One Classy Night: Ballet with Tea in Manila

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I had only planned one activity for Mum and I to do in Manila. And it very nearly didn’t happen. Last night I had booked us seats at the Ballet Philippines performance of Giselle at the Cultural Center of the Philippines – a building I have seen a dozen times, but never thought I would have cause to enter.

The whole evening was thematically designed around a theme of fine taste so at about half four we left my apartment for Greenbelt 5. ‘The Tea Place’ as I call is, or TWG Tea as it is actually known, is another place I have passed by and always wanted to enter. Everyone sitting is high backed chairs sipping concotions from white china and eating dainty treat, class. With Mum staying, I finally had a reason to go.

We were seated and napkined by the waiters and then left to complete the absolute feet that was choosing a tea. In the end we opted for names that sounded appealing. Mum had the Orient Express, which turned out to be a very curranty tea, in my opinion. I chose Holiday In Paris. You know that smell when you walk passed Lush or the Body Shop? Well that is what this tea tasted like. Rose water and tea. Who’d have thought? And, of course, we matched our beverages to some brightly colored macaroons. The picture is complete.

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This was the hardest part of the evening to keep track of time. Good food and fun meant time was flying. At about 6:15 we thought we would try for a taxi. The show started at 8. It is barely 7km to the theatre, how hard can it be? Hard. That is the answer. I hadn’t completely factored in Friday traffic and it took fourtyfive minutes to get out of Makati (five or so blocks from my house). The process also saw us pass the spot we had been collected from and loop passed my house. Essentially the first fifteen minutes where one big circle. I had several thoughts about giving up, turning around, writing off the thirty dollars for the tickets. I really thought we wouldn’t get there. Miraculously the traffic disappeared after the Taft LRT station and we flew round to the CCP, reaching our seats as the ligts dimmed and curtains rose.

The CCP is Manila’s prime venue for theatrical productions. It was recommended to me by a college one day during one of our many trips to Intramuros to visit the lovely Bureau of Immigration. The CCP itself is in Malate, quite close to Manila Bay and within visual distance of Mall of Asia. From the outside it is a vast, imposing concrete structure set back from the road by a lawn. Inside it is dated and musty, but this lends it an aura of olde time theatre. You feel like you should dress up simply to compete with its size. It is the home of two ballet companies along with many other troupes and orchestras from the other performing arts. Ballet Philippines is one of those companies and they are performing Giselle this weekend August 16-18.

Ballet Philippines has put together a well desgined production, although the first act left a lot to be desired by way of polish and mime. There were a few awws of concern when one of the ballerinas misplaced a step. Then she did it again and the sympathy waned. There was a hilarious bit where the ballerinos had to gestiulate while watching the ballerinas dance in their fantastic formations. Specifically the dancer playing Hilarion has to make it look like he isn’t up to anything and is interested in chatting to the other lads. Their mimes essentially read, “You see those chicks?” “Yeah, I see them.” “Aren’t they hot?” “Yeah, them chicks be hot and dancing!” I laughed out loud at one point. Hilarion, if I may, was hilarious. Then, when Giselle died, she came across less heart broken and more like a psychopath being watched by half a city. The company of Ballet Philippines is quite large.

I was enjoying myself. At least it was not as bad as the Russian Ballet that performed Sleeping Beauty in Wellington in 2010. You can imagine how impressed I was when the second act came back with avengence! That act alone is worth going for. There was some astounding pointe work by the women playing Myrtha and Giselle (Rita Angela Winder and Carissa Adea, respectively). The costuming, ligting and design really came together here and the audience was quite vocally impressed. It really was a show of two halves. If you are in Manila I really do recommend you see Giselle before it finishes Sunday night.

After ten Mum and I left the CCP tired, but impressed. We stopped in for some naughty fast food after a much less eventful taxi ride home.

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