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Pinoy dancers in free ballet show on Chater Road

06 April 2019

Pinoy dancers in free ballet show on Chater Road


By Vir B. Lumicao 

Ballet, often perceived to be an entertainment of the royalty and the elite, has been brought closer to the masses of Hong Kong in a new initiative of the city’s ballet company.

On Mar 17, Part 2 of HK Ballet’s two-year “Ballet in the City Pop-Up” project, the target audience was mainly Filipino domestic workers spending their day off on Chater Road.

They were joined by Filipino residents and Western expatriates who were drawn to Central by the cultural outreach staged by the Consulate in collaboration with HK Ballet.

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After Chater Road, the troupe performed on Mar 24 for the public at the Tuen Mun Yan Oi Square. In spring 2020, they will regale Indonesian workers in Victoria Park.

“We’re bringing ballet to all neighborhoods to dispel the misimpression that ballet is just for the elite. Ballet is for everybody,” artistic director Septime Webre told The SUN in an interview at the sidelines of Chater Road performance.

HK Ballet introduced ballet to the audience by starting the program at 1pm with lessons on movements on stage conducted by Webre and company dancers for young enthusiasts.

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Then came the interactive session with Filipino students Dani, Jeb, Beatriz and Bess of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, who showed basic movements and mimes.

HK Ballet’s Filipina sport practitioner Arlene MacKinlay demonstrated bending and stretching exercises that dancers have to do before and after performances to relieve pain. 

The most awaited part of the outreach was the presentation of Acts 1 and 2 as well as the  Jardin Animè scene from Act 3 of “Le Corsaire” (French for “The Pirate”), in which Filipino dancers Coryphee Garry Corpuz and Luis Cabrera play leading roles.

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HK Ballet describes Le Corsaire as “a swashbuckling tale of dashing pirates, bumbling pashas and beautiful harem girls” based on Lord Byron’s poem “The Corsair”.

Corpuz, 25, and Cabrera, 26, graduates of the Philippine High School for the Arts on Mt Makiling, have won the admiration of their Cuban-American artistic director.

“Oh, I love to work with them. They dance with great passion, energy and openness, and they’re very disciplined and serious about their work,” Webre said.

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 Webre, who moved to HK Ballet a year and a half ago after 17 years as artistic director of Washington Ballet, said he would love to recruit more Filipino danseurs though he hasn’t been to the Philippines yet. “But I hope to see more of them in some auditions,” he said.

Corpuz plays Lankendem, the slave trader who supplies harem women to patrons, while Cabrera portrays Birbanto, the right-hand man of leading man Conrad the pirate.

Corpuz, 25, said in interview after the show that he auditioned for a slot at HK Ballet and was signed up more than two years ago on a yearly contract. The lanky Cabrera, 26, who has been working in Hong Kong for six years, said he joined HK Ballet four years ago. 

The OFWs of an artistic kind said they love Hong Kong for the professional exposure they get here, not to mention the salary, which helps their families back home.

They also get to join tours abroad, such as in Canada and New York last year. They will be in Shanghai this year, then return to the US and Canada, before heading to South America.

Among the projects lined up for them are three different types of ballet, as well as Peter Pan, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker.

Consul Roderico Atienza, an avid fan of ballet and the man behind the outreach, said it had taken the Consulate and HK Ballet more than a year to work on the project.

“This outreach represents further efforts we have been seeing in the last couple of years from various sectors of Hong Kong society reaching out to FDHs as an integral part of what makes Hong Kong what it is,” Atienza said.

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