Cultural Advocate: Marilou Magsaysay’s Worldwide Promotion of Philippine Ballet Theatre and Heritage

Philippine Ballet Theatre led by Marilou Magsaysay -
Philippine Ballet Theatre

The Philippine Ballet Theatre (PBT), founded in 1987, is a prominent classical ballet company in the Philippines. PBT aims to popularize the art of dance among Filipino audiences while preserving classical ballets like Swan Lake and Nutcracker. The company, committed to artistic excellence, has undertaken national and international tours showcasing a repertoire that spans classical, neo-classical, and pop-classical traditions.

Philippine Ballet Theatre led by Marilou Magsaysay -

Marilou Magsaysay, President of Philippine Ballet Theatre 2023 =
Marilou Magsaysay – Currently president of Philippine Ballet Theatre

Regarding international tours, I had the opportunity to converse with Marilou Magsaysay, the president of the Philippine Ballet Theatre, who is instrumental in organizing the group’s performances in North America. Notably, PBT recently staged a show at UCLA in Royce Hall on October 21st. The dance concert featured a captivating blend of three art forms under the theme “Music in Motion!

Ruchel: What is the concept/theme of the show?
Marilou: Act 1 introduces a captivating ballet titled “IBALON,” featuring original music composed exclusively for this Bicolano legend by Paulo Zarate. The narrative unfolds with the journey of Handyong, the warrior summoned by the King to locate his missing daughter. While technically challenging, this ballet provides the audience with a profound glimpse into the diverse cultures of the islands. The dancers’ exquisite performance visually captures the beauty of these cultural variations, making for a compelling and visually stunning experience.

Philippine Ballet Theatre led by Marilou Magsaysay -
Igorot Dance

Ruchel: How did you manage to put together a tour of the Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT)?
Marilou: Our close friends are enthusiastic about showcasing our country and its people to the world. They reached out to us, initiating the planning and communication for the upcoming shows.

Ruchel: Are they also touring outside of the US?
Marilou: We’ve recently received invitations to perform in various locations, including London, Vienna, and the Scandinavian countries. We are currently in the process of budgeting and determining our expenses for these engagements. Additionally, our New York producer has conveyed that four other opportunities for performances have arisen for us next year.

Ruchel: How long you’ve been the president of PBT?
Marilou: Truth be told, I can’t recall!. But it is time to bring in young blood to take over.

Jessa and Matthew for Philippine Ballet Theatre -

Ruchel: What do you like most about ballet?
Marilou: I thoroughly enjoy watching the dancers, especially witnessing their growth as they age. Becoming a ballerina requires a considerable amount of patience.

Ruchel: What are the challenges you have encountered so far from the tour?
Marilou: The challenges start with fundraising for the trip, getting their visas, all other documentation, then mapping out where to perform, domestic bookings, board and lodging. Definitely not an easy task.

Ruchel: How long was the production process – from props, costumes, and lighting to choreography, music, and multimedia elements?
Marilou: The process of bringing music and choreography to life is extensive, spanning from the initial ideas to the actual commencement. Once initiated, this creative journey can extend over several months. The collaboration between Ron Jaynario and Paulo Zarate for Ibalon, The Ballet, required over four months of dedicated effort from these two exceptional professionals.

In Act 2, the PBT dancers showcase their talent to the music of Dr. Raul Sunico and Martin Nievera, presenting a completely different genre. Despite the shift, our dancers seamlessly adapt, a testament to their versatility. While we have previously performed with Martin, this marks the first collaboration with both of these esteemed artists, and we are incredibly excited about it!

Ruchel: What are you most proud of this show?
Marilou: Most proud about how artists from different fields work together to create a spectacular show!

Ruchel: What makes PBT different from other international ballet groups?
Marilou: Every group is different in its own way. PBT is not just a company, it is a family.
It entails a lot of love for the performing artists. You find yourself involved in their personal lives and them in yours.

Ruchel: What is in the pipeline of PBT?
Marilou: Our ambitious goal is to create a spectacular ballet for each Philippine province, a challenging endeavor. However, Filipinos possess a unique talent for the spectacular when they commit to it. Our ultimate aspiration is to showcase PBT’s performances worldwide.

Ruchel: What is your word of advice for those who’d like to be part of a dance group, especially ballet?
Marilou: Patience, dedication, and perseverance! Mastering this art requires years of commitment. Genuine love for it is essential to excel. Sometimes, involvement means supporting and believing in the dream, even if it’s achieved in ways other than being a dancer.

For more info about Philippine Ballet Theatre, click here.

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