Friday, November 14, 2014

SWAN LAKE – Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde Notes

Dancing the dual roles of Odette and Odile – more popularly known as the White Swan and the Black Swan in the full-length classical ballet Swan Lake – always succeeds in launching  a ballerina into a state of “balletic schizophrenia”.

As the roles are polar opposites in terms of character and style, acquiring a split personality onstage is unavoidable. One needs you to be lyrical, soft, vulnerable and pliant; the other requires steely strength, attack, sensuality with a generous sprinkling of malice and mischief.
Katherina Markowskaja - Principal Dancer of the Bavarian State Ballet

Simply put, Odette needs to be innocent, a pure soul; Odile is dark and evil.  The penultimate test of a classical ballerina is going from one character to the other in a span of four acts -- and almost non-stop flapping. Yes, you need superhuman stamina to complete Swan Lake. The Black Swan Pas De Deux alone in Act 3 is one of the longest and most demanding of the classical pas de deux – with an entrada, adagio, a five-part solo variation and two codas that include those dreaded 32 fouettes.

But as ballet goes, no self-respecting company steeped in the classics can forego the challenges of staging this classical warhorse, which has been one of the world’s most favorite ballets in over a hundred years. Ballet Manila has staged the full-length Swan Lake in nine out of its current 19 seasons. At first, we had to work with Russian companies in order to make for a full cast. After all, we only started with 12 dancers, remember? But as we grew in strength and number, we began mounting this production on our own, with a few guest artists invited every now and then.

This season, four beautiful ballerinas will give life to the twin roles of Odette and Odile. And for the first time, I will be sitting this one out. Instead, I will be watching eagerly from the sidelines as BM’s newly promoted principal dancer Dawna Mangahas and company member Abigail Oliveiro debut in the role, to be partnered by their respective Seigfrieds, Elpidio Magat and Alfren Salgado. In another performance, our more seasoned senior ballerina Mylene Aggabao-Salgado will reprise the dual roles with fellow principal Rudy De Dios.

The fourth Swan Queen is our guest artist, principal ballerina of the Bavarian State Ballet Katherina Markowskaya, who dances with Maxim Chashchegorov, her regular partner in the same company. Maxim is no stranger to Ballet Manila. He has performed with yours truly as Prince Seigfried and Solor in our past productions of Swan Lake and La Bayadere.
Maxim Chashchegorov - Principal Dancer of the Bavarian State Ballet

Swan Lake in full also happens to be the acid test of a company’s corps de ballet. This production will see a bevy of 24 swans, two casts of soloists in the fiendishly technical pas de trois, and some spectacular synchronized court dancing in Acts 1 and 3 – all drilled under the ever-watchful eye of guest ballet mistress Natalia Raldugina and our very own co-artistic director and ballet master, Osias Barroso.

For as long as Ballet Manila thrives, it will embrace its classical roots and Swan Lake will always be part of our repertoire and our dancers will always be prepared to perform it in all its traditional glory. My teacher and second mother, Tatiana Udalenkova and her husband, Sergey Vikulov – both People’s Artists of Russia and masters of the Vaganova technique -- created and staged BM’s first full-length Swan Lake in 2003. They impressed it firmly upon me that a ballet company needs to be strong in the classics and to do this, it needs to be staging and dancing the classics at least twice, even thrice every season. This will provide a firm foundation for the dancers and, more importantly, keep them grounded as they are reminded of the elegance and technical proficiency required to prosper in this most difficult art form.

And for the audience, well -- who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned love story of an enchanted Swan Queen and a lonely prince who meet by the lakeside and fall in love? 

Sit back and enjoy the romance… again and again.

Ballet Manila’s 19th performance season is presented by The Manila Broadcasting Company and sponsored by Aliw Theater and Star City, along wifh ACS Manufacturing Corporation (Pride and Shield Bath Soap), First United Travel, BPI Express Credit, Island Rose, Ralph's Wines and Spirits, Krispy Kreme, Hen Lin, Papa John’s Pizza and Crunchybelly by Carlos Kitchen. For Tickets and other inquiries, please contact Ballet Manila at Tel. nos. 525-5967 or 400-0292, via e-mail at or through The website; or Ticketworld at 891-9999 or

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