And the black wolf ‘dances’ again

By Ibarra C. Mateo

It maybe the year of the rat, but it is the wolf which takes the centerstage at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) this February.

Poetess and playwright Virginia R. Moreno’s play, “Onyx Wolf,” dances again at the CCP Main Theater on Feb. 21-23, 2020. The Ballet Philippines’ “Itim Asu,” the title given to the Onyx Wolf as it metamorphosed into a dance production, is the company’s 4th offering in its 50th season.

Pop ballet Rama Hari, which runs on March 20-29, 2020, also at the CCP Main Theater, closes the season.

BP’s Itim Asu is based on three ritual scenes from Virginia Moreno’s award-winning drama, BP said.

“Ballet Philippines welcomes the year 2020 with the return of a modern classic and landmark production, Itim Asu, choreographed by National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes, with music by National Artist for Music Antonino R. Buenaventura,” the company said.

Ballet Philippines “restages a modern classic and landmark production, Itim Asu, which showcases its diverse and dynamic repertoire as well as the strength of its company in different dance styles,” BP said.

Before being transposed into dance in 1971 and called Itim Asu, Moreno’s Onyx Wolf won the 1969 National Historical Playwriting Contest. Later, Onyx Wolf was given the 3rd prize in the 1970 CCP Literary Contest.

Reyes’ Itim Asu was among the inaugural presentations at the CCP Little Theater in 1971, the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art said. In 1974, Itim Asu was listed as the lone Philippine entry in the Avant-Garde Staging Around the World. 

Onyx Wolf-Itim Asu are fictional accounts of how the wife of a reform-minded Spanish Governor-General, Fernando Manuel de Bustillo Bustamante, took on their political opponents and avenged his death. Bustamante was assassinated in October 1719 by a mob opposed to his good governance program.

In the narrative, Bustamante was murdered by a group of friars, government officials, and guardia civil (soldiers). The leaders of the mob were said to be implicated in corruption cases the governor-general was investigating.

The Assassination

Not only playwrights and dancers were charmed by the Bustamante assassination plot. Even visual artists were intrigued by it.

Félix Resurrección Hidalgo, a 19th-century artist painted “El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante” (The Assassination of Governor Bustamante and His Son) in Barcelona. In 1905, the painting was first unveiled at the St. Louis Exposition in the US, where it was awarded a gold medal.

The painting is on display at the National Gallery of the National Museum of the Philippines, directly across from the famous Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. Luna and Hidalgo were contemporaries and friends.

The Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) described Hidalgo’s largest known work as “a dramatic depiction of the murder of Governor General Fernando Bustamante in 1719 by a mob of friars.”

“He is portrayed being brought down a grand staircase as his soldiers struggle to contain the massacre. The spectacle is enriched by bright colors and fine fixtures such as those of the elaborately embroidered standards, the governor’s clothes, and the surplice of a sacristan at the foreground right,” the description said.

“Dynamic composition, remarkable scale, and intensive portrayal of an actual event contribute to the bravura of this opus,” it continued.

Other numbers in the mixed bill “Itim Asu and Other Dances” are: “Glinka’s Valse,” choreography by Adam Sage; “The Weight on Our Toes,” by Erl Sorilla; “Carmen Pas De Deux,” by Augustus “Bam” Damian III; “We Men,” by Lester Reguindin, and “Ne neh le dej,” by David Campos.

For inquiries, please contact 8551-1003, 09565379432 (Globe), or 09212921282 (Smart). Subscribe to Ballet Philippines at Or follow BP on Facebook and Instagram @balletphilippines.

Photos by Jojo Mamangun and Ballet Philippines

#BPItimAsu #BPOtherDances #BP50 #BPGold #BP50Onwards #balletphilippines #experienceballetph #goldstandard #dance #philippineculture #manilaartscene

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