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The full-length ballet masterpiece Romeo and Juliet on August 24, 25, 31 and September 1, 2012, at Onstage Cebu, Ayala Cinema One is extra special as premier danseur Nicolas Pacaña will be dancing his swan song and bidding good-bye to decades of performing onstage. He received a Mabuhi Ka, Sugbuanon recognition from Cebu’s provincial government.
“Nicolas deserves his swan song,” said Gregory Aaron, the co-artistic director of Ballet Center here in Cebu City. Ballet Center is one of the oldest and most active art organizations in our city, antedating even Ballet Philippines, of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
Having become known internationally for his interpretations of lead roles in the classics, including Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Giselle, and The Nutcracker, as well as a wealth of Balanchine, neoclassical and contemporary works, Mr. Pacaña worked with many of the world’s finest choreographers as a premier danseur of the Honolulu City Ballet, Boston Ballet and Atlanta Festival Ballet.
Mr. Pacaña began dancing under the tutelage of Fe Sala Villarica, a former member of the Anita Kane Ballet in Manila who established Ballet Center in 1951. After studying on scholarship with Patricia Stander in Los Angeles, he made his professional debut with the Honolulu City Ballet.
In 1976, Mr. Pacaña joined the Boston Ballet as a soloist and quickly rose to the rank of principal dancer, becoming recognized among the finest of the classical danseurs. Highlights of Mr. Pacaña’s career with the Boston Ballet include Colas in La Fille Mal Gardee during a twelve-week tour in China, the Middle East and Europe; his debut as Albrecht in Giselle, which won him critical acclaim; a European tour with Rudolph Nureyev and the Boston Ballet that included Brussels, London, Milan, Rome, and Sicily; and his performances of Espada and the Gypsy Boy in Don Quixote.
Mr. Pacaña joined the Atlanta Festival Ballet in 1982 as a principal dancer and became known for his interpretations of Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty, Taverna in Carmina Burana, and lead roles in Balanchine ballets such as Tarantella, Raymonda Variations and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. He was lead danseur with the Atlanta Ballet for eleven years, charming audiences with his technical and artistic talents. In 1987, he was called upon to replace the injured Mikhail Baryshnikov in the Don Quixote pas de deux with only four hours’ notice, during Baryshnikov’s Atlanta tour. In 1985, Mr. Pacaña returned to the Philippines to perform with the Philippine Ballet Theatre at the CCP.
Nicolas Pacaña had the distinct pleasure of working with directors Ben Stevenson (director emeritus of the Houston Ballet), Violette Verdy (former director of the Paris Opera Ballet and co-director of the Boston Ballet), E. Virginia Williams (founding director of the Boston Ballet), and Robert Barnett (director emeritus of the Atlanta Ballet). He also worked with choreographers like Yasuki Sasa, Choo-San Goh, Glen Tetley, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett.
Mr. Pacaña performed and taught all over the world. In 1993, he traveled again to the Philippines to teach and choreograph in his home country. He returned to the US in 1994 and was named as co-artistic director of the Atlanta Festival Ballet Company and Atlanta Festival Ballet School. Mr. Pacaña has been prolific in developing stunning new ballets for the company. His Paganini was chosen to close the gala at the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association Conference in 1994 and received dazzling reviews. His ballets such as Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Tchaikovsky have been commissioned around the world.
In 2001, Mr. Pacaña’s former director and teacher, Fe Sala Villarica, invited him to return to the Philippines to guest dance and to choreograph. Since that time, he returned annually to stage productions of repertory programs as well as Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker and The Little Mermaid for Ballet Center in Cebu and for the Royeca Schools of Ballet in Davao City, Tagum City and General Santos City.
Mr. Pacaña was named co-artistic director, with Gregory Aaron, of Ballet Center Cebu City in 2006. The same year, Mr. Pacaña and Mr. Aaron introduced the International Summer Series in Cebu, which attracted students from all over the Philippines. Mr. Pacaña continued to direct Atlanta Festival Ballet and remained in great demand as a guest artist and teacher. His reputation as an outstanding choreographer continued to grow throughout the Southeast region of the US and the world.
“After I knew that Romeo and Juliet was approved and that it would officially be my last dance onstage, I was really nervous,” said Mr. Pacaña. “But I will still be here, teaching and guiding the students.” On their sixty-first season, Ballet Center (as well as the rest of Cebu) will bid adieu to decades of dancing and performing onstage by world-renowned danseur Nicolas Pacaña. This is it, according to Mr. Pacaña.