New dance company to go toe-to-toe with Ballet Philippines

NATIONAL Artist for Dance Alice G. Reyes — PHOTO BY KAI HUANG/BUSINESSWORLD

By Sam L. Marcelo, Multimedia Editor

NATIONAL Artist for Dance Alice G. Reyes has made her next move: she has formed another dance company to go toe-to-toe with Ballet Philippines (BP), the 53-year-old company that she founded and fell out of love with after multiple contretemps between her and the BP board — each one worse than the last, the most recent being a copyright claim on one of her pieces by BP. (See: “Copyright fight: Ballet Philippines risks losing ‘treasure trove’ of dance”)

Alice Reyes Dance Philippines, Inc. (ARDP) has broad ambitions, among them to “establish and maintain an artistic company or companies for the performance of dance: folk, ballet, classical, modern, as any forms, variations or development thereof; … [and] to serve as the venue for the dance development apperception programs and projects of the Cultural Center of the Philippines,” according to the company’s Articles of Incorporation filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 17.

Sitting on ARDP’s board are: Christopher R. Upton, president of John Robert Powers International and Ms. Reyes’s son; Liliane “Tats” Rejante Manahan, a restoration expert who also chairs the Heritage Conservation Society; Gregory H. Banzon, chief operating officer and executive vice-president of Century Pacific Food, Inc.; Ricky Toledo, co-founder of design and fashion boutique AC+632; and Cristina S. Keppler, an arts-and-culture patron.

Ms. Reyes declined to be interviewed for this story.

PHOENIX RISING?It is unclear whether ARDP will be a resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), although its informal predecessor — a group of dancers who were retrenched over the pandemic and subsequently mentored by Ms. Reyes — has already been working with the CCP to mount shows and conduct regional workshops through the CCP’s Professional Artists Support Program (PASP), an initiative formerly known as Professional Dance Support Program backed by CCP Chair Margarita “Margie” Moran Floirendo and CCP President and National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chair Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso.

The CCP has four resident dance companies:

BP, founded in 1969 by Ms. Reyes “to successfully synthesize diverse dance and movement forms” (its status as a resident company is on hold until the legal issue between the board and CCP is resolved);

Bayanihan Dance Company, founded in 1956 “to research on and preserve indigenous Philippine art forms in music, dance, costumes and folklore”;

• The Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, founded in 1972 for the “preservation and perpetuation Philippine traditions with special emphasis on music and dance”;

• And, Philippine Ballet Theatre (PBT), founded in 1987 “as the pre-eminent classical ballet company in the Philippines.”

“To be a resident company of the CCP means that you are the flagship company in relation to excellence in artistic production. You are the flagship in terms of developing original Filipino work in your area,” said Chris B. Millado, then CCP artistic director and vice-president, in a previous interview with BusinessWorld.

With BP’s relationship with the CCP on shaky ground, its alumni thinking twice about having its new Russian artistic director stage their masterpieces, and its founder calling it “Ballet Russe” in scathing rebuke, the question is: how long can the company hold on to its reputation as the “leading professional classical and contemporary dance institution.”

And while ARDP is “new,” it will be composed of familiar faces. Ronelson P. Yadao, who was passed over as artistic director at BP despite Ms. Reyes’ recommendation, will serve in that capacity at ARDP. Forming the corps are dancers who used to be with BP, PBT, Ballet Manila, and Steps Dance Center. And behind all of them: Ms. Reyes herself.

ARDP will make its grand entrance with Pulso Filipinas, with regional dance students performing with the artists of the CCP PASP, which is slated for late September at the CCP’s Main Theater; and Alay nina Alice at Agnes (tentatively scheduled this September), a program that celebrates the work of two National Artists for Dance: Ms. Reyes and Agnes D. Locsin, a pioneering neoethnic choreographer who was conferred the title this June and who previously said that the BP board was “destroying the name [of Ballet Philippines].”

“If BP collapses, let it. And then let it rise like the phoenix,” she said in the vernacular in a previous interview with BusinessWorld. — with Mark T. Amoguis

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