kay Williams and Mara Selheim.
Elejar also had another teacher in Remedios “Totoy” de Oteyza. She was a pupil of Preobrajenksa Egorova and other noted teacher in Paris and Madrid, and of the Hungarian expatriate in Manila, Paul Szilard, who became a noted New York impresario. Elejar himself studied with Preobrajenksa, Volcart, Plucis, Taft and Bejart in Europe. He toured Spain and the rest of Europe with his scintillating partner Maribel Aboitiz, and was partner to most of the leading ballerinas in the Philippines like Santos, Borromeo, Radaic in Dance Theatre, Joji Felix Velarde, Inday Gatson Mañosa and the modern dancer Alice Reyes.
While studying in the University of Madrid, Radaic also trained with and danced for ex-Ballets Russes dancer Valentina Kaschuba and, like Elejar, the ex-Royal Danish Ballet Karen Marie Taft, and in Paris with Zenia Tripolitov. Both Radaic and Elejar also studied at the school of Marie Rambert in London. Borromeo herself studied mainly with Vlademir Dokoudovsky at Ballet Arts in New York, and also specialized in jazz and musical comedy. It was at her Dance Art Studio in Mandaluyong City where Dance Theatre was first based.
The other dancer came from various background, form Metro Manila and the provinces; some had studies abroad. Often dancing with the company after Gnatt left were the next ballet masters from New York and Los Angeles, both close colleagues of Borromeo at the Cassell and Kane school. Tony Llacer and Israel “El” Gabriel both danced in Broadway musicals and taught for Eugene Loring’s school in Los Angeles.
The longer part of Dance Theatre’s history was made possible by Radaic. Coming home from Spain, Paris and London, she established her private school at St. Theresa’s College campuses in Manila and Quezon City. Married to a Yugoslav, she raised up a daughter, Sophia, who later became a member of Dance Theatre and of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Radaic was also the eldest sister to two other Layag dancers and choreographers, Lucy and Luis, both pupils of Kane.
After a company debacle in 1969 and a year of inactivity, Radaic valiantly revived the Dance Theatre in 1971. She was able to temporarily many Dance Theatre dancers from the Reyes and Elejar company at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). She presented a new program at the new and well-appointed Meralco Theatre in Pasig City. She was also able to draw new work from the Basilio and herself, and revivals form Llacer and Elejar. After that, she forged talents in her own RAD-based school for the company, or borrowed from less active groups.
With admirable persuasiveness and perspicacity, Radaic convinced the influential journalist and chairman of the National Parks Development Committee, Teodoro F. Valencia, to initiate the Ballet at the Park Sunday series in Luneta (Rizal Park). This lasted more than 12 years. She was able to draw her brother Luis and Basilio, both formerly with Ballet Philippines at the CCP and of the first Dance Theatre, to work again with the company. Even later, raised new dancers who achieved better renown, including places in companies abroad.
Up to the time the company changed based from St. Theresa’s College (1971-1984) to the University of the Philippines (1984-1989), Dance Theatre continued to train and provide experienced dancers from the Rizal Park. In between, it had two full formally subscribe seasons at the Meralco Theatre between 1981 and 1983, running three programs per year, most of them with premieres from notable Filipino choreographer. It also periodically joined the musical season of the Puerta Real Evenings in Intramuros. Relatedly in the ’80s, it was invited with other groups (among them Hariraya) in concert programs at the CCP, when this venue started opening its doors again to group other than Ballet Philippines.
At the Fringe But Fruitful
It was in the ’70s when the Dance Theatre had a little projection at the nationally recognized center, but most active at the Rizal Park and briefly for the Ballet Federation of the Philippines-organized annual festivals and special full-evening productions (1976-1979). Aside from dancing to school and park audiences, Dance Theatre visited Britain twice (1975 and 1979). More active in the ’80s, it serve the different campuses of the University of the Philippines (U.P) throughout the island (except Mindanao). When the company had its two season at the Meralco Theatre, its dancers blossomed in technique and expressiveness enough to be coveted by Ballet Philippines. Its then pubescent ballerinas became the best company’s harvest in 15 years. To this day, Anna Villadolid and Lisa Macuja remain the top-rated ballerinas of the Philippines (together a third in Toni Lopez Gonzalez who dance with Ballet Philippines and Washington Ballet).
