Maniya Barredo received one of the highest titles possible in dance in 1978 after a performance of Giselle with a company in the Philippines. Included in the audience were President and First Lady Marcos, and one of this century’s most-loved ballerinas, Dame Margot Fonteyn.
At a reception following the performance, Dame Margot presented Maniya with a bouquet of flowers, and in front of all assembled proclaimed Maniya Barredo had earned the title Prima Ballerina.
“The title was given to me because of my work and I’ve never changed the way I work from the time I started to today.” For Honey (her real name), that work began at age four. Driven to succeed, Honey left her native Philippines at age 18 to travel to New York where she joined the Joffrey School on scholarship.
Robert Joffrey, founder of the school and the ballet company carrying his name, noticed Honey had that ‘Something Special,’ and – after giving Honey her worst memory – took her aside a year later and told her he had erred in mentioning that she should give up dancing for nursing. Joffrey wanted her to dance for him. And, as he did with special dancers, Joffrey gave his offer more weight by renaming Honey after the largest city in her native Philippines, Manila.
Thus, the newly named Maniya Barredo forged on and earned a spot with with Les Grandes Ballets Canadiens. In 1976 she was chosen by Alicia Alonzo to represent Canada in the International Ballet Festival held in Cuba. When she finished her performance, the requisite flowers were placed in her arms as the audience applauded their approval. Twenty times Maniya came from behind the curtain to receive the tribute of her admirers.
In the ensuing years since applause rocked the Ballet Festival, Maniya has danced with the incomparable Mikhail Baryshnikov, has been the only dancer outside of New York and Europe invited to tour with the Stars of the World Ballet, received the Gawad CCP Para Sining Award of Excellence from Filipino president Fidel Ramos, become the official Prima Ballerina of the Philippines and danced for twenty years with the Atlanta Ballet as Prima Ballerina before her retirement.
Feeling deeply for those who are just joining the merry-go-round of ballet when there’s a decline in dance companies and the arts in general, Maniya notes “the sad fate would be that doors would close all over the country. The threat to the arts threatens all of us. We need to be tenacious as artists, keep pushing those boundaries, get people fired up and not diminish the product. We need to educate people. Art needs to be part of education, and we need dance that’s challenging to the audiences.”
Taking that message to the people is what Maniya planned to do upon retirement. She was an Artistic Consultant to Ballethnic in Atlanta, the Cultural Attache for the Philippines, and was Artistic Director of the ASB Performing Ensemble, and now director of Metropolitan Ballet Theatre. Maniya Barredo makes good her plans as she trains the next generation of dancers and takes this art to Atlanta and the world.