Monday, December 17, 2012

SEIJI SHIMODA’S SECOND COMING (First of three parts) (December 17, 2012)


Today, our students from the University of the Philippines troop again to120-A Narra Street, Barangay Amihan, Project 3, Quezon City. But this time, our visit to Lila Pilipina called Maligayang Pasko Po, Lola is more meaningful, if not the most meaningful, than our previous semestral sojourns for more than 15 years.

This year marks their 20th anniversary and last 1 October, as our way of celebrating the International Day of Older Persons, our students last semester organized Mano Po, Lola, a forum at the U.P. Faculty Center’s Pulungang Recto with the College of Arts and Letters’ dean Elena Mirano and College of Social Science and Philosophy’s history professor Ricardo Jose as special guests. After 10 days, it had a repeat when the Philippine High School for the Arts, through its Creative Writing teacher, Rae Rival, agreed to bring Lila Pilipina to the National Arts Center, the queendom of Mariang Makiling, highlighted by the kissing of lolas’ hand, after young art scholars entertained them through dance, music, and visual arts, among others.

Two years ago, we had the chance to help Lila Pilipina in their struggle to pressure the Japanese government: (1) to present a public apology regarding the crimes inflicted to the women; (2) to revise text books and other materials where these crimes were ommitted; and (3) to seek compensation for the victims.

Yes, it was during the Nippon International Performance Art Festival.

With war crime as our theme, we performed in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagano from 24 October to 5 November in 2010.

Seiji Shimoda, who founded the said oldest performance art festival in Asia in 1993, expressed his “disappointment” with us.

Did he forgive us for what we did on behalf of Lila Pilipina?

We never had the chance to talk earlier this year during his sidetrip to Manila when we welcomed him via Tupada Tuesdays at the Conspiracy Garden Café where we jammed with him last 25 August.

The other opportunity knocked once more during his second coming.

He came back to perform -- with Poland’s Peter Grzybowski, Singapore’s Jason Lee, South Korea’s Kim Kang, Israel’s Beni Kori, United States’ Eric Scott Nelson, India’s Dimple Sha, Switzerland’s Gilles Furtwängler and Anne Rochat, Myanmar’s Yadanar Win, and Philippines’ Luizi Alfonso, Rogger Basco, Roen Capule, Buddy Ching, Thom Daquiaog, Gilbey de Castro, Mael de Guzman, Boyet de Mesa, Martin de Mesa, Arvin Javier, Ian Lomongo, Noel Pama, Sam Penaso, Kaye O’Yek, Crecee Roldan, Joash Roxas, Jo-an Sarmogenes, Mannet Villariba, and Ugatlahi, to name a few.

It was for TAMA X, the 10th anniversary celebration of the Tupada Action and Media Art last 11 to 17 November.

Sadly, we were in Thailand for Asiatopia from 4 to 27 November.

But, with Mannet who videotaped our interview when we went to Thom’s cabin in Makati, we were able to speak with Seiji on cam.

Vim Nadera: Since you began it in 1993, how many artists have performed for the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF)?
Seiji Shimoda: More than 300 international artists from 45 countries around the world.

VN: You were born in 1953 in Nagano, Japan where NIPAF usually ends. How would describe your early years?
SS: In 1970, I was a poet. I joined high school student movement. When I dropped out of high school, I traveled in Japan by hitchhike. After five years, I started to focus on art, experimental theater, and performance art in Osaka City University.

VN: What was your exposure then?
SS: I was able to perform in Paris during my three-month stay in 1982. In 1987 I started my Western Europe tour. Then I was invited to more than 150 international art festivals in 37 countries like Western, Central Europe, Asia, North and Central America. I succeeded in promoting art exchanges and dialogues about performance art to the Americas, Europe, and Asia through NIPAF. I also began performance tours, workshops, and lectures at Musashino Art University in Tokyo.

VN: Do you have a particular style in performing?
SS: I should say that my distinct performance work always has action poetry, movement. I usually use my body. I love to utilize objects like table, chair, tape, chopstick or paper.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

LEVY’S STRATEGIES (Last part) (December 10, 2012)

Dr. Nathan Levy, endorsing his books exhibited during his successful Powerful Strategies To Enhance Learning workshop celebrating the National Week of the Gifted and Talented last 30 November

Vim Nadera: Is there such thing as The Nathan S. Levy Approach to giftedness? 
Nathan Levy: No, but there is an NL approach to teaching and learning. Engagement, challenge, relationships and knowledge of the subjects to be taught are all part of the “Nathan Levy approach.” This approach applies to the gifted as well. 

