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It has been three years of challenges for the dancers of Ballet Manila. After the company’s home base, the Aliw Theater, burned down along with much of the Star City Complex in October 2019, they had to close the company’s 24th performance season the following year at an unfamiliar venue — the Samsung Hall in SM Aura in Taguig City. Another challenge arrived soon after when all live events were canceled due to lockdowns imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
But now the theater has been rebuilt and the dancers are again on pointe.
The Aliw Theater reopened on Aug. 10 and Ballet Manila is returning for special performances in 2022. Its 25th performance season will be held in 2023.
NOT JUST A THEATER ANYMORE
The newly rebuilt Aliw Theater Complex now has three areas: the Elizalde Hall, the Custom Space, and the Aliw Theater.
Ballet Manila CEO and Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde said that the newly renovated theater is aimed to be a “harder working complex.”
“If you need to warm up in a studio upstairs and then bring your cast to the stage while the technicals are being set, that is possible. If you need to have a conference and then a presentation afterwards, and then lunch or dinner afterwards. That is all possible. Everything is possible within this harder working complex. It’s not just a theater anymore,” Ms. Macuja-Elizalde said during the launch of the complex.
The 370-square meter Elizalde Hall has a lobby and two meeting rooms which can be used for events, business meetings, and conferences. Meanwhile, the 500-square meter high-ceilinged Custom Space can be divided into four separate event halls.
The seating capacity of the renovated Aliw Theater has been reduced to 1,275 from its previous 2,300 seats. Seat rows A to E are collapsible to accommodate space for an orchestra pit. It is also equipped with new lights, a top-of-the-line sound system, and a Negative Air System to deal with the new health needs. The theater’s stage floor will soon be renovated and replaced.
“Our standard when we were designing everything was that we wanted people who would book here to not have to bring in additional equipment. We wanted people to be able to slide in and do their rehearsals and performances,” Ballet Manila chief of staff Terry Abad said.
BALLET MANILA DANCES AGAIN
With the reopening of the theater, Ballet Manila is set to mount special shows in 2022 and launch its 25th performance season in 2023. The official reopening of the theater will be marked by RISE!, a double bill featuring the opera La Traviata and the concert Ballets & Ballads on Oct. 7, 8 p.m., and Oct. 9, 5 p.m.
RISE! will feature classical ballet, opera singers, pop singers, and a full orchestra. Gerard Salonga is the show’s musical director and conductor, and internationallyrenowned baritone Andrew Fernando will be featured in La Traviata.
It will be followed by the “Holiday Cheer” series with Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s Cinderella on Dec. 25 to 30. All shows will be at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, in 2023, the 25th performance season, “Of Hope and Homecoming,” will feature Martin Lawrance’s Romeo & Juliet (Feb. 18 and 19), Don Quixote (May 27 and 28), and Gerardo Francisco’s Ibong Adarna (Aug. 19 and 20).
“It is much more difficult now, because we lost so many dancers [over the past three years],” Ms. Macuja-Elizalde said. “We used to be 50 to 60 strong in the company, able to do full length classical ballets.” Ballet Manila currently has 20 dancers.
“We are combining our efforts with the Lisa Macuja School of Ballet to enter into the stage as well, and work with our more advanced students and our children in the school to put up the classical ballet productions,” she said.
Despite the changes and challenges, Ms. Macuja-Elizalde is optimistic that “the phoenix is rising” and is “leaner, meaner, better and ready to adapt to any kind of change that the wind shall bring.”
“I think, in other words, if we survived the last three years from October 2019 with that fire, [and] all throughout the pandemic, we survived. We’re here. I think it can only get better from here. The best is still to come,” she said.