Ballet Backstage: Encounter with International Artist Joseph Gatti


Joseph Michael Gatti, former Principal Dancer of Cincinnati Ballet and Corella Ballet and the First Soloist of Boston Ballet.

I was already at the parking lot at the back of CCP when Rhea Bautista, Marketing Head of Ballet Philippines called.  “We can have the interview backstage,” she said.

I ran as fast as I could to go back to the CCP lobby then down to the elevator area where Rhea led me to Ballet Philippines’ (BP) Adam Sage,  and Joseph Gatti, the international guest artist who played the role of Basilio in BP’s staging of Don Quixote at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, February 9-18, 2018.

The ballet is based on the iconic novel by Miguel de Cervantes.  A timeline shows that the ballet company has staged this production as early as 1973 and in 1979, Natalie Makarova, one of the greatest ballerinas of all time performed the Grand Pas de Deux with Patrick Bissell and Ballet Philippines in 1979.

Joseph was still in the show’s finale wardrobe and as soon as we entered his dressing room, he changed into a comfortable jacket.  “I sweat a lot,” he said.

He just had a most applauded gala interpretation of the classic role who danced with Philippine pride Candice Adea as Kitri.

Borrowing the notes of Regisseur Adam Sage, also the Associate Artistic Director and Ballet Master of Ballet Philippines, Don Quixote is relevant in today’s world: “A young girl (Kitri) in love with a young man (Basilio) and a father (Lorenzo) who does not approve; a Knight Errant (Don Quixote) who still lives his life by the code of saving damsels in distress – and young lovers as it turns out.”

Philippine pride Candice Adea takes a bow. She is the first Filipina to win First Prize at the 7th Helsinki International Ballet Competition.

It happens in Barcelona with lively music, dancing, and great food.  There are bullfighters led by Espada and accompanied by the dazzling Mercedes, who entertain the townspeople.  The comedic Gamache seeks Kitri’s attention only to be rejected over and over again. “This all makes for a wonderful evening of dance, drama and comedy that I know you will enjoy and remember for years to come.”

Working with Filipino artists

Joseph Gatti shares his amazing experience with Filipino artists.

“This is one of the best companies I have guested for. Their encouragement and their hunger for dance…has been an inspiration for me as well,” Gatti said. BP’s Don Quixote is “an incredible production,” he added.

Sage invited Gatti, “I asked if he was willing to do this and thankfully he agreed,” Sage remembered. “He is charming, an amazing artist, very professional. And a very regular guy,” Sage said.

Margie Moran-Floirendo and Adam Sage of Ballet Philippines.

“He fits in very well, he is very welcoming to the dancers, helping when he can by giving advise, corrections. And he still takes corrections from me,” Adam Sage said.

A company like no other

Gatti, also a winner of various prestigious international ballet competitions including the New York International Ballet Competition and World Ballet Competition, said that Ballet Philippines showed “respect and hard work and enjoying it too.” He further defined enjoying it as “really getting close to each other like a family. They work hard but they also make it fun.”

“It’s really hard to find it in a company world with ballet companies, it’s really really hard to find,” he emphasized. “There are so much respect and love in this company that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Gatti said.

“Ballet Philippines is so different. I’ve been freelancing and danced with so many different companies and this whole group and their energy has inspired me so much as I don’t see that very much these days – a company where everyone is working on that same level,” Gatti described.

“They’re so kind and respectful and it makes it much easier to perform in an environment like that,” he noted.

Mr. Gatti has danced in international ballet galas in the USA, South America, Japan, Europe, and Russia. In the Philippines, he partnered with BP’s resident guest artist Candice Adea with the live performance of the Manila Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Solares.

Joseph Gatti was a hit among ballet virgins and balletomanes.

Dancing is not forever

“That inspiration – doing what you love (dancing) because it’s not going to last forever —  is what I will definitely bring back with me.”

“It reopened my eyes because I am 33 now. In ballet, at 30, they would say ‘oh your level is dropping’.

At the gala night last February 9, Gatti’s fierce and fun performance as Basilio was the most intense and his stage presence was powerful giving Don Quixote’s signature leaps, dizzying turns, and death-defying lifts a more spectacular execution.

Gatti said his energy and power on stage “comes from the mind, the will to push forward.”

“I was brought up by my parents never to give up. When you’re tired, you push it for more. And I process that in my work ethic and I prepare that way as well and when I’m on stage it really assists me to use my energy at the right moment with the accents and the music,” Gatti narrated.

“It’s been a big thing in my family to never give up, work hard and work smart,” Gatti said.

Dancers as athletes

The author with the two Basilios of Don Quixote.

“There are a few standouts who inspire me – Francis (Cascano), Victor (Maguad) and Ian (Ocampo); Jemima (Reyes), Denise (Parungao) and of course, Candice (Adea). Some of them are very young, they’re always watching and they are learning from each other which is very important,” Gatti said.

In separate occasions, Francis and Ian entered the dressing room and hugged Gatti.  “These are my niggas here,” Gatti said.

He also announced opening his ballet company in Florida based in summer (where most dancers in America are on a lay-off). “I’m going to incorporate what I have been doing on my own as a freelance dancer, incorporating conditioning and swimming as we are athletes as well.”

He said that there should be a balance’. “I think, in a lot of ballet companies, those are missing, because (to them) it’s all about rehearsals. As dancers, we are also athletes and we need to be cared for as athletes. As a freelance dancer, I learned that going to the gym and making those exercises are very very important as these will give you a healthier and longer career in dance,” Gatti concluded.

Most outstanding performance

Art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang (right) and socialite Tessa Prieto-Valdes (center).

“This is so special,” art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang said. “To me, this is the most outstanding of Ballet Philippines. We are now world-class. Ballet, in the Philippines, has come in a superlative manner.”  He also said that he is looking forward to Carmina Burana, Romeo and Juliet and the Tales of the Manuvu.  “The next season is a very important season for everyone. So I urge everyone to take a subscription of Ballet Philippines. We need to make sure that our dancers are provided for sufficiently,” Cuanang concluded.

Margie Moran Floreindo: New member of CCP Board of Trustees

“It will be nostalgic for me because there’s a lot of fruits of my nine years of service here at Ballet Philippines,” newly appointed member of the CCP Board of Trustees, Margie Moran-Floirendo said. She was recently appointed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Crowned as Miss Universe in 1973, she said: “I am excited to move on and still be able to support the ballet company.” Her legacy has been “producing wonderful performances and having good dancers.”

“I’d like to be involved in its 50th anniversary of the CCP Board and the 50th anniversary of Ballet Philippines.  BP is the very first resident company of the CCP so it’s a good time to be involved in both,” Margie said.