The Philippine Star

Lisa Macuja-El­izalde: ‘We may have lost our the­ater in the fire, but the show must go on’

- CHING M. ALANO Arts · Dance · Manila · Philippines · Saint Petersburg · Russia · Mariinsky Theatre · Todd Terry · Ballet Philippines · Abra · Zamboanga del Norte · La traviata · Adolphe Adam · Kirov · London

Just a few days af­ter a fire burned down Star City, in­clud­ing Aliw The­ater, home of Bal­let Manila, prima bal­le­rina Lisa Macuja, the grace­ful White Swan of Swan Lake, morphs into a de­fi­ant phoenix as she declares, “We may have lost our home, we may have lost our the­ater, we may have lost ev­ery­thing in the fire, but our love

Lisa Macuja-El­izalde sim­ply can’t for­get the out­pour­ing of sup­port. ‘CCP of­fered us their main the­ater while Bal­let Philip­pines do­nated the use of their back­drops be­cause ours were de­stroyed in the fire,’ she re­lates.

for dance burns for­ever bright. We will rise from the ashes.”

Yes, Bal­let Manila’s much-awaited 24th sea­son pro­duc­tion of Giselle will go on as sched­uled on Thurs­day, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. at a new venue, the CCP Main The­ater (Tang­ha­lang Ni­canor Abe­lardo).

Lisa sim­ply can’t for­get the out­pour­ing of sup­port that came from peo­ple in the in­dus­try. “CCP of­fered us their main the­ater while Bal­let Philip­pines do­nated the use of their back­drops be­cause ours were de­stroyed in the fire,” she re­lates. “Thank­fully, our Giselle cos­tumes are all in­tact be­cause they were all stored in the Bal­let Manila head­quar­ters.”

Giselle is more than the tragic love story of a peas­ant girl who falls for a no­ble­man and dies of a bro­ken heart when she finds out that her lover is be­trothed to an­other. For Lisa, it is “a ful­fill­ment of our com­mit­ment to our sub­scribers and reg­u­lar ticket buy­ers who bought tick­ets to our on pointe sea­son; a ful­fill­ment of a com­mit­ment to all my dancers who have re­hearsed long and hard to be able to per­form; a com­mit­ment to mae­stro Alexan­der Vikulov who flew all the way from St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia; a com­mit­ment to the Manila Sym­phony Orches­tra be­cause I orig­i­nally con­tracted them for two per­for­mances and now, it’s down to one; the ful­fill­ment of a com­mit­ment to, as much as pos­si­ble, keep on danc­ing.”

HAVE FLOOR, WILL DANCE

Lisa gets teary-eyed when she talks about her Aliw The­ater, now but a dream re­mem­bered. Brush­ing off the pain of los­ing a home, she looks back, “Bal­let Manila be­gan with much less 24 years ago. As we move into our 25th year, we have grown but at the same time, I think we’ve also be­come a bit too com­fort­able. Los­ing our home the­aters is a wake-up call for all of us to go back to how we all be­gan, back to our roots, back to danc­ing in school gyms, bas­ket­ball courts, cock­pit are­nas, the streets and town halls where we used to dance, from Abra to Zam­boanga. Our motto has al­ways been, ‘Have floor, will dance.’ I think we’re go­ing to be do­ing that for a while. It’s go­ing to be a great ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one.”

With a twin­kle in her eyes, a res­o­lute Lisa declares, “I do be­lieve that slowly but surely, Aliw The­ater will stand again. We’ll have a home again. Star City will open its doors again.”

And then with a hint of sad­ness in her voice, she an­nounces, “So now, we’ve rethought the rest of our sea­son as we hunt for new venues. We want to con­tinue with on pointe, but I have de­cided to post­pone the world pre­miere of Sleep­ing Beauty be­cause I just couldn’t see it hap­pen­ing any­where else ex­cept the Aliw The­ater. How­ever, we’re go­ing to push through with Carmina Bu­rana and La Travi­ata in Fe­bru­ary-March (the venue to be an­nounced later).”

Even as pro­duc­tion has had to be scaled down, Bal­let Manila re­mains un­wa­ver­ing in its mis­sion/ vi­sion to bring bal­let to the peo­ple and more peo­ple to bal­let. “We’ve ac­tu­ally ac­com­plished that with­out a home the­ater, a home stu­dio, when we started out as just 12 young dancers with Eric Cruz as our artis­tic di­rec­tor,” Lisa re­counts.