Aided by the RAD examination to keep her dancers on their toes, plus the regular monthly or fortnightly park and other performances, Radaic prepared her pupils thoroughly. When Macuja, Villadolid, Irene Sabas, Sophia Radaic and Mary Anne Santamaria had scholarships abroad, they immediately went into the penultimate or final year of the prestigious state school.
Radaic was also aided by at one time or another by Basilio, William Morgan and Sonia Domingo as ballet masters. All three — Radaic, her sister and brother became dance leaders in the Philippines. Before her brother Luis moved to Heidelberg and Wuppertal (with Pina Bausch) as dancer-choreographer, he worked with DanceTheatre and Ballet Philippines, creating avant-garde pieces. Basilio succeeded her as artistic director for seven years. Soon after his directorship in 1980, Basilio also started the dance degree program at the U.P. College of Music. With Radaic’s initiative, this program led to the residency of Dance Theatre in the College. During in his term, Basilio produced the majority of works for the company. Domingo was not only ballet mistress but also restager of local and international dance pieces. A pupil of and assistant to Ruth French, she became a senior lecturer at the College, now runs her own studio, Dance-Centre, Philippines, and the Philippine organizer for the Royal Academy of Dancing.
Reaping a Repertoire
After its first (international) repertoire, Dance Theatre consistently produced works by Filipino choreographers. Immediately after, it premiered an all-Filipino program with works by Borromeo, Elejar, Radaic, and Layag to all-Filipino musical compositions. Borromeo took the European influenced social dances of the Filipinos, Radaic caught the native sense of broad humor in a pas de trios, and Elejar translated a Maguindanao epic and set it to the avant-garde but ethnic-based music of Jose Maceda. Also avant-garde were Luis Layag’s visual piece and Nonon Padilla’s new music to which the former was set.
Borromeo and Radaic followed these up with two other Filipino works. Radaic’s Tanan has endured a little classic on development, like a capsulized La Fille Mal Gardee. Elejar offered a Japanese dramatic work about doomed lovers to music by Edgar Varese, entitled Gate of Hell. With in the Beginning, Tony Llacer had lyric evocation to Villa-Lobos’ music for a soprano. With La Valse, guest Australian ballerina Robin Haig created a fetching Ravel ballet.
A historic landmark was the first three-act ballet in the Philippines, Mir-i-nisa. This was based on a short story by National Artist Jose Garcia Villa, and jointly choreographed by Borromeo and Radaic to new music by Eliseo Pajaro. This was part of the inaugural season of the CCP in 1969. The company was augmented by dancers from Cebu and the folkloric Bayanihan and Folkloric Filipino companies. It made for an impressive spectacle, with the debuts of young dancers in Mary Anne Garcia and Nini Gener in the title-role, paired by the rivals in the story, Odon Sabarre and Tony Fabella. Both choreographers, with Elajar and Tina Santos, also took a stellar parts in the ballet. After that and because of some leadership problems, the company did lie low. No other invitation was forthcoming from the CCP. After 1970, the CCP’s annual ballet commissions, previously open to other groups, became exclusive to the CCP Dance Company, now Ballet Philippines3.
In 1971, Radaic reactivated the company. Launching it a new at the Meralco Theatre, she premiered another Pajaro ballet, after a short story by National Artist Nick Joaquin entitled May Day Eve. Basilio premiered his first significant work in Metro Manila (after Iloilo) with The Rebels, a first local Janacek ballet. It was based on the story the prodigal son, but made cyclic on the theme of devolved authority (from the father). By then Dance Theater could only do very occasional productions at the CCP. Among these were Radaic’s arresting piece on the humanoids in The Prey to music by Rosalina Abejo, Basilio’s exploration of the four classic elements to J.S. Bach, and Luis Layag’s Playful, witty and hip ballet to Lennon, McCartney and Rifkin, called They Come Jorkin In.
Another visit of Robin Haig in 1974 brought fresh input to the repertoire with her Pas de Quatre after Anton Dolin, and the adagio from her Triptych to Mozart. These were all lunch at the new University of the East Theatre in Manila. In 1975, Radaic brought the company to a moving festival that covered Aberdeen, London, Cardiff, and other Scottish towns and cities. The program included her Japanese-inspired ballet to music by Lucrecia Kasilag, her Igorot story-ballet Nan-Pangkat, Basilio’s now little classic Mosque Baroque to Vivaldi and the now lost Between Sky and Sea to Mahler, after to Thomas Mann’s A Death in Venice, and two short works in Fabella.