VN: What makes your method stand out? 
NL: I have no single method. I have a variety of strategies that have been successful. The combination of high standards and effective teaching are the keys. 

VN: Are creative people born or made? How can it be developed? 
NL: They are both born and made. Creativity can be taught through practice. Providing lessons with opportunities to think creatively and debrief that thinking is important. 

VN: What is the proper way to think? 
NL: Flexibly - when doing creative activities, and looking at points of view. Rigidly. When lock step thinking (i.e., turning on a computer) is required. 

VN: What is higher order thinking? 
NL: Being able to synthesize and create by looking at things from a variety of perspectives. It is more than having knowledge -- it is using knowledge in many ways. 

VN: Could you give us some tips on enhancing learning? 
NL: Engage learners by drawing on their experiences and giving them a base of knowledge. Both are needed. Provide thinking/problem solving opportunities, and helping learners to master basic knowledge as well. 

VN: Is there really a need for K-12 curriculum? Why? 
NL: Yes, to give all children equal opportunity by providing a common base for children from all areas. If one area of the country teaches its own curriculum, and the others are consistent the isolated group will have gaps and fall behind. 

VN: What advice can you give to parents, teachers, and students about excellence? 
NL: Model it; point it out, hold high standards. 

VN: Please tell us something about your books. 
NL: My books are the following: 

Stories With Holes (Volumes 1-20) are about creative logic stories to help participants think “outside the box”. 

Who Am I?/Whose Clues? (Volumes 1-6) help participants gain basic knowledge in a fun way. 

100 Intriguing Questions (Volumes 1-6) are open ended questions to stimulate writing and conversation. 

Nathan Levy’s Test Booklet of Basic Knowledge is all about America based test of cultural literacy. 

Not Just Schoolwork is on the best writing / critical thinking activity book in the world. 

There are Those is a poem defining “Gifted” from my perspective. 

Thinking and Writing Activities for the Brain (Volumes 1 &2) are about dynamic thought provoking quotes interwoven with activities that inspire children and adults to think broadly and creatively. 

Creativity Day by Day is full of daily activities to spur creative thinking, writing and/or conversation. Great for families and classrooms.

LEVY’S STRATEGIES (First of two parts) (December 03, 2012)

PCGE_Powerful Strategies to Enhance Learning

Fresh from the New Jersey shores, Dr. Nathan Levy will surely bring the proverbial light – like the Knicks burning the defending champion in Heat -- at the end of the Sandy-destroyed tunnel.

Well, he is used to it since he is educated in Storms (he got his Ph.D. in Administrative Supervision from the University of Connecticut) and Flushing (he earned his B.S., M.S., and Advanced Professional Certificate from Queens College)!

Especially this week when speaks before psychologists, counselors teachers, students, and others.

Dr. Levy is known worldwide as the founder and president not just of his consulting company for educators and parents but of a school in New York. For the longest time, he has proven himself as a principal, school coordinator, supervisor, administrative intern, classroom, and teacher trainer who was an IDEA participant, Geraldine Dodge Foundation Outstanding Principal awardee, Nabisco Math Assessement grantee, National Endowment for the Humanities recipient, and American Schools in South America consultant.

But, to top it all, he has authored such books as Stories With Holes (Volumes 1-20), Who Am I? Whose Clues? (Volumes 1-6), 100 Intriguing Question (Volumes 1-6), Nathan Levy’s Test Booklet of Basic Knowledge, Not Just Schoolwork, There Are Those, Thinking and Writing Activities for the Brain (Volumes 1 and 2), and Creativity Day By Day.

Today, as we begin the National Week for the Gifted and Talented, we look forward to tomorrow as the Philippine Center for Gifted Education Inc. spearheads Araw ng Pagbasa. It is a story-telling activity wherein last year’s winners of the Mga Bagong Rizal: Pag-asa ng Bayan will be featured from 5 in the afternoon at the Fully Booked, The Fort. Then, guidance counselors will be treated to PCGE’s pride Dr. Leticia Peñano-Ho’s lecture on Identifying and Guiding the Gifted Students at the University of the Philippines’ College of Education Training Center in Diliman the whole day of 28 November.

