Ballet Philippines President Kathleen Liechtenstein remembers the day nationwide lockdowns were first declared in March 2020. “Ballet Philippines was crippled. We lost everything,” she recalls. The entertainment industry had already been hit by the pandemic a month before lockdown, and Liechtenstein intuitively knew that innovation would get the company through. “I thought we could use our website as a means to reach out–to show signs of life, and to let people know that we are here.”
From the Ground Up
While Ballet Philippines has long had an existing website, she noticed that it needed a modern revamp. The fearless company President presented the board a solid pitch: an online platform that not only streamed Ballet Philippines’ entire repertoire, but one that also streamed its own content. “I told the board about my idea, and they immediately said yes.”
The green-lit project ignited the entire Ballet Philippines’ team, most especially those involved in production, content generation, and social media marketing. Logistics and technical aspects, admits Liechtenstein, “was a nightmare.” She immediately set out to find an IT professional to lead the project. Liechtenstein shares, “I called up Ping Valencia and I told her, ‘Ping, we’re going to go digital. I don’t know how, when, where, but we will do it.’”
Together, the two women went on an extensive search to build a formidable team that would turn vision to reality. Amaya Garcia, a design graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York, was engaged by the company to interpret the BALLET PHILIPPINE experience on a digital platform. Liechtenstein expounds, “Amaya had already been working with global brands and designing websites. She created a look that was edgy but classic, which was exactly what I had envisioned.”
T-Minus To Launch
With a deadline to launch in May 2020, the team hit the ground running. “That first night we started working on it, we were up until 5AM. It was all sweat and tears,” remembers Liechtenstein. Ping Valencia was similarly just as invested in creating content that would serve and inspire the dance community.
She remembers: “It was rough going for a while… Tension dissipated a little after that. And everyone, including some of the board members got involved in the website. The days were filled with meetings with the staff and the board, presentations of finished pages, editing content, choosing the images that will go in each page, reviewing all BP productions to see what can be shown in high resolution, communicating with the dancers who have remained loyal to BP, not to mention the constant communication between the constant communication between the artistic director and Maymay who together planned and designed the training/ learning component of the website now known as The Masterclasses.”
Creating content in a work-from-home setting also proved an entirely different beast. BP’s Office Manager Carrie Domingo recalls, “Zoom was instrumental but there truly was a learning curve between hosting working meetings and rehearsals.” Nevertheless, the team prevailed. “We are proud of the resilience and grit of the entire BP family to keep ballet alive—for our dancers, for our audience, for our community—by finding new ways not just to survive, but to thrive,” shares Mawi De Ocampo, Ballet Philippines’ former PR Head. She was especially proud of the way everyone on the team pivoted quickly. “We learned how to film our performances amidst lockdown challenges.”
A Digital Platform for Supernovas
A complete ballet and dance experience was brought to life digitally by the platform. On Our Stage was envisioned as a section dedicated to bringing the artistry of Ballet Philippines to the viewers’ homes. Our Video Creations features video creations made in collaboration with like-minded artists and organizations. BP Tales, Tutus, and Tots is a clever concept for a special section dedicated to younger audiences. Centrestage celebrates the unique and inspiring journeys of the company’s core dancers and guest artists. EnPointe explores the other aspects of fine living that round up a complete lifestyle that aligns with love for dance and performance arts.
BP OnStream’s Masterclasses was a concept that distinguished Ballet Philippines’ platform for the rest. It offered free training and classes to professional dancers, aspiring ballerinas and even enthusiasts. The company invited global masters to lead the well-attended classes. Liechtenstein emphasizes, “They are Supernovas! You can’t just invite them. You can dream, but you can’t just invite them.”
Eight ballet superstars from around the globe were quick to extend their support and offered to teach pro-bono. “Because of the lockdown, everyone was so supportive and helped in whichever way they could. It was such a huge burst of positive energy for us to experience,” explains Liechtenstein.
Looking Back and Dancing Forward
The website successfully launched in July 202 with over 100 media friends and Ballet Philippines supporters glued to their computers or smartphones for the digital launch. Video creations uploaded on the platform have hit the 75,000 mark. BP OnStream has also mounted 57 Masterclasses to date, with an exciting new session and format happening soon in August
Since launching the 53rd Season, BP OnStream has significantly increased its viewership to 83,250 visitors from all over the world. The content team behind digital and social media platforms of Ballet Philippines predict that engagement and following can more than double by the end of the season. A Ballet Philippines Spotify Playlist and highly compelling podcasts on relevant issues happening in and around the dance world are currently in the pipeline.
Liechtenstein looks back and fixes her gaze to the future. “When we launched, it was such an organic response to everything happening around us. We needed to survive. Launching was the most rewarding thing. We’ve migrated entire stages, classrooms, and studios in many different formats. The community we serve no longer waited on bated breath whether or not lockdowns would extend, the foundation was solid and it had arrived fully formed and wonderful. Now, we’re not only dancing to stay alive. Today, we’re dancing where no one else has.”