Monday 3 September 2012

Ardee Dionisio: Target, of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam

Cirque du Soleil (CDS) is known for its “dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment”.  Any Cirque du Soleil production is considered a “must see”, characterized with big production designs, magical concepts and amazing feats of skill.  Established in 1984, to date it has produced about 30 shows and performed in approximately 300 cities in different parts of the globe.  

This August, Cirque du Soleil brings “Quidam” to Alberta, specifically Edmonton and Lethbridge.  Quidam (kee-dam)  means a regular person or an anonymous passer-by.  It is a story of a young girl named Zoé, who escapes from the boredom of her reality and lack of connection with her parents, to a magical world. One of the main characters, Target, serves as the guide for Zoé as she transitions into this dream world.  And this role of Target is played by a Filipino, Ardee Dionisio.

Ardee Dionisio as Target
Ardee is a dancer I have known back when he was an artist of Ballet Philippines, the resident dance company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  Even back then, Ardee’s dancing was characterized by clean lines, clarity of movement and heartfelt musicality.  He was not the flashy type of dancer but rather a quiet one exuding strength, purpose and stage presence.  He danced principal roles with the company, easily catching the eyes and impressing guest choreographers -  like Hervé Robbe, Claude Brumachon, Redha, Renato Zanella, Jan Linkens, Natalie Weir and Agnes Locsin, among others.

Ardee was a student of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling, Los Banos.  His introduction to dance was through a girl he had a crush on, whom he would follow on her way to ballet class.  Pretty soon, he was taking dance classes, then taking it more seriously until he realized that it was exactly what he wanted as a career.  He trained in ballet, contemporary and folk dance and eventually joined Ballet Philippines.

From Ballet Philippines, he was offered a scholarship to the HongKong Academy for the Performing Arts where he graduated with Honours.  On the same year of his graduation, he became a soloist of Nicolas Musin’s “abcdancecompany” troupe in St. Poelten.  He then joined the Grazer Oper in Austria as a first soloist, dancing roles like Romeo in Darrel Toulon’s Romeo and Juliet; Eros in Anthony and Cleopatra; Siegfried in Swan Lemminkainen trilogy; and solo parts in The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.

Ardee was fond of posting his dance and performance videos on YouTube.  One day, he received an email from someone who claimed to have seen his videos and was asking him to audition for Cirque du Soleil in Berlin.  Not surprisingly, he googled the sender’s name and confirmed that she was indeed a legitimate talent scout for the famous company.  He then did the auditions, got into CDS’ database of performers and eventually asked to perform the main character of Target in Quidam.

Ardee’s career pretty much parallels the story of Zoe - a regular guy transported into this magical and dream world in the most surprising and unexpected way.  He brings on his years of training in the different dance genres in this production that features acrobatics, clowning and contortion.  The role of Target, both dancer and acrobat, weaves the various acts of the show and sums up the spirit of the whole production.  Ardee says his character “brings the magic, joy and peace to Zoe’s dreams”.  He attacks the role as a mixture of both the Peter Pan and Tinkerbell characters of the J.M. Barrie story.  One critic has written that Ardee Dionisio’s portrayal of Target should be the benchmark of all Targets for Cirque du Soleil.
Under the direction of Franco Dragone, Quidam differentiates itself from other Cirque du Soleil productions in terms of theme, having a stronger narrative and wider in appeal.  “This one’s about family, family issues you see in normal life”, says Ardee.  “Everyone can relate to it.”  So when you watch “Quidam”, you will not only be transported in a dream world of fantastic and seemingly impossible human feats and creation, but will be proud of yet another manifestation of Filipino talent and achievement. 

* This was written for and published in the June 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

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