After that tour, senior dancers moved to Ballet Philippines. The company carried on at the park. But in 1978 and with the return of Irene Sabas from the Royal Ballet School in London, Dance Theatre became more active again. To his Morque Borque, Basilio added two other sections to complete Tropical Tapestry, with additional music by Samuel Barber (later replaced by a new section to Ruben Federizon, on the creation ofMalakas at Maganda) and Joaquin Rodrigo. In 1978, the company visited Hong Kong for a shared program. In 1979, Borromeo redid her 1968 Zagalas de Manila while Radaic made another comedy ballet. That year the company made another successful trip to London, and Aberdeen, visiting other Scottish performance centers. In 1980, the repertoire added a new work in Basilio’s Testament (to the third piano concerto of Bela Bartok), premiered at the Asian Arts Festival in Hong Kong.
Nineteen eighty-one was a landmark. That was the start of Dance Theatre’s two full and valiant seasons at the Meralco Theatre. Between 1981 and 1983, and between Rizal Park and the said theater, the company premiered 36 pieces. Twenty-four of these were commissioned by the company. There was no other Philippine company to have done that much in just two years’ time.
Significant among these were Limang Dipa (In Five Measures) by Fabella, to music sung, arranged or composed by Ryan Cayabyab, which became a Filipino classic for young dancers; Masks by Elejar to innovative music by Ramon Santos and based on a poem by Virginia Moreno about a girl, her lover, brother and father;Love Like the Moon, the Inconstant Moon by Fabella which is a series of three love pas de deux to Massenet’s elegiac arias or melodies, so lovely for Anna Villadolid (now ballerina with the Bavarian National Ballet) and Luther Perez; Tarantella and Tchackovsky pas de deux both from Balanchine; the winsome duet Poeme by Garry Wahl to Fibich. Others were William Morgan’s Herodias to Richard Strauss, Vermillion Scarf (an abstractedOthello quartet) by Gener Caringal to orchestrated The Beatles, Borromeo’s Jazzy Standards of Time and Radaic’s La Innamorata to chopin.
Form Bassilio, of considerable worth were Id to Debussy, taking both psychic and ethnic angles;Sweet Warfare to Stravinsky with its gamesome treatment of the contest between the sexes; Paean to Pavlova pas de quatre to Poulenc’s flute and piano sonata; Tchaikovsky Fantasy which dwelt on the abstracted triangular relationship among the composer, his wife Antonina and his patroness Von Meck4.
In 1984, Basilio stage Misa Filipina to Cayabyab’s short Mass (which Basilio first essayed for the U.P Concert Chorus’ international tour). In the religious ballet, he introduced the historic assassinations of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, where a Man-in-White (in modern bush-jacket often worn by Aquino) became a kind of national sacrifice and universal Christ-figure. From its Premiere at Puerta Real with improvised costumes, it move to the altar of the Manila Cathedral, witnessed by His Eminence Cardinal Jaime Sin and the then not-yet presidential aspirant Corazon C. Aquino. Today is still performed by the U.P Dance Company. Another enduring work from 1984 is Exultations to Nicanor Abelardo’s well-developed Sinfonietta. About changing relationships among three couples, it was inspired by Emily Dickinson on overwhelming love. This was later acquired by the Philippine Ballet Theater. After he left the directorship in 1987, Basilio still stage Fokine’s Les Sylphides for the company.
Nineteen eighty-five discovered a promising choreographer in Regina Debuque, a leading dancer in Dance Theatre. Set to Claude Bolling, her Play It As The Wind was surprisingly good from an untried choreographer. Debuque later joined Ballet Philippines but now has no professional dance association.
Nineteen eighty-eight was the year Radaic and Sonia Domingo restage Dance Theatre’s first full-evening classic in Giselle with Macuja (already a ballerina of Philippine Ballet Theatre and a former principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet) and Nonoy Foilan from Ballet Philippines as guest artist. Later, they both staged the same production for Philippine Ballet Theater as tribute to Radaic’s teacher Anita Kane who once made her essay in the title-role. In this production, Macuja was partnered by Vivencio Samblaceño.
In 1989, Dance Theatre closed a cycle with a new version of Mir-i-nisa, again between Borromeo and Radaic. As in its 1969 premiere 10 years ago, this Pajaro ballet was once more stage on the Center. It had a fresh ballerina in Mylene Saldaña who shortly became a dancer with Philippine Ballet Theater and later apprentice with Atlanta Ballet.