Everything will resume from 30 November to 1 December, starting at 9 a.m., when Dr. Levy shares his powerful strategies that enhance learning at the La Breza Hotel along Mother Ignacia in Quezon City.

According to Dr. Peñano-Ho: “The workshop provides numerous strategies and significant different learning opportunities not only for the gifted and highly capable students but for every student in the country. Unique approaches and proven teaching strategies will be presented as well as innovative techniques to increase teaching options and enhance critical thinking. Practical ideas that can be implemented immediately without large amounts of time and planning will also be presented. The convention is intended for school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and parents especially in preparation for the K-12 program of the Department of Education.” Good enough to a registration fee of P 5000.00 that will cover attendance in two days workshop, handouts from Dr. Levy, a certificate of attendance and meals.

Early registration is encouraged since slots are limited so please call at once 544-0352 or email at or visit PCGE’s website for more information.

For the undecided or Doubting Thomases, hope this will help you make up your mind.

Vim Nadera: How would you define giftedness?
Nathan Levy: Formally, I do not. There are many acceptable definitions. Read my poem There Are Those to get a sense of my unscientific definition. However, the big debate at present focuses on Talent vs. General Giftedness, and Potential vs. Performance. I actually see positives on all sides of the debates. As long as children and adults are recognized for their strengths, and educated accordingly we should see progress happening.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Last part) (November 19, 2012)


Vim Nadera: You also received your Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management in 2007 from the University of Phoenix. Would you recommend online schools, especially, to artists? Why?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: Yes, I would recommend online schools to all working students who have families at the same time. It is fast, convenient and effective. You have classmates that you interact with online from all over the world so it’s actually like going to an international school. You are exposed to such diverse opinions and the courses are structured such that you can take on more load when you are “off-season” and less load when you are working full time so there is flexibility as well. I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are not self-motivated though. It takes a certain kind of discipline to study and excel online. 

VN: What were your projects as Vice-Chairman of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission? Or as a Commissioner of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women? Or as the directress of the Ballet Manila School?
LME: I am very proud of my most recent project as directress of the Ballet Manila School. We put up the full-length “Swan Lake” production with our 142 students and scholars. It was a first-class production and danced very, very well – the kids looked like a junior company. That was last May and the most ambitious project of the Ballet Manila School so far.

VN: What are your dream projects?
LME: Original Filipino ballets with full orchestra accompaniment, unlimited budget for sets, costumes, talent fees for the artists and choreographers and designers and long runs of each production to full houses with international performance tours as well. 

I fulfilled one dream project this year when we put up “The Legends and The Classics” and I got to work with both Lea Salonga and Cecile Licad with Gerard Salonga conducting the FilHarmonika. That was a dream project come true! 

VN: How would you see yourself ten or twenty years from now? A National Artist?
LME: I see myself retired from the stage, traveling with my husband and enjoying our mutual retirement together. I will continue to be active in the school teaching and supervising. I will continue to be artistic director of Ballet Manila. I will probably be very involved in conceptualizing new ballets. Maybe dabble in choreography. I want to keep active and creative. A National Artist? It was very flattering to be nominated by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and I have had many people contact me with their vote of support but I know that there is a process to go through and I respect that process. 

VN: What is your secret being the oldest, er… most senior, active prima ballerina today?
LME: I train everyday in the Russian Vaganova technique. I do class daily and continue to push myself. I also do additional training with yoga, stretching, swimming. I rehearse at least an hour a day. I keep on performing. I guess, I just keep on doing what I have been doing most of my life. I eat well. I have my vitamins and other supplements. I sleep early. I take care of my body. I avoid alcohol. I don’t smoke. I do take an anti-inflammatory when I need to especially after a performance. I get enough rest in between shows and rehearsals. I avoid injury by taping my ankles that have always been my weak spot. 

VN: Who would you like to play you if there will be a movie or a musical called Lisa Macuja-Elizalde? 
LME: Heart Evangelista. Because she has watched me perform many times in the past and has a beautiful expressive face and very delicate features. 

