INTENSIFYING would probably be the word Osias “Shaz” Barroso, Ballet Manila (BM) principal danseur and artistic associate, wants his audience to remember him by.

Retiring from dance, the Communications Arts and Salinggawi Dance Troupe alumnus, who turned 40 this year, gave one final fiery performance during the opening night of the company’s first season-ender, the late choreographer Eric Cruz’s Carmen, last Feb. 18 at the Star Theater in Pasay City.

The “Ballerina’s Prince,” despite a recent brush with vertigo and a mild stroke, exuded the same passion and energy he had shown throughout his career. Carmen’s Don Jose, a corporal-turned-smuggler in a small Spanish town, required a very dramatic, multi-faceted character, and Barroso efficiently delivered.

The audience enjoyed witnessing the swift changes in Barroso’s every expression as Don Jose.

Indifferent at first to Carmen’s (prima ballerina and BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde) amorous banter, Don Jose becomes love-sick after succumbing to Carmen’s charms, and then desperate and anguished as he sees Carmen fall for the matador (Jerome Espejo), which drives him to kill Carmen in the finale.

And as Carmen’s death becomes Don Jose’s agony, one would think it is also Barroso’s way of bidding the audience—and Macuja-Elizalde, his dancing partner for 17 years—farewell: the last silent cry of passion from one of the greatest and most dedicated Filipino danseurs of his generation.

In an earlier interview with the Varsitarian, Barroso said he would concentrate on choreographing and his ballet master responsibilities at BM.

“A big load of production responsibilities are now mostly mine. It’s hard to concentrate on my own training with all these other students I am busy with,” Barroso said. “And with my share of injuries where old age can hardly help, I wouldn’t want to compromise the quality of BM’s performances.”

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To date, he has created about 11 productions for BM, including the well-received Philippine premiere of Pinocchio, the neo-classical In Quest, Gabriela ng Vigan, and the Circus de Ballet pieces, -Belen, Can Can, and Princess of the Moon.

Barroso was also supposed to star in Giselle, BM’s second season finale, but he gave up the demanding role of Prince Albrecht due to health reasons.

Macuja-Elizalde, meanwhile, was at her usual, pleasurable best as Carmen. Natural as an enchantress, a bully, and a lover, the “ballerina of the people” can even pass for a very convincing actress. She has been dancing this role since 1987.

Carmen and Giselle are two of Barroso and Macuja-Elizalde’s signature ballet productions. Seeing them for the last time, especially when Macuja-Elizalde bowed to Barroso during the curtain call, was a sad moment for the audience, but Macuja-Elizalde is optimistic, as indicated in the programme’s notes.

“Having successfully fought and survived vertigo and then a mild stroke, one can expect more miracles for ‘Sir Shaz’,” she writes. “These performances may (even) be the beginning of a comeback.”

Dancing the semi-cameo roles in Carmen are Espejo and Sofia Sangco as Don Jose’s rejected lover, Micaela. Although their appearances were brief, both equaled the performance level of their mentors, Barroso and Macuja-Elizalde, as they radiated sexually charged histrionics apt enough for their roles.

BM’s season-ender also featured divertissements of original BM pieces including Agnes Locsin’s newest commission, Arachnida, Barroso’s In Quest, and Hazel Sabas-Gower’s Deconstructing Gershwin, to which BM’s promising young dancers gave an all-out performance.

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Barroso may be bidding farewell to the stage, but at the rate these young dancers—who have been under his and Macuja-Elzalde’s tutelage—are developing, BM audiences are still assured of bright and enjoyable performances in the future. Elka Krystle R. Requinta

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