These days, teaching valuable lessons on life, family, love, forgiveness, and kindness among the younger generation becomes even more impactful when accompanied by powerful visual representation.
This is the intention of Gerardo Francisco Jr. as he restages his award-winning Ibong Adarna on August 19 and 20, 2023 at the Aliw Theater to conclude Ballet Manila’s 25th performance season.
“Today’s generation is exposed to so many different cultures and there may be tendencies for lines to blur and forget one’s core identity,” he says. Ballet Manila’s Ibong Adarna, he hopes, will remind the younger generation about who they are as Filipinos, and the values that our culture considers most important.
This Filipino literary classic centers around a mythical bird whose magical voice can heal illnesses. In the story, an ailing King prompted his three sons to set out on a dangerous quest to find the elusive magical bird that can cure their beloved father. As the story unfolds, the two elder princes with evil intentions against their youngest brother turned into stone, while their pure-hearted brother brings home the Adarna bird. In the end, the victorious prince wholeheartedly forgave his erring siblings.
Francisco Jr. believes that the story of Ibong Adarna can help today’s younger generation rediscover Filipino values of kindness and love of family. “It is important that we tell this story to preserve our culture. If we don’t share this, this story will just die,” he emphasizes. “I am grateful that this story is still a reading requirement for first-year high school students because if no one will tell the story, then who will? It will just be forgotten and buried in the past.”
Ballet Manila’s restaging of Ibong Adarna has received numerous citations since it premiered in 2017. Thus, every time the performance is restaged, Francisco says he is challenged to make it even more magnificent than the last one. To the dancers, he reminds them to give their 100% by dancing from the heart. “Don’t practice just because you want to get it right, “he tells them, “but instead, you practice until you can’t get it wrong. Just think that we only have one show, once you fail onstage, you can never go back – you can’t correct it anymore. “
But deep inside, the veteran danseur and choreographer feels as much pressure, or even more, than the ballet dancers. “I need to stand by my standards most especially to those who were not able to watch it during our world premiere. I hope to exceed their expectations for this show.”
The dancing, as audiences know of Ballet Manila’s standards, will undoubtedly be outstanding and will definitely be the centerpiece of the whole production. This 2023 staging is the touring version that was performed at the Karmiel Festival in Israel in 2018 and planned for a national tour in the country in 2020. Because of adjustments brought about by the pandemic – Ballet Manila has fewer dancers now – some will be doing double or triple roles. The set also transitions to a digital one; to maximize the state of the art LED screen in Aliw Theater. “But the story remains the same. The story itself is beautiful – it’s timeless where everyone can relate, young or old.”, Francisco Jr. says.
By the end of the show, both Francisco and Lisa Macuja Elizalde, Ballet Manila’s founder, artistic director, and chief executive officer, share the same sentiments. “I want the audience to come out of the theater having learned new lessons and excited enough to share the beautiful story of Ibong Adarna with their peers,” adds Macuja-Elizalde.
Ballet Manila’s re-telling of this Filipino classic, as choreographed by Francisco was awarded Best Outstanding Production at the 2017 30th Aliw Awards; and at the Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards which honored it with multiple recognitions, including Outstanding Modern Dance Production, Outstanding Choreography for Modern Dance, Outstanding Ensemble for Modern Dance, Outstanding Music Composition, Outstanding Male Lead, and Outstanding Female Lead.
Ibong Adarna will be staged at Aliw Theater, Pasay City on August 19 at 8:00 p.m. and August 20 at 5:00 p.m.. For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. To know more about Ballet Manila and its shows, visit www.balletmanila.com.ph