By Precious Lee Cundangan
Manila, Philippines, February 14, 2013 -- Following the highly successful run of pop ballet "Rama Hari," Ballet Philippines (BP) opens its newest season with its own take on William Shakespeare's enchanting comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Theatre this weekend, February 15 (3 p.m., 8 p.m.) and February 16 to 17 (2 p.m., 6 p.m.)
By pulling out all the stops, BP has invited Carlo Pacis, Hong Kong-based award-winning Filipino choreographer, to choreograph the presentation; and with Pacis also at the helm, this production is breaking new grounds.
For the first time in the show's history, a dancer portrays the flower "love-in-idleness"; and for the first time in BP's history, "Midsummer" is presented in full-length version.
Although this particular production makes use of Felix Mendelssohn's famous 40-minute score from the play, Pacis has opted to include additional music, also by Mendelssohn.
Pacis admitted at a press conference that translating the play into ballet has imposed a big problem as there were no spoken lines. While he did not want to focus on the heaviness of the play, neither he wanted to present the dance with any slap-stick movement.
The director/choreographer has also deleted some of the characters, i.e. Philostrate, the Master of Revels at Theseus's court, which Pacis finds unnecessary in this version.
In order for the dancers to deliver more precise interpretations of their roles, sans spoken lines, Pacis sat down with every single dancer to discuss how each one could play a role. By way of this creative exchange, he provided the dancers with very specific, strong character motivations. Consider for example for the role of Helena, one of the young lovers in "Midsummer," Pacis specifically told the dancer playing Helena to interpret the role like a desperate lover; for Puck, a fairy, Pacis instructed the dancer playing Puck to play the role "mature, yet fun, mischievous."
In addition, Pacis wanted to show contrast between the fairies and the human characters. He did not want his fairies to look too Tinkerbell-ish, so he made his fairies move more sensually.
"... How the movement is done comes from how deep we perceive movement. For the humans in this production, I focused on the idea that as human beings we have beliefs, upbringing, and control as opposed to the fairies that are often governed by desires, immediate fulfillment, and do not have any morals," he said.
For costumes, Pacis and designer Eric Pineda did not want to confine the audience in any particular time or place because both wanted their viewers to deduce what would be happening on stage. Male dancers would be wearing ¾ sleeve jackets to emphasize the romantic side of the young lovers. The fairies, on the other hand, would be wearing costumes with asymmetrical and abstract designs.
The movements in this production could be best described as a combination of both traditional and modern ballet: traditional ballet is often still, and whose lines and body movements are always graceful and straight; but for this version, Pacis allows his dancers to explore their characters, and some movements are more frenetic than those of traditional ballet.
Just like all Shakespeare productions, "Midsummer" underwent several interpretations. Among the most unforgettable were Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's production featuring elaborate sets, whose forest setting looks real; Harley Granville Barker's production featuring stylized sceneries with black and silver set pieces and a spangled black backdrop; and Peter Brook's production at Stratford-upon-Avon featuring acrobats and jugglers, and clowns and fairies on the flying trapeze.
In most of Shakespeare's comedies, the story has three sub-stories: "Midsummer," one of Shakespeare's most popular works, tells the story of (1) the human lovers, (2) the fairies, and (3) the mechanicals (artisans) in five acts. In BP's production, "Midsummer" runs in two acts only.
For tickets to BP's ballet adaptation of William Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream," call TicketWorld at (632)891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph.