In 2008 Ballet Manila staged a three-part production inspired by some of Lola Basyang’s tales. Penned by Severino Reyes, Lola Basyang’s granny figure is one of the most beloved characters in Filipino literature. The three stories chosen for the ballet were published by Anvil Publishing, retold by Christine S. Bellen and illustrated by Frances Alcaraz.
A forum, “Pages to Pirouettes: Exploring Visual Literature in Ballets,” was also held in connection with the ballet opening. I asked Frances Alcaraz, whose gallery feature is currently highlighted on the PaperTigers website, to tell us a little bit about the project and her involvement in it. These pictures and words are what she shared with me:
The “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” ballets were the first theatrical adaptation of the books that stayed faithful to the source. The director of Ballet Manila, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, and her production team chose three books from the 15 books in the series. All three books happened to be illustrated by me and since dance is also very a visual art, they asked if I would be involved in the process.
To help promote the ballets, we held a forum and exhibit at the Ateneo De Manila University. The speakers at the forum discussed the visual process of translating the books into ballets. I talked about the process of illustrating the books. Macuja-Elizalde, who was also one of the choreographers, discussed the considerations of translating the works into ballets and Jonathan Janolo, the production designer, discussed the challenges involved in staging the ballets.
For “Mahiwagang Biyulin,” the choreographer wanted a gigantic version of the book to be the background, so I recreated the book without the characters. At the finale, all three book covers appeared on stage along with some pages from inside the book.
Comparing these photos, from “Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya” (The Brother of the Tree Marias) and “Mahywagang Biyulin” (The Enchanted Violin), with the ones shown on Frances’ gallery, we see how beautifully her illustrations came to life on stage! Thanks for sharing these images and words with us, Frances, and congratulations on your and Ballet Manila’s fantastic work!
photos: ©Ballet Manila