A production for a new generation

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ALICE REYES Dance Philippines’
corps de ballet dancing Carmina Burana.

NATIONAL Artist for Dance Alice Reyes encourages the public to first listen to the music of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana before they attend a performance ofAlice Reyes Dance Philippines’ (ARDP) latest staging of its dance interpretation of the piece.

“People should listen to the music before they come to watch, so they know just how grand it is. Then they can also see the differences of the live piece from the recorded music,” said Ms. Reyes, whose passion for Carmina Burana has never wavered even after staging it multiple times over the decades.

A cantata, the piece is inspired by medieval poetry set to a majestic score. It tells of the joys of life, drinking, and love, through exuberant, erotic, and pagan movements.

One of ARDP’s iconic pieces — most recently staged in 2022 — this version is set to be the largest. It will feature live music by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) and the Philippine Madrigal Singers (Madz), with guest soprano soloist Lara Maigue. The production will also feature the Kilyawan Boys Choir and dance trainees from the University of the East’s Silanganan Dance Troupe.

At open rehearsals held in the first week of June at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila, Ms. Reyes told BusinessWorld that she simply can’t get enough of the piece. Even while watching the dancers prepare for a run-through, she waxed poetic about the brilliance of Carmina Burana.

“We’ve been working in a small studio downstairs, so when you sit back and see the dancers up there [on the main stage] finally pouring their heart out to the audience, it moves you. It’s quite an experience. You see the kinesthetic energy of the dancers, how technical the dance is. So you can imagine how amazing it will be with full costumes, lights, and the set, the magic of theater,” she said.

The sets and costumes for Carmina Burana were designed by the late National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal, which makes the production a collaboration between two National Artists. It also explains in part why it takes so much effort to put up, with only seven stagings so far since it first premiered in 1975.

“Another reason I tell people to catch it is because it’s so hard to do. It’s hard to get the company and the sets prepared, plus the PPO and the Madz and the Kilyawan altogether. So don’t waste it,” said Ms. Reyes.

For younger audiences who have not encountered it before, Carmina Burana is a “magnificent musical piece to start with,” she added. “When translated into dance, it provides the story and atmosphere of the period that the composer was writing about.”

“It’s not a boring thing. It will move them.”

A LOT ON THEIR PLATEAlso featured in the dance program are Norman Walker’s “Summer’s End,” August Damian’s “After Whom,” and Ms. Reyes’ “Dugso.”

The latter work is particularly interesting, inspired by rituals performed by the tribes of Bukidnon, Mindanao, and set to National Artist for Music, Dr. Ramon Santos’ choral piece “Ding Ding nga Diyawan.” First performed in 1972, the groundbreaking collaboration was last staged in 1990. This makes the upcoming performance the first for a new generation of audiences.

“‘Dugso’ was so long ago. What’s difficult about it is that it wasn’t archived properly, so the video recordings were unclear. I had to fill in gaps in the choreography with the help of Dr. Santos who did the music,” Ms. Reyes said.

While the open rehearsals that day were mainly for ARDP’s Independence Day performance at Manila’s Rizal Park — which was held on June 10, ahead of the actual celebration — they also practiced excerpts from Carmina Burana and “Dugso.”

“They actually have a lot on their plate,” said Ms. Reyes of her dancers for the free Independence Day production. “The dancers have 12 numbers in all for this Independence Day piece, and they have to do it non-stop. They go off to change into costumes and are back in. It’s a lot.”

This is where her love and pride for the ARDP company shines through. Amid rehearsals, she steps in to ensure the dancers snack on hard-boiled eggs and drink Berocca multivitamins to keep energized. Only then are they able to perform to the best of their abilities.

“When it comes to dance, you get to see through their movements what the music is all about, whether it’s Carl Orff’s cantata or Ramon Santos’ choral piece,” she said.

“Even to me, I still go ‘wow’ when I see my brilliant dancers onstage.”

Carmina Burana will be staged on June 14 at 7:30 p.m. and on June 15 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit, Makati. Tickets are available via TicketWorld and the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Box Office. — Brontë H. Lacsamana