Appraisal of Achievements
Youthfulness and drive were characteristics of the first Dance Theatre with its very democratic spirit. In the ’60s, National Artist Nick Joaquin called them “Julie Borromeo’s Jet Set dancers”. They spawned the most creative choreographic works late in that decade. In the ’70s and ’80s with or without pays, members choreographed of what inspired them, both of native themes and of the contemporary times. Borromeo and Raidac found real fame as ballet choreographers with their Filipino works. Elejar was more internationalist despite some native tales and derivations; he used the music of the 20th century of Maceda, Verese and Santos5.
Fabella exploited the youthful members of the second and third turnovers, in his playful and witty Bach ballet and his inventive sketches of Filipino street scenes in Limang Dipa6. Memorable from Llacer was his Villa-Lobos ballet and its atmosphere of life or loves beginning, and his diverting Les Patineur to Meyerbeer. The Australian Haig gave enduring contributions with her version of the Romantic Ballet Pas de Quatre and her adagio to Mozart’s now famous Elvira Madigan theme. Both worked lasted well into Dance Theatre’s final years. With his Herodias, the Scottish Morgan worked out a dramatic ballet for mary Anne Santamaria and Sophia Radaic, but this did not go beyond one production.
Borromeo’s European-derived social dances turned into ballet in Zagalas de Manila music by Julio Nakpil endured in a second version in the ’70s; it went to England, Scotland, Hong Kong and the local rounds. Radaic’s own comedy ballets never failed to entertain and capture the Filipino broad sense of humor in Oy Akin Yan and Tanana, both to Juan Silos, Jr.. Her starkly dramatic The Prey had arresting moves and mood, while her ethnic-inspired Nan-Pangkat worked up to a striking climactic end.
Awkward as it may seem to declare, I, Basilio, contributed the most to Dance Theatre’s repertoire in my more than 10 years as dancer, choreographer, ballet master and artistic director. I was lucky to have had a good debut as choreographer in the company with my Janacek The Rebels ballet in 1971. My Mosque Baroque(in the Tropical Tapestry suite) to Vivalid was deemed a happy merger to east and west in Scotland and is still performed by other companies. Not as well appreciated is my Debussy (Three Nocturnes) ballet, which I perhaps perversely called Id, that ritualized a transformation of a novice into a pintado or painted member of a Visayan community — all in balletic style. I also enjoyed working to Carl Reinecke’s harp concerto for Boticelli-inspired ballet with its allusion to the Virgin (Mary) visited by three angels, as the Three Graces and Mercury. Pun and fun were the spirit of my own Stravinsky ballet (to Dumbarton Oaks) on a contest between the sexes inSweet Warfare.
What have endured beyond Dance Theatre are my Bartok ballet Testament that dwelt on the feeling of alienation but abstractly, and my Nicanor Abelardo Exultations; both were absorb by the Philippine Ballet Theatre. Paean to Pavlova and Misa Filipina move to the U.P. Dance Company. More than my other fully Filipino ballets (Sa Baybayon or By the Sea, Muling Pagsilang or The Rebirth: a widow taking leadership after her husband’s death, etc.), Misa had the most projection. For the company, I composed a total of 40 ballets, from solos to ensembles.
Dance Theatre’s repertoire had much scope. Aside from excerpted and complete classics, it also acquired contemporary works from Gnatt, Kerr, Hai and Morgan. It has national and international subjects and styles in the work of Filipino choreographers, several of them exploring physiological, historical, mythical-epical, fictional and pure-dance musical themes. After National Artist Leonora Orosa-Goquingco and Anita Kane, Dance Theatre pursued native themes that were later followed by Ballet Philippines and other companies. It therefore charter routes that did not end just with its own story.
Dance Theatre also raised a good number of dancers who not only led the company at hone but who also found artist legitimacy in companies in England, Germany, Belgium, Spain, United States, Canada, Russia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Most of them became principal dancer or soloist. One, Hazel Sabas (later also Ballet Philippines) became the first Filipino to be an artist director for a foreign ballet company (in Lubbock, Texas) and is now ballet with Mistress Memphis Chamber Ballet.
Dance Theater’s Place
Unfortunately, Dance Theatre was always sidelined by Ballet Philippines. Older as it was, it was never given a real place at them (1960s-1980s) only national artist subsidizer — the CCP. In 1969, Hariraya also hoped as much. But neither did get any substantial or residential privilege, except for the first two years’ ballet commissions. Thereafter that commission these commissions devolved fully and only to the Ballet Philippines, then called the Alice Reyes and Modern Dance Company, later legitimized as the CCP Dance Company.
Dance Theatre and Hariraya’s choreographers were intermittently invited to choreograph Ballet Philippines, but their works were never taken into the repertoire and were shelved after their premieres. Dance Theatre’s foreign tours were closely monitored by the Center’s then authority (who took part in the decision of the Music Promotion Foundation that was then the only institution that subsidized trips and scholarship abroad). (These assignments used to be fought over among folk dance companies, some of them now disbanded for lack of real encouragement.)
National and international projections focused on the only resident company at the Center, abetted and aided foreign embassies and foundations which sometimes sought Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos’ seal. It was only shortly before the end of the Marcos government when outside companies (again, Dance Theatre and Hariraya, with Manila Metropolis Ballet and Dance Concert Company in a joint “Festival Four” three-years annual series) were invited to perform at the Center. For the Dance Theatre and Hariraya that was 13 to 14 years after 1969 and 1970. (Festival Four ran from 1983-86.)
When the 1986 EDSA revolution came, there was a concerted move to have other artist recognized and aided by the Center. After many consultative meeting and assemblies, the CCP had to confront these voices and associations. After a final general meeting with the all artist, a special one was still called just for the dance sector. Particularly, this was concerned by the ballet groups which urged for either no single residency or for plural residency at the CCP. Mainly the Festival Four group was called. At the start, the CCP declared that no help was forthcoming except to maintain the Ballet Philippines. But after a walk-out of three leaders, the Center’s newly-installed authorities relented and promised to provide a partial subsidy and seasonal residency, providedall the groups merge as one (as against the maintained permanent and unqualified residency of the Ballet Philippines and its School ). One member did not capitulate until after one year. That agreement made inevitable the consequent dissolution of the most active companies from the ’60s and ’70s.
Dance Theatre continued to plod on. In the same year Philippine Ballet Theater was formed (1987), Basilio resigned his directorship in Dance Theatre. A year before the company’s, own hold and little subsidy from the National Park Development Committee was cut off under the Aquino admistration–after more than 12 years of monthly or forthrightly performances at the Rizal Park. For a while until 1989, it continued its residency at U.P. with its little maintenance, again under the Radaic’s artistic and managerial direction.
To mark its 21st year, it restage its Mir-i-sina anew, still by Borromeo and Radaic. It wasn’t good as the 1969 version, but to saw the birth of a promising ballerina, Mylene Saldaña. Guest from the newly formed Ballet Theatre, like Osias Barroso (ex-concert Dance Concert Company and now of Ballet Manila, Melanie Motus (ex-Hariraya Ballet), Noreen Ostrea (ex-Manila Metropolis Ballet and now of Memphis Chambers Ballet) and Katrina Santos (ex-Dance Theatre and now of Ballet Philippines). Some time after that, Radaic gradually dissolve the company.
Dance Theatre 21-year history wasn’t exactly as great as other ballet movements abroad, for example 20 year Ballet’s Russel. But its kind of artistic fare, limited by no consistent sponsorship except for intermittent but ever-valued help especially from Victor Puyat and Cesar Macuja, was more less or patterned after a Diaghilevian vigor. Having work with dancers as Alexandra Danilova, Mocelyn Larkin, Mia Slavenska, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, Frederic Franklin, Michael Maule, Roman Jasinsky, Leon Danielian, most of Dance Theatre’s leaders came after the influence of teacher who were conscious of such classical and contemporary traditions. Still younger members studied at the Royal Ballet School in London, heir to the Petipa and Diaghilev heritage.
They also followed up the earlier pioneering work in the Filipina idiom- like much the Americana of Eugene Loring, Agnes de Mille and Lew Christensen, or the English strain in de Valois, Tudor, Ashton and Rambert — of Adameit, Kane and Orosa-Gquingco. Unfortunately their works were not always viewed at the priced Center, nor did their dancers get as much national attention until they moved to Ballet Philippines or company abroad.
The over-centralization of artistic patronage did not exactly reduced the creative output of dance groups outside the center that time. But this sideline their activities and foreign tours were often far from their reach. Foreign embassies and cultural assistance bodies abetted this policy. Moreover, travel clearance from the central office of Malacañang Palace was still required and arduously obtained (many stories of “lost” papers) during the martial law years. Moreover, the attractions at the Centers also drained Dance Theatre its own talents, although that also implied acknowledgement of the companies artistic capability.
