#TheaterPH - Filipino values take flight in Ballet Manila’s Ibong Adarna

These days, imparting important lessons to the younger generation about life, family, love, forgiveness, and kindness has an even greater impact when it is supported with strong visual depiction. 

This is the goal of Gerardo Francisco Jr., who will culminate Ballet Manila's 25th performance season on August 19 and 20, 2023, at the Aliw Theater with a remount of his acclaimed Ibong Adarna. 

“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 consider 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.”

Since it debuted in 2017, Ballet Manila's revival of Ibong Adarna has won multiple awards. Francisco claims that he is therefore challenged to create each revival of the performance even more magnificent than the previous 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 will likely be exceptional and the highlight of the entire presentation, as audiences are familiar with Ballet Manila's standards for dancing.  The touring version of this production from 2023 was shown at the Karmiel Festival in Israel in 2018 and was scheduled for a nationwide tour of that nation in 2020.  Ballet Manila has fewer dancers presently due to the pandemic's effects, hence some performers will be doing double or triple parts.  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 performance, Lisa Macuja Elizalde, the founder, artistic director, and CEO of Ballet Manila, and Francisco express the same emotions. Macuja-Elizalde continues, "I want the audience to leave the theater having learnt new things and enthusiastic enough to tell their friends about the lovely story of Ibong Adarna. 

In addition to winning Best Outstanding Production at the 2017 30th Aliw Awards, Ballet Manila's retelling of this Filipino classic, choreographed by Francisco, also won multiple awards at the 2017 Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards, 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 
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