Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde the Prima Ballerina

Liza Macuja-Elizalde

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, who is undoubtedly the country’s most prolific ballet dancer. She started dancing at the young age of eight and went to St. Theresa’s College. Learned under celebrated dancer, teacher and choreographer, Felicitas Layag-Radaic. Unknown to most, Lisa’s mother, Susan Pacheco-Macuja, was an aspiring ballerina during her younger days—that is, until an edict banning students from learning the art form was released by the Archbishop of Manila back in 1954. Initially, she just wanted Lisa to learn ballet because she believed that it was immensely character-building. When she was 18, she received a scholarship from the USSR Ministry of Culture to study at the then Leningrad Choreographic Institute. The school, which is now known as the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, became the rock by which Lisa’s long and fruitful career stands today. Lisa graduated at the top of her class in 1984. After her graduation, she joined the revered Kirov Ballet and debuted as principal ballerina in The Nutcracker, Don Quixote (with Faroukh Ruzimatov as Basilio) and Giselle at the Mariinsky Theater, a historic institution which is considered by most as Russia’s premier opera and ballet theater. As the first foreigner to become part of Kirov Ballet, Lisa became widely known all over USSR as “The Foreigner”, a title given to her by local press. Lisa wowed audiences during her debut performance, and even received a 20-minute standing ovation.

When Lisa returned to the country in 1986, she became the first artist-in-residence of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and performed as guest artist with Ballet Philippines. In 1988, she became a principal dancer of the Philippine Ballet Theatre and performed principal roles with foreign companies in Russia, the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. Lisa, together with her partner, Osias Barroso, and ten other young dancers, founded Ballet Manila in 1995. Guided by their vision of bringing ballet to the people and the people to ballet—and thanks to their strict devotion to the Vaganova Academy style of dancing—the institution quickly rose to fame and is now widely considered as the Philippines’ foremost ballet company, performing in sold out shows in some of the most prestigious venues in Russia, the Unites States of America, Scotland, South Korea, China, Cambodia, Japan, England and Ireland. Today, Lisa has retired from performing full time but still serves as the Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer of Ballet Manila, which is opening their 21st season in August. She also owns The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila, and continues the mission to make ballet more accessible to everyone.

Ballet Manila
Founded in 1995 by Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and Osias Barroso, Ballet Manila is the country’s premier classical dance company. With the mission of connecting both ballet and the people, the company, which puts education at the forefront of its priorities, is well-known as the only Philippine dance company to adopt and strictly adhere to the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet style of dancing, which is well-regarded the world over as the most disciplined and technically-superior style. The company currently has 65 artists under its wing, all of whom have been trained in the Vaganova Academy style of dancing. The company boasts of a solid repertoire that consists of some of the most technically challenging and timeless ballet favorites. Ballet Manila, is opening its 21st season this August 2016 by paying homage to some of the acts that have laid down the foundation of every other ballet production and have remained in the hearts and minds of audiences across the world for generations. Aptly named Revenge of the Classics, the new season will feature three classics and one contemporary piece that has won the hearts of many Filipinos. “Nothing beats the classics. There’s something about classical tales and pieces that is just so magical that they stay in your memory forever,” shares Prima Ballerina and Ballet Manila’s Artistic Director and CEO, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. “Technically speaking, you can’t cheat when you’re doing the classics; there’s just no way. Revenge of the Classics invokes the same spirit that guided us when we founded the company in 1995. Our 21st season will showcase the power and grace that enable our ballerinas and danseurs to perform these extremely difficult classical ballet roles.”
Ms. Liza Macuja-Elizalde discussed the Revenge of the Classics

                        REVENGE OF THE CLASSICS

Rebel: EDSA 30

Revenge of the Classics opens this August 19 with Rebel: EDSA 30. Choreographed by British choreographer Martin Lawrance and featuring music from Spartacus by world-renowned Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian, this modern classic gained much traction when it debuted in February because of its historical relevance and its touching combination of nationalistic music and strong choreography. Similar to when it was last staged, this season’s production of Rebel: EDSA 30 will feature Joanna Ampil as the voice of Inang Bayan, and performances by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Gerard Salonga. Rebel: EDSA 30 will be shown at the Aliw Theater on the following dates and time: August 19, 20, and 27 at 8:00 p.m. and August 21 and 28 at 3:00 p.m.

The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess

In October, the dance company will stage The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess, a production that showcases excerpts from three of the most celebrated works of master composer Peter Tschaikovsky, who has written some of the world’s most memorable and timeless ballet scores—Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty. Scores for this ballet will be performed by no less than the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Alexander Vikulov. Featuring performances by Kremlin Ballet Theater’s premier danseur, Mikhail Martynyuk, and Miguel Faustmann, who will assume the role of Peter Tchaikovsky, The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess promises a magical experience unlike any other. Show schedules are: October 14 & 15 at 8:00 p.m. and October 16 at 3:00 p.m.


Another timeless tale and arguably one of the most loved stories of all time, Cinderella, starts its run on November 25. This enduring classic sets the stage for the world premiere of Osias Barroso and Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s first major choreographic work together. With a production that promises to stay true to the animated feature that generations of young girls and boys loved, this re-telling is perfect for anyone who is on the search for a little bit of extra magic to usher in the holiday season. Show dates for Cinderella at the Aliw Theater are as follows: November 25, 26 and December 3 at 8:00 p.m. and November 27 and December 4 at 3:00 p.m.

Don Quixote

The 21st season will end with one of the world’s most favorite classic ballets, Don Quixote. Watch the iconic characters from the famous novel by Miguel De Cervantes come alive as the lively ballet follows the adventures of the chivalry-obsessed Don Quixote, his faithful servant, Sancho Panzo, and young lovers, Kitri and Basilio. Set in Barcelona, the ballet allows everyone a glimpse of the colorful, vibrant, and inherently romantic Spanish culture. Mikhail Martynyuk, principal danseur of the Kremlin Ballet, once again joins Ballet Manila for this classic. Don Quixote will be shown at the Aliw Theater this February 24 & 25, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. and February 26 at 3:00 p.m.

All shows are at the Aliw Theater in Pasay City. For more information about the shows, including ticket prices and schedules, you may visit or follow Ballet Manila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tickets are also available through all Ticketworld outlets. Please call 891 9999 or visit, for more information. In addition, those who are planning to watch all the shows may take advantage of the company’s Season Subscription Programs, which offer up to 50% discount on ticket prices. For more information, you may visit  and click on ‘View Details’ under ‘Season Subscription Program’. 

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