A Javanese mouse deer crouches in leaves

Alumna Expands Ballet Canon with Philippines-Based Choreography

  • Oct 14, 2022

Growing up in the Philippines, Alexa Capareda trained in ballet and modern dance, but the folktales of her own culture were never part of the classical ballet repertoire.

This month, her original ballet “Maria and the Mouse Deer” changes that when it premieres at Ballet Austin. Based on Filipino folklore with characters portraying animals native to the country, the work sends a universal message of caring for the earth and its creatures.

“The core of the story—protecting the environment—is something anybody can access,” says Capareda. “At the same time, the ballet introduces Filipino culture.”

Since graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in 2015 with a degree in English and a minor in dance, Capareda has drawn from her cultural background and international experiences to create choreography for Ballet Austin, where she works as a rehearsal director for the academy’s second company.

“Maria and the Mouse Deer” is the inaugural work in Ballet Austin’s recently launched Fables of the World series. With the goal of presenting an imaginative production every two years, the initiative invites youth and families to explore and connect to a myriad of cultures through their tales and fables.

The series arose from discussions between Capareda and Michelle Martin, Ballet Austin’s associate artistic director. Both wanted to expand ballet’s signature repertoire past its Eurocentric origins built on European folk tales and stories — “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Giselle” — and set to music by European composers.

“It never felt like ballet wasn’t for me to own,” Capareda says. “But I do see how much space there is for stories from other cultures. ... There’s room for so much more in the ballet repertoire.”

“Maria and the Mouse Deer” runs October 15-23 in the Austin Ventures Studio Theater at Ballet Austin.

Learn more about the ballet from the arts magazine Sightlines.