Ballet Manila sets sail on a pirate adventure with ‘Le Corsaire’

The Pasha and his Odalisques are among the many colorful
characters in ‘Le Corsaire.’ Handout

MANILA — For its 23rd performance season, Ballet Manila brings
back one of the world’s most breathtaking ballet productions,
“Le Corsaire,” which goes onstage for one weekend only – at 6
p.m. on Saturday, October 20, and at 3 p.m. on October 21 at
the Aliw Theater.

“Amongst ourselves, we often joke about ‘Le Corsaire’ being a
‘full-length pirate adventure on pointes’ simply because that
is exactly what it is — the thrilling escapade of a dashing
pirate whose romance with a beautiful harem girl unfolds amidst
a backdrop of sword fights and shipwrecks, abduction and
conspiracy, passion and betrayal — all highlighted by an
impressive array of some the most dazzling choreographic
centerpieces ever assembled in a full-length production,” BM
artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde says.

Macuja-Elizalde reveals that it has been five years since
Ballet Manila last staged “Le Corsaire” because of its highly
challenging production and artistic demands. 

But they also found it to be the perfect ballet to showcase two
prize-winning jewels in the BM crown: Katherine Barkman, who
recently won back-to-back silver medals from two of the world’s
most prestigious international ballet competitions, the USA IBC
in Jackson and the Varna IBC in Bulgaria; and Nicole Barroso,
who made it to the finals of the USA IBC and came home with a
Jury Encouragement Award.

Katherine Barkman debuts as Medora partnered by Joseph
Phillips as the pirate Conrad. Handout

The opening gala of “Le Corsaire” will also serve as the
farewell performance Barkman, who has recently signed up with
The Washington Ballet, following a personal invitation from the
company’s artistic director, Julie Kent. 

The 21-year-old American ballerina moved to the Philippines in
2015 to join Ballet Manila as the company’s youngest principal
dancer. Under the guidance of Macuja-Elizalde herself, Barkman
has since performed every major female role in the classical
ballet repertoire, closing the loop with her upcoming debut as

“We will miss her terribly but we know that she has made the
right decision, moving forward and opening herself to new
adventures that can only enrich and embolden her as a dancer
and as a person. We are happy to have been part of her artistic
journey and would like to send her off with our very best
wishes. We are extremely proud of her. She will always be part
of the BM family,”
Macuja-Elizalde says.

For the Saturday gala, Barkman will be dancing with guest
principal Joseph Phillips as Conrad. Newly promoted soloist
Barroso makes her debut as Gulnara, joining the all-star cast
that includes BM principals Gerard Francisco as Ali, Elpidio
Magat as Lankadem, and Romeo Peralta as Birbanto.

Gerardo Franciso reprises his award-winning role as Ali.

Meanwhile, an equally stellar line-up awaits Sunday matinee
audiences, led by principals Abigail Oliveiro (Medora) and Rudy
de Dios (Lankadem), with soloists Mark Sumaylo (Conrad), Pia
Dames (Gulnara), and Rudolph Capongcol (Ali), and company
artists Godwin Merano (Birbanto) and John de Dios (Ali).

“One unique attribute of ‘Le Corsaire’ is that allows many more
dancers to shine and to familiarize themselves with this
incredibly difficult, yet exhilarating two-hour spectacle,”
explains Macuja-Elizalde. 

“While the storyline is pretty straightforward, it is actually
a highly demanding ballet where the principal characters are
challenged to display pyrotechnics at every turn. They share
the limelight in several grand pas de deux, pas de trois, and
extremely demanding solo variations. Moreover, it’s one of the
few male-centered ballets that provide danseurs ample
opportunity to show off their technique and strength in fierce
choreographic duels onstage!”

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