By Trixie Dauz

“With Mrs. Radaic turning 80 years old this year, it’s the perfect time to band together and give this tribute to her. And Giselle was her signature role.” – Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Ballet Manila

Felicitas Radaic is the Philippines’ grand dame of dance. More known as Tita Radaic, she co-founded Dance Theater Philippines (DTP) in 1968, and accomplished another feat that same year when the Royal Academy of Dancing opened here and she was hired to supervise the branch. She took up advanced dance studies in Paris and Madrid, where she got mentored by Valentina Kaschubas, Xenia Tripolitoff, and Karen Marie Taft. Among Tita’s students are the festival directors of Dance.MNL, as well as artistic directors of their respective companies, such as, Paul Alexander Morales of Ballet Philippines (BP), Lisa Macuja-Elizalde of Ballet Manila (BM), and Ron Jaynario of Philippine Ballet Theatre’s (PBT).

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Macuja related the significance of Giselle in connection with Tita. Like Italian ballet icon Carla Fracci and the Russian millennial ballet prodigy Natalia Osipova of contemporary times, Tita’s signature role was Giselle. “She also paid homage to her own teacher, Anita Kane, with its full-length production,” she said.

The piece was a romantic ballet about an unassuming peasant girl, the namesake of the title, who fell in love with a royalty and eventually found out he was betrothed to a woman of his rank.  Having a weak heart, she eventually danced herself to death because of the shock and this was Act 1. Act 2 resumed in the woods where mystical female entities, all clad in white, lured men to have them dance until they dropped dead of exhaustion.

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13537626_10153771648452106_6294616419223684952_nThey were the Wilis, the vengeful spirits of maidens who’re jilted by their lovers. Upon visiting Giselle’s grave, Albrecht encountered them, as well as Giselle who’s now one of them, and almost met his doom, but the former’s love for the latter, overpowered Myrtha, the Wilis’ leader. The piece ended with Giselle returning to the grave from where she came from after she bade farewell to her repentant lover.

The year 1832 was considered the year when romantic ballet came to fore. Joan Sia (for the 8 p.m. show) was able to perfectly evoke not just the required fragility and sensitivity of Giselle, she was also able to showcase the characteristic of a romantic ballerina in executing her movements in a fluid and ethereal manner. A totally expected but still a welcome addition to the gala show was Paul Morales’ appearance as the Duke of Courland hand-in-hand with Lisa Macuja-Elizalde as Bathilde, Albrecht’s (Romeo Peralta) fiancee.13495112_10153762963787106_3776528223202062328_n

Other meaty roles in the dance were those of Hilarion (Francis Cascaño), Myrtha (Stephanie Cabral), Peasant Pas de Deux (Regina Magbitang and Jared Tan), Berthe (Eileen Lopez), Page (Sean Pelegrin), and Page Boys (Daniel and David Andes).

Giselle was part of the recently concluded Dance.MNL, the first Philippine Dance Festival in contemporary times. It was staged last June 25 at the CCP Main Theater with matinee and gala shows. Ballet Manila artists all played the key and ensemble roles for the matinee while the gala tribute featured a combined casting of artists from BP, BM, and PBT.

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