VN: What could be the most precious legacy of a Lisa Macuja-Elizalde?
LME: Ballet Manila — the school and the company. That is my legacy.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Sixth of seven parts) (November 12, 2012)

Vim Nadera: Is there a need for an international Philippine Dance Festival? Why?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: There is a need for audience development for live theater and the performing arts in this country. Whether this can be developed through an international Philippine dance festival or through local festivals, ballet competitions and music competitions such as NAMCYA, student matinees, lecture demonstrations, free performances in non-traditional venues – we just need to do it because the goal must be audience development through exposure to good performances.

VN: Do you do outreach programs? Please share your some of your inspiring stories.
LME: I have done outreach programs from the very first year I started working here in the Philippines, which is in 1986. As CCP Artist in Residence, I danced all over the country with Nonoy Froilan. That was my first exposure to dancing under unusual circumstances: brownouts in the middle of the show; cats, bats, frogs and other animals onstage and backstage with you; extremely hot weather; traveling by sea, air and land and then performing right away; even suffering from food poisoning and then having to perform! In Ballet Manila’s first years, we were a touring company. We performed in small towns in Mindanao such as Isulan and Polomolok. We performed also all the way up in northern Luzon and everywhere in between. The local and international tours are fun when you are young. I find that as you get older, you simply get tired more easily and have to plan tours so that they are more stretched out instead of jam-packed with activity.

The inspiration to go on and keep on dancing while on tour is really the audience. They are just so encouraging with their applause, cheers and attendance. You can see that this is the audience that values the artist because they get to see shows very rarely. Also, you make solid friendships with the sponsors and cultural workers that work so hard to bring the artists to these regions. These are very admirable people with generous hearts and the best of intentions.

VN: What can you say about the dance programs in schools here and abroad?
LME: There are just so many dance schools, both here and abroad. I just wish that there is a way of monitoring the qualifications of the teachers and creating more awareness in parents and students when they are choosing the schools and dance programs that they go to. There are different methods of teaching ballet. There’s the English Royal Academy of Dancing syllabus, the Russian Vaganova Method, the American school (Balanchine style), the Danish school, the Italian Checetti method, the Australian syllabus, and even a Philippine syllabus created by Felicitas Radaic together with the late Noordin Jumalon. 

The key in learning to dance well with any ballet syllabus is good demonstration on the part of the teacher and getting a teacher who has had at least 3 to 4 years of professional dancing experience. Daily training is a must. You simply cannot train just once or twice a week. And, results are not immediate. Expect years of training to go by before you see results. It is a long process to become a good dancer. There are no “cut and paste” solutions. You just have to put in the time and the effort in your classes and rehearsals. It’s the same formula in any dance program both here and abroad. You have one-week, two-week, three-week, two month summer program and so on, but these programs basically expose you to different techniques and teachers but if you want real results, you stick to one method, one good teacher and invest years of daily training in order to become a good classical ballet dancer. 

VN: What would you propose to the Department of Education Secretary regarding the Special Program in the Arts, in general, or ballet, in particular?
LME: I would ask for a bigger budget to support training our future artists and supporting the various artistic projects of the different cultural institutions. Again, I would emphasize audience development. Once you have a large audience for your craft, you will never go hungry again. I am talking about an audience that goes to the theater, or museum, or concert, and pays for their ticket and gets entertainment and nice evening in return for their money. I would also ask the Department of Education to sponsor all student matinees so that students in all levels can watch performances and learn to appreciate the arts at a young age.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Fifth of seven parts) (November 05, 2012)

NOW-Lisa soars high in Don Quixote in Swan Song Series 2012

Vim Nadera: How would compare Russian dancers to us?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: Russian dancers have a longer history and tradition of classical ballet and exposure to the arts that would have started when they were children. So they have this advantage of growing up in an environment that nurtures one to strive for excellence in this demanding art form. They grow up with more than 300 years of tradition. Even just walking around the city of St. Petersburg, you are already immersed in the arts. As dancers, they are not as emotional as Filipinos when it comes to performing. Filipino performers are very passionate and emotional onstage. They give their all like it was the last performance of their lives. With Russian artists, they are a bit more reserved and calculated with their technique and attack.

VN: What about with artists from, for instance, Lithuania, Latvia,Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand, among others?
LME: It is surprising that artists from all over the world share a lot in common – and you tend to understand each other no matter what language you speak. You understand the demands of the art form, the discipline, the need to keep in shape, to calm your nerves before a show… the need of positive support backstage. For example, last June we had the “World Stars of Ballet” and nine star dancers from all over the world all did class with Ballet Manila’s 50 dancers on the Aliw Theater stage. And we all had a great time! We understood each other, applauded each other’s achievements and had fun onstage dancing and expressing ourselves in the universal language of dance. It is a fantastic feeling that we all share in common. A love for dance and the joy we experience doing what we love onstage as a way of life.

VN: What made you decide to establish in 1995 your own ballet company?
LME: It was the right time to move on and establish my own company. My contract with my former ballet company was not renewed. I was at the crossroads. I was left with the choice of either leaving the country and continuing to dance abroad, or staying and establishing my own company and school. When 11 other dancers decided to join me led by Osias Barroso (my longtime dance partner), together with Eric V. Cruz, my former artistic director from the other company, I decided that to stay and that we would form Ballet Manila.

VN: What is Ballet Manila’s identity? What sets you apart from others?
LME: Ballet Manila’s mission statement is “to bring world-class classical ballet to the Filipino and foreign audiences by training Filipino dancers in the Russian Vaganova method and employing these highly skilled dancers in a professional atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration in order to achieve excellence of the artistic performance in both traditional and non-traditional venues.” What sets us apart from the others? Our training is Russian Vaganova, in the same strict tradition that it is taught at the Vaganova Choreographic School in Russia where I studied. We bring in teachers from Russia every year to do master classes and restage classical work. Our standards and goals in training in classical ballet are different. We are stricter about achieving a 180-degree turnout, for example. There’s also the number of performances we do in a year or in a season -- sometimes, we reach as many as 300 performances in a year. That’s a lot more compared to the other companies. We have two resident theaters – Star and Aliw Theaters. We have three ballet studios that are devoted to just Ballet Manila and our school. Our artists earn per performance. It’s a different payment scheme. The more you dance, the more you earn – so you always strive to become a better dancer so you get casted and used more by choreographers creating new works for the company. We are also the youngest professional ballet company in the country and are only on our 17th season.

VN: Do you consider your style a Filipinized Vaganova? Or is there a Macuja Method?
LME: I guess you could say I have a compressed form of Vaganova because the number of levels of Vaganova is eight – with one year of training in each level. I have five levels in my school. But since the kids don’t do training everyday like in the Vaganova School, I need to accelerate some programs and promote some students accordingly. We also do not have our examinations yet. We just have assessments by the teachers.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Fourth of seven parts) (October 29, 2012)

Lisa Macuja (left) in Leningrad in 1982

Vim Nadera: How supportive was your family? What makes you excel in school and in other endeavors?
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde: My family had always been very supportive of everything I did. As kids, all of us siblings were encouraged to pursue our dreams. Of course, when I first announced to my Dad that I wanted to become a professional ballerina, he and my grandparents had reservations. They wanted me to go to college after high school and become an accountant – or at least get a degree leading to a more “stable” career. Excelling in school and in whatever we put ourselves into was a given. My parents were very strict about always doing our best and getting good grades. All of us were achievers in school and extra-curricular activities. We were rewarded for good grades and achievement with trips to the bookstore, money for spending on ourselves or for saving in the bank, and a lot of praise. My parents would attend my dance recitals and were always there for me. I think it was the overall positive reinforcement and family dinners when we would sit down for a meal and be able to share all our thoughts and ideas. I am very fortunate that I continue to have that kind of support up to today. My parents are actively helping me run Ballet Manila and the Ballet Manila School. My mom is treasurer and over-all “mother” to all the artists and staff. My dad is the president of the BM Foundation and is a “father figure” to all the artists and staff as well. And my Dad has all my archives and records. He knows how many “Swan Lakes” I’ve performed, with whom and where, even better than I do!

VN: Who are your idols and influences?
LME: Yoko Morishita and Maniya Barredo have both become my idols when I was a teen. It was after watching them dance live that I decided I wanted to become a professional classical ballerina also – just like them. Two major influences would be Felicitas Radaic, my first ballet teacher and school director in the St. Theresa’s College School of Dance, and Tatiana Udalenkova, who is like a second mother to me and was my classical ballet teacher in the Russian Ballet Academy for two years. I also lived with Tatiana and her family as sort of like an “adopted daughter” in a Russian family for two more years. But I will have to say that my parents Cesar and Susan Macuja are the strongest driving forces behind me — the way they brought me up and the way they continue to support and guide me throughout my entire professional and personal life. They are my pillars of strength and guidance!

VN: From being a young Dance Theater Philippines’ soloist, you became the Kirov Ballet’s principal dancer? How did you adjust at a very young age?
LME: I just stuck to a routine. I would take class, rehearse and perform. I would try to calm my nerves. And basically, whether it was a performance in Russia or a performance in the open-air stage in Rizal Park, I would just do my best and give it my best shot. I didn’t really adjust because ballet class, rehearsals and performances onstage, touring all of this was part of my life since I was a teenager.

VN: How did you survive Russia — personally and professionally?
LME: The hardest year of my entire life was my first year in Russia. This was in the early Eighties during the Cold War. I was living in a dormitory with 16 other girls. I was homesick. I had to learn a new language, to adapt to a new culture then at the same time attend my Russian language and ballet technique classes from 9am to 9pm. I also had to rehearse. In between, I took care of my personal chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and on top of it all, try to make my allowance last the month. I was constantly cold because of the freezing climate of St. Petersburg. And the ballet training was very intense and completely new in technique and style than what I was used to back home. I would wait every Sunday for a call from home or call my parents from the post office at 4 roubles per minute. I would write long letters by snail mail and wait to receive letters from home. It was tough. I got sick at one point and had to be confined in a Russian hospital. I also got injured and wasn’t able to do my final exams. Whenever I remember that first year in Russia up to now, I shudder. But, admittedly, it was the year when I decided that I wanted to stick it out and make the most of that wonderful opportunity.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Third of seven parts) (October 22, 2012)

Young LIsa Macuja training under Tatiana Udalenkova

Vim Nadera: Why should a prima ballerina end up as a broadcast journalist? Or is it part of your plan to popularize art? Or your art?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: It was definitely not my intention to become a broadcast journalist. Up to now, it isn’t. I think I am first a foremost a ballerina and intend to dance for as long as I can. Everything else I do, such as write, host Art 2 Art, endorse, choreograph, coach, teach etc… comes secondary to dancing.

VN: As Ballerina ng Bayan, why and how do you bring ballet closer to the so-called “masang Filipino”?
LM: I was dubbed “Ballerina ng Bayan” when Art 2 Art started. I have always been tagged as “Ballerina for the People,” “Ballerina of the People,” and “Ballerina of the Masses” when I started to perform all over the place – on television, in basketball courts, in the street and basically in non-traditional venues for ballet because that move was exposing ballet to new audiences. The key really is exposure. I simply try to dance as much as possible, in as many venues as possible, to as big an audience as possible. Once I started doing this, I became known for my outreach of bringing “ballet to the people and people to the ballet”. I have also helped reach a mass-based audience by conceptualizing shows and ballets that the mass audience can relate to. Such as Ballet & Ballads where we work with a singer and dance to OPM music. Circus D’Ballet where you have ballet dancers performing with circus acrobats and fire-eaters. I also go all over the place, especially to schools with our lecture demonstrations where I speak first on how to appreciate classical ballet and then do an actual performance. I have also done collaborations that create a more mass-based appeal for ballet such as our Tatlong Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang trilogy, Alamat: Si Sibol at Si Gunaw which is our ecological/environmental ballet, and other concert pieces that deal with Filipino themes, traditions, music that attract the audience because they understand them. One thing that definitely has developed the audience for ballet are our free shows every weekend in Star City. Then, there’s a 30-minute show called Maynila Ni Juan. Ballet Manila averages 300 performances a year. That’s a lot of exposure.

VN: Are you a born dancer? Who discovered you? Who nurtured you?
LME: I was born with a very flexible body. I got this from my Mom. My mom took up ballet when she was a child until the ballet ban in the 1950’s made her stop ballet. So, I could say my Mom brought me to ballet class as a kid and I tried to copy her. I was nurtured by several Filipino teachers such as Felicitas Radaic of the St. Theresa’