Leah Salterio

Alice Reyes restages iconic piece after nearly 50 years

June 13, 2024 Leah C. Salterio 135 views
National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes
Tats Rejante Manahan, Alice Reyes, Petty Benitez-Johannot of Miranilla Heritage House and Nelson Yadao of the Alice Reyes Dance Philippines

EVEN if National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes spent 26 years in the US West Coast, she has not lost touch with the Philippines – from her relatives to her friends to the artists.

Erstwhile president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Margie Moran Floirendo convinced Alice to return to Manila in 2017.

“Margie was worried that the company was heading towards the 50th and they were losing dancers to cruise ships, Disney World, Disneyland because the pay wasn’t as good as what they could get,” Alice said.

“That’s why it was a constant struggle (for me). I am constantly raising money because I want the dancers to be paid a respectable fee.”

Alice recently faced the media to announce the restaging of “Carmina Burana,” one of the most iconic pieces of Alice Reyes Dance Philippines (ARDP)

She cannot be any happier that her company will have the opportunity to perform Carmina Burana live with the Philippine Madrigal Singers and music the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO).

“It’s not easy to stage ‘Carmina Burana’ with all the components – live orchestra, live singers, choirs,” Alice admitted. “We were able to use the costumes of Salvador Bernal, our National Artist for Theater and Design.”

“Carmina Burana” was a stage production, Alay ni Alice at Agnes, with the two National Artists of Alice Reyes Dance Philippines – Alice Reyes and Agnes Locsin – presented online in 2022.

“Two years later, we are staging Carmina Burana live,” Alice offered. “It is one of the company’s most iconic pieces, inspired by the goliardic verses set to Carl Orff’s majestic score. It’s something so unique and unusual.”

The media conference of Carmina Burana was held at the Miranilla Heritage House in Quezon City, a place close to Reyes, who has a long history with the Benitez family, owners of Miranilla.

“Alice was one of the pioneer dancers of the Bayanihan Dance Company,” informed Petty Benitez Johannot of the Miranilla Heritage House. “She and her father danced the tinikling. She was then a young, 16-year-old.”

The first time Alice and her group staged Carmina Burana was in 1975 with the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), conducted by Oscar Yatco at the CCP that opened in 1969.

“We performed in front of the orchestra,” recalled Alice. “CCP was very new at that time. Today, CCP very kindly said yes, with the office of the president, Michelle Junia and Dennis Marasigan as the OIC (before new CCP president Kaye Tinga was recently appointed).”

Alice is bringing in a fresh perspective for staging Carmina Burana. “This is a wonderful company of very experienced and extremely talented young artists,” she bragged. “Ang ganda-ganda ng dynamics.

“Dance is always of the moment. It’s not something you can put on a canvass, paint and put on a wall. Generations will see the same painting. A dancer will dance my solo in a certain way.

“This new dancer will perform it in a different way. As a choreographer, it’s a joy for me because I see a different interpretation.

“For those who have seen previous performances, they will say ‘Wow!’ For those who have not, they are going to see that beautiful song written for a tenor or a baritone dance in that scenic setting created by Salvador Bernal.”

Alice was in the US as Mrs. Van Goorn. Her husband is Dutch-Japanese. “That was my alias then and I love it,” she shared. “I could go out without make up in sneakers and sweat pants. I was in the San Francisco area. I volunteered a lot.

“There were colleges. I would be asked to do a little talk or give a workshop. People in the US wanted to know about Philippine dance.”

Alice is still changing her choreography for Carmina Burana up to this day. “That’s me as a choreographer,” she admitted. “(Orff) may not want to do that for his pieces. Different choreographers worked on Carmina Burana to date.

“We had the opportunity to perform it live with members of the Madrigal Singers for the forthcoming staging this June.

“There are also members of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO). Then, we are bringing back the Kilyawan Boys Choir.”

It’s not easy to stage Carmina Burana with all of the components – live orchestra, live singers, live choir, according to Reyes.

“It’s a universality of emotions,” she added. “I always loved Carmina Burana. This is a very masculine piece. It’s about how the wheel of fortune, who is lady luck less.”

To prove how popular Carmina Burana is, Tats Rejante Manahan informed the ballet is presently being staged in 80 countries between May 2024 and June 2025. “It has the slant of medieval poetry and literature,” Tats said.

The dances in Carmina Burana are Dugso (The Offering), choreographed by Alice, with music by Dr. Ramon Santos, National Artist for Music with original set design by Ray Albano and costume design by Bernal.

Summer’s End is choregraphed by Norman Walker and music by Frederic Chopin and costume design by Walker.

After Whom is choregraphed by Augustus “Bam” Damian III, with music by Jerrold Tarog, also an acclaimed film director.

Carmina Burana is in Latin and of Greco-Roman influence. It goes onstage June 14 and 15 at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater, with a matinee performance on June 15.