Looking at the situation mainly from the ’70s and the ’80s, that was an unjust and inequitable time. The end of the ’80s opened up the cultural policy to accommodate more groups, but at the start there were conditions that spelled death knell of the above mentioned non-Center groups. Out of their ashes Philippine Theatre rose, but it is not the same kind. Dance Theatre and the other had their own credible repertoire which inevitably got lost, unless absorbed by Ballet Theatre or other groups. Their loss reflects of the unfair situation up to the late ’80s. Those two decade of work should not lie easy on the country’s cultural conscience. But those were two decade to learn from in order to be more fair to the future dance artist outside of the most favored establishments. With the institution of the law on local autonomy, authority and finances had devolved to the province and municipalities. Should this apply to the cultural empowerment , the arts would also flourish in the regions, enabled to safeguard their own resources and talents. The institution of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) should work help work this out widely and expeditiously.
But the creativity of Dance Theatre and other non-CCP group still witnessed in today’s affairs, like the dancing of such artist like Macuja and Barroso, perhaps the most accomplished ballet artist in the Philippine today, and in the other leadership and creative works done by former Dance Theatre dancer and choreographers, some felt not only in Metro Manila but also in the provinces and abroad; Barcelona, Munich, Lubbock (Texas), Memphis, Wellington, Hong Kong and, for a time, in St. Petersburg.
From Paris to St. Petersburg, London, New York, to the Philippines, the ballet has become an authentic artistic from of expression for the Filipinos. But artist should not rest easy on their success, because their tradition – based art is ever threatened in much commercialized and politically-motivated world today.
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Sy, Elsie. “Dance Theatre Philippines — A Hit in Scotland And Britain”, MOD Sept. 12, 1975 pp.48-49
Teonorio, Vyvyan. “Philippine Dance” in The 5th festival in Asian Arts. Hong Kong: Urban Council, 1980. pp. 172-177
Villaruz, Basilio Esteban. “Crystallizing a Dance Company” in Celebration: Crystal Concerto souvenirs program, Apr. 9-10, 1983
_________. “In-Counter: Dance Theatre Philippines and Hariraya Dance Company” Philippine Cultur Arts, Vol. II (Holy Week, 1971), pp. 8-9, 12-13, 19, 37
_________. ” A Historical Note: Salvaged Dances” in 18th Anniversary Concert– A Tribute to Tita Radaic souvenir program, July 18, 1986
_________. “Into the Cherished China Year” in 20th Anniversary Celebration: Giselle souvenir program, Jan. 9-10, 1988
1 Rizal Theatre’s demolition and the demise of Dance Theatre of late symbolized passing of an age of Philippine Dance. The Theatre was a classic of its time, designed by Juan Nakpil. In 1986, Dance Theatre celebrated its 18th anniversary on the very same stage in a tribute to Felecitas Layad Radaic hosted by former Dance Theatre ballerina Tina Santos; both were original members of the company.
2 Llacer now teaches in Singapore, while Gabriel in Irvine, California, and was for a time ballet master of the Baltdor Company in Tel Aviv.
3 In 1970, the CCP Dance Company, then known as the Alice Reyes and Modern Dance Company, shared a twinbill for that year’s commissions with Hariraya Ballet. After that Hariraya also had no other opportunity. In fact Ballet Philippines became sole resident dance company.
4 May be worth mentioning are Basilio’s Crystal Concerto and a Canto to Canaletto to Mozart, making the 15th anniversary of the company, and Salutatiions tot Schubert which paid tribute to his mentors, all Philippine ballet pioneers: Leonor Orosa-Goquingco, Rosalia Merino Santos, Remedios de Oteyza and Elsie Uytiepo Torrejon. Outside of the subscribed season, he stage much, including A chair, a 20-minute solo for Macuja to Schubert, Devine Anthology to religious song from around the world, etc.. Periodically he stage numbers just to give breaks to the young dancers on the Rizal Park stage.
5 Elejar’s ballet to Maceda was rework more lengthily intro Juru Pakal for Ballet Philippines in 1971. His Santos Ballet was later absorbed by Philippine Ballet Theatre.
6 Fabella realized himself more fully as dancer (ad company manager) in Ballet Philippines, and as director-choreographer of Manila Metropolis Ballet which he shared with Elejar. He is the most Balanchinian in intuition and invention among Filipino choreographers, but unfortunately he lost his most accessible instruments by way of these two companies.