Cover The core dancers of Ballet Philippines' 52nd season

Still, in lieu of live performances and productions, Ballet Philippines continues to develop its dancers with rigorous training, choreographies, and more masterclasses available on BP OnStream

2020 was a difficult year for businesses, but it was a lot more difficult for institutions and groups in the performing arts scene. With theatres closed and live performances cancelled or postponed, the global pandemic truly altered the way people consume entertainment. Yet despite the downs, many performing arts groups—including Ballet Philippines—remained resilient and found new, creative ways to bring the stage to our homes.

Read More: The State Of The Philippine Art Scene During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Through its revamped website, called BP OnStream, Ballet Philippines' previous season was not short of accomplishments. It was able to deliver 52 masterclasses from legendary superstars of the ballet world with over 1,600 virtual attendees. Meanwhile, a total of 365 company classes were conducted with almost 7,000 attendees. Out of this, 31 original video productions were made, as well as carrying the K12 Kalusugan exercise breaks for students and teachers. Through Batang BP's educational and entertaining materials, the esteemed ballet company was able to reach out to the younger audience. 

"Having adapted and integrated BP well to survive the lockdowns, closed stage, banned live shows, makes me proud of the dancers and executive staff who have demonstrated such awesome talents and fortitude," Ballet Philippines president Kathleen Liechtenstein said.

In culmination to the 51st performance season of the company, two productions had their world premiere via Ballet Philippines' Facebook page. First was Dystopian Body, created and choreographed by Joshua Serafin. It was a performance "concerned with a place where the body evolved despite an environment where conditions do not provide the most basic needs of its citizens". Shortly after, Diyosa (Goddess) premiered as well, a thought-provoking performance inspired by the Philippine pantheon.

"This harmonious relationship (between gods, goddesses, and humans) is destroyed due to the humans' greed and selfishness, and with it, the light that once shone down on the world was lost," the production's notes said. It showcased the goddess of deeper realisation, Luwada, the heroine of the story and the original creation by writers Maritess Fojas de Ocampo and Juan Jesus Davide Fojas de Ocampo. Diyosa was choreographed by Ballet Philippines' artistic director Mikhail Martynyuk.

In the recent press launch of Ballet Philippines, board of trustees member Mercedes Zobel announced the official opening of the 52nd season—sharing her happiness and excitement as the company looks forward to more world-class video productions and a fresh repertoire. According to Zobel, there would be more masterclasses from legendary ballet superstars this year. While for the BP Dance School's new school year, she shared that it has been decided to continue the classes online.

"The new season promises to be interesting," said Martynyuk, sharing what's in store for the company's next season. "We are waiting for new meetings online, master classes, lectures. We add professional master classes on the skill of the actor on the system of Stanislavsky, a man who invented the first dramatic theatre in Russia and this system enjoyed all over the world. There will be classes on the development of plastic expressiveness, as well as lectures from the Academy of Vaganova."

"I am confident that in the 52nd season we will have many dance projects that will be created online during the period of non-stop pandemic and will appear as video projects," Martynyuk added. "As well as the situation in the world to improve, and this will certainly happen, I hope and expect that Ballet Philippines will participate and will adequately present its theatre and its culture at the International Theatre Festival of Arts which will be held from December to February 2021-2022, in a warm climate, on the Black Sea Coast. A very complex and exciting season we will be having. Good luck to us Ballet Philippines, and to all of you, our dear viewers!"

Guest artist and choreographer Joseph Phillips shared also some of his insights about what the past year has taught them and how instrumental those lessons were to the company's growth. "The pandemic has allowed us to focus on classes. This leads to improvements in the dancer's technique so that the company will be ready to take on new challenging choreography. We want to give our dancers pieces of choreography that are usually reserved for larger companies," he said.

Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat-Romulo, guest of honour during the press launch, shared her excitement towards Ballet Philippines' new season. "Let us applaud the efforts of Ballet Philippines to keep art and culture alive during the pandemic," she said. "In times of sorrow, art can uplift. In times of crisis, art can unite. Now more than ever we need to find strength in unity. I’m thrilled to witness the launch of BP’s 52nd Season and I can’t wait to see what they have in store as they pay homage to Philippine culture and Mother Earth through classical and contemporary dance. We invite everyone to keep dancing with Ballet Philippines as they leap forward with renewed spirit. Bravo, Ballet Philippines and Mabuhay!"

Congresswoman Cristal Bagatsing offered an inspirational message before Ballet Philippines vice-chairman, Mann Hontiveros offered her closing remarks; after which Liechtenstein shared, “While recognising the arduous days ahead facing both individual and collective challenges brought about by the pandemic, the 52nd Season launch is a homage to Philippine culture through dance while we pay tribute to Mother Earth. As we propel further with renewed spirit, we invite you to #KeepDancing with us!”

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