MANILA, Philippines – In most European cities with large Roman Catholic populations, a mardi gras or a carnival is elaborately staged before the Lenten season.
Perhaps the festivals of Sinulog in Cebu City and Dinagyang in Iloilo City are the closest parallels of the European mardi gras or carnival. But these events are held in the southern Philippines.
In Metro Manila, however, there seems to be no comparable mardi gras or carnival held before the passion of Jesus Christ is commemorated.
This may have prompted Spain’s ambassador to Manila, Jorge Domecq, to metaphorically describe the 4-night performance by the Ballet David Campos of Barcelona here as the “the mardi gras in Manila before the coming Semana Santa (Holy Week) begins.”
“Ballet is an art form where both the Philippines and Spain excel, which combines music and dance. We are happy to bring Ballet David Campos of Barcelona here because it is a cultural endeavor between the Philippines and Spain,” Domecq said.
The maiden performance by the Ballet David Campos at the Cultural Center of the Philippines begins Thursday, March 22, until Sunday, March 25. It also marks the launching of the Philippine-Spanish Dance Connection.
“The Philippine-Spanish Dance Connection is a project which is a golden opportunity to showcase to the Filipino and Spanish people the infinite ways and links to promote and support greater interaction among cultures,” Jose Maria Fons, senior cultural officer of the Instituto Cervantes de Manila, said in an interview.
Fons said David Campos, director and choreographer of the David Campos of Barcelona ballet company, his wife Irene Sabas Campos, the ballet company’s associate artistic director and ballet mistress, and their Barcelona-born daughter Karina Campos, also a ballet dancer, have been spending their annual vacation in the Philippines.
“This is the first time that the family of David Campos is in Manila to perform. They will be joined by Philippine-born ballet dancers but who are now based in Spain namely, Elline Damian, Aileen Gallinera, and Eduardo Espejo in the performances,” Fons said.
In a separate interview, Irene Sabas Campos said, “Among the objectives of the Philippine-Spanish Dance Connection project are to further uplift the Filipino spirit and to portray in the global stage the creative side of the Filipino people through dance.”
“The vivid image of Filipinos living all over Europe is that we are a hardworking people. Very hardworking. But for me, it is also important to show to the world that Filipinos are not only hardworking, but that we are also very artistic,” she said. “We need to project more in the international stage our artistry in music and dance.”
In 1980, Irene went around Europe to audition for various ballet companies and was accepted by the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium. She first met her future husband at a Belgian train station.
David said he was requested by the Royal Ballet of Flanders ballet master to fetch “a Filipina ballet dancer at a train station.” David told reporters that she instantly found Irene “romantic” when he met her at the train station. “The meeting at the train station started a series of events.”
In 1987, David and Irene decided to quit their posts at the Royal Ballet of Flanders to settle down in David’s birthplace, Barcelona, where they set up the Escola Ballet David Campos to train young dancers to specialize in classical dance.
The Ballet David Campos was granted residency in 2004 by the Teatre Sagarra de Santa Coloma de Gramenet, one of the most modern and best-equipped theaters in Barcelona. The residency grant enabled the couple to form a legitimate ballet company which can host excellent dancers, mount elaborate productions, and further propagate dance in Spain.
David said his versions of “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Giselle” intertwines contemporary and innovative dance styles with the disciplined artistry of classical ballet techniques. “Our 17 members who are here for the performances will showcase strong Filipino-Spanish artistic blend.”
“I always thought that the often heavy set staging always used for The Sleeping Beauty could be reviewed, revised, and updated for the mysterious part of the story. Sleeping and dreaming as it is can be much freer in interpretation. The result is what I wish to present now for my Sleeping Beauty seen from another perspective, where reality and fiction can merge to show you a story within a story,” David told reporters.
David’s modern take on “The Sleeping Beauty” narrates what happens to Princess Aurora after a spell was cast of her and she falls asleep. David’s version of “The Sleeping Beauty” features an almost cinematographic approach to the set design of the fairy tale.
For his production of “Giselle,” the young peasant girl is raped and killed to show “man’s frivolity, superiority, and power over women, and the journey between revenge and terror and the final forgiveness and love.”
(The Sleeping Beauty runs March 22-23 at 8 p.m. while Giselle is shown March 24 at 8 p.m. and March 25 at 6 p.m. All shows at the CCP Main Theater. For details, please visit: www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 832-3704 or 891-9999. Photos in this article are courtesy of Instituto Cervantes de Manila.)
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