A WORLD-CLASS ‘GISELLE’

What Bal­let Manila en­thu­si­asts will see on Oc­to­ber 17 at the CCP is a world-class per­for­mance of Giselle with the young and tal­ented Joan Sia in the lead role, the multi-awarded El­pidio Ma­gat as the male lead Al­brecht, Akari Ida as Myrtha, and Ni­cole Bar­roso in the peas­ant pas de deux. Mu­sic is by the leg­endary French com­poser Adolphe Adam, as per­formed live by the Manila Sym­phony Orches­tra led by renowned Rus­sian con­duc­tor Alexan­der Vikulov.

Lisa adds with a hint of pride, “You’ll be see­ing our corps de bal­let, the 24 Wilis (the spir­its of young women who die be­fore their wed­ding) in their flow­ing white tu­tus mov­ing in per­fect sync.”

Giselle has been a sta­ple in Bal­let Manila’s clas­si­cal reper­toire since its be­gin­nings in 1995. Lisa Macuja her­self has played Giselle many times, but she will never for­get the first time she danced Giselle at the Mari­in­sky The­ater in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia. “I was a ner­vous wreck, it was prob­a­bly the worst Giselle I’ve ever done in my life,” she re­lates with a chuckle. “When I woke up that morn­ing, be­fore go­ing to the venue, I did not eat. I couldn’t eat be­cause I was so ner­vous the whole day. But be­fore leav­ing for the the­ater, I re­al­ized that if I didn’t eat, I might faint dur­ing the show. So, I ate, which was ac­tu­ally wrong be­cause I felt like throw­ing up dur­ing the en­tire per­for­mance (be­fore a purely Rus­sian au­di­ence). And I did fall three times dur­ing that per­for­mance. Nev­er­the­less, I learned a les­son that went with me for the rest of my life.”

The first for­eign soloist to ever join the Kirov Bal­let, this ex­cep­tion­ally gifted prima bal­le­rina, who has daz­zled the world, has had her am­ple share of in­juries. “I had a to­tal hip re­place­ment two years ago,” she tells us. “I had a rup­tured plan­tar fas­cia dur­ing a tour in Lon­don. I had chronic ten­donitis on both my an­kles which re­quired surgery.”

But thank­fully, she con­fesses, she was able to hang up her tu­tus and pointe shoes not be­cause of a ca­reer in­jury. “I was able to end my ca­reer danc­ing Aurora on my 50th birth­day,” Lisa gushes. “I con­tin­ued danc­ing un­til I turned 52.”

She adds with an imp­ish laugh, “I could prob­a­bly dance again, but it might need a cri­sis.”

What Lisa is cer­tain of is that, bro­ken bones and all, she will con­tinue to pur­sue her dream. “My dream is for the Philip­pines to have what I ex­pe­ri­enced as a young child in Rus­sia, which is an academy where tal­ented young boys and girls could go to school and get their bal­let train­ing all in one build­ing, with very qual­i­fied teach­ers and a whole pro­gram that will pre­pare them for a pro­fes­sional ca­reer in dance. And of course, I dream of full houses for all our per­for­mances and al­ways, to a live orches­tra.”

As for us, we dream that Lisa Macuja and her Bal­let Manila will never stop dream­ing, come what may. * * * Tick­ets to Giselle are avail­able at Tick­et­world or call 8891-9999. For de­tails, email info@bal­let­manila. com.ph or call 0918807714­8.

 ?? Pho­tos by RUS­SEL PALMA ?? With a twin­kle in her eyes, a res­o­lute Lisa declares, “I do be­lieve that slowly but surely, Aliw The­ater will stand again. We’ll have a home again. Star City will open its doors again.”
Pho­tos by RUS­SEL PALMA With a twin­kle in her eyes, a res­o­lute Lisa declares, “I do be­lieve that slowly but surely, Aliw The­ater will stand again. We’ll have a home again. Star City will open its doors again.”
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? “I was able to end my ca­reer danc­ing Aurora on my 50th birth­day,” Lisa gushes. “I con­tin­ued danc­ing un­til I turned 52.”
“I was able to end my ca­reer danc­ing Aurora on my 50th birth­day,” Lisa gushes. “I con­tin­ued danc­ing un­til I turned 52.”
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Bal­let Manila’s 24th sea­son pro­duc­tion of Giselle, a two-act ro­man­tic bal­let, will be staged on Thurs­day, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. at the CCP Main The­ater.
Bal­let Manila’s 24th sea­son pro­duc­tion of Giselle, a two-act ro­man­tic bal­let, will be staged on Thurs­day, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. at the CCP Main The­ater.

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