It Never Grows Old: A Review of Ballet Philippines’ Peter Pan
By Patricia Simone Dauz
After watching the production was like Neverland came to the audience, and not the other way around.
In 1954, a young lady named Mary Martin played the part of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. That boy is Peter Pan, full of mischief and loves to fly around. He is the central character of J.M. Barrie’s most popular work, which has the same title as the character’s name. Through the years, many ballet adaptations have been made. Some even had Peter fly around the stage the whole time. But, of course, every production has its own magic, its unique sprinkle of faerie dust.
Choreographer Edna Vida Froilan’s version of the material in 1983 seared a mark in the hearts of many, and word-of-mouth made it one of the most “in demand” productions of Ballet Philippines. In this year’s restaging, Ramon Victoria and Edana Mae Labitoria took the helm. Scrutinizing the detailed woodwork of the set and the simple but eye-catching costumes, one would not be able to guess that those were preserved from the late Salvador Bernal’s 32-year old production design.
One of the strengths of this production is its chorus numbers, which involved about 30 people dancing onstage at the same time. When Hook (Timothy Paul Cabrera) and his ragtag crew split jump on air, they all did it as if they were moving with one body. When the Lost Boys got captured by the Indian tribe and they performed a ritualistic dance to show their strength, it was like watching dominoes rising in falling with the resplendent lines they’ve created.
A refreshing blocking was the breaking of the fourth wall, towards the ending. As Hook tried to evade the crocodile, he went to the orchestra pit and donned a blonde wig. Not to be tricked by this façade, the crocodile chases him up and down the aisles, even crossing in front.
A minor improvement which could’ve made the performance even better would be the strengthening of chemistry between Peter and Tinker Bell (Janine Myrtel Arisola). I think this could be done by more eye contact between the two.
Of course, the BP principal dancer who played Peter (Jean Marc Cordero) and the BP soloist who played Wendy (Rita Angela Winder) proved to be a very formidable duo. During the Prologue in which Peter’s character was introduced, Cordero wasted no time in prancing around and showing his agility. When the time came for him to fly, he performed acrobatics on air, showing the audience that Peter really belonged there. Winder, aside from having a pretty face and lithe limbs, made doing simultaneous pirouettes look like it was a piece of cake. Her transition to the ‘mother figure’ of the Lost Boys in Act 1 was also apparent in the change of choreography, with more skirt-holding and swaying of the arms.
Despite its almost three-hour run punctuated by four intermissions (most of the audience members were kids that time), it was not tiresome to watch. The choreography gave justice to the catchy songs and the blockings are very playful.