When ballet goes virtual

Ballet Philippines opens 52nd season online

BECAUSE of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Ballet Philippines’ 51st season was met with the unexpected shift to showcasing and teaching ballet online last year. It was, by all accounts, a successful transition. The ballet company’s digital presence continues this year with the closing of the company’s 51st season and the opening of the 52nd

“Around this time last year, we had one goal and that was to survive and keep ballet alive,” Ballet Philippines (BP) President and CEO Kathleen Liechtenstein said at the new season’s online press launch on May 25, held via Zoom. 

At the onset of the lockdown, the BP’s Board of Trustees stepped in and introduced a virtual stage that is called BP OnStream (https://ballet.ph/).

“Since then, we’ve have turned [it] into a whole testament of the Filipino resilience as artists,” Ms. Liechtenstein said.

This digital platform has provided 52 masterclasses given by international ballet professionals with 1,617 masterclass attendees; 365 company classes were conducted with 6,847 company class attendees. The platform also showcased 31 original video productions.

BP has also utilized the digital platform for younger students and teachers with the mini-series called K12 Kalusugan focusing on exercise, and Batang BP with educational and entertainment materials. 

Ms. Liechtenstein officially turned over the 51st Season with the announcement of the last two productions of the season: Dystopian Body and Diyosa which are available to view at the BP website (https://ballet.ph/our-video-creations/). 

Dystopian Body is a performance that is concerned with a place where the body evolved despite an environment where conditions do not provide the most basic needs. Meanwhile, Diyosa is set in a time when Filipino gods, goddesses, and humans lived together in harmony. However, this harmonious relationship is destroyed due to the humans’ greed and selfishness.

The 52nd season will provide more training for the dancers through company classes and free masterclasses conducted by international ballet professionals. Aside from dance, there will be classes on acting and expression.

“The new season promises to be interesting. We are waiting for new meetings online, master classes, and lectures. We [will] add professional master classes on the skill of the actor on the system of [Konstantin] Stanislavsky, a man who invented the first dramatic theater in Russia. This system is used all over the world. There will be classes on the development of plastic expressiveness, as well as lectures from the Academy of Vaganova,” BP’s Artistic Director, Mikhail Martynyuk said of his plans for the 52nd season.

“I am confident that in the 52nd season we will have many dance projects that will be created online,” he said.

“The pandemic has allowed us to focus on classes. This leads to improvements in the dancer’s technique so that the company will be ready to take on new challenging choreography. We want to give our dancers pieces of choreography that are usually reserved for larger companies,” guest artist and choreographer Joseph Phillips said in a video. “I can see the dancers breaking their limits and doing things that they may not have thought possible.”

In June, the ballet company is launching BP Dance School schoolyear 2021-2022 where dance will continue to be taught online. There will be courses for beginners to advanced levels, and children and adults.

Classes for children include Kinder Dance (for ages four to five) and Pre-ballet (for ages six to eight).   

“In these years, the focus is developing the child’s love for dancing, music, and theater; learning the body awareness and discipline; and gently preparing the body for technique training the future,” said Rhea Bautista, Director of the BP Dance School at the same press launch. 

Classical Ballet classes at Levels 1, 2, and 3 (for ages eight to nine) teach the foundations and rudiments of ballet technique. Pre-professional Levels at Intermediate and Advance are where “students undergo rigorous and nurturing program to master their technique and artistry.”

Meanwhile, Adult Ballet is also offered for men and women (ages 15 and over), which are for those “who want to exercise or fulfill an old dream.”

Despite the lack of physical presence, Ms. Bautista said that teaching ballet online has been effective over the past year.

“While there are limits to teaching dance online, we have discovered that this strange setup where we cannot physically guide students… actually helps us focus on things that truly matter,” Ms. Bautista said, adding that students increased their understanding of their body, and technique.

“But most importantly, as a teacher, online teaching has made us better teachers,” she said. 

For more information about BP OnStream’s 52nd Season, connect to Ballet Philippines online through Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/balletphilippines), Instagram (@balletphilippines), YouTube (balletph) and the website http://www.ballet.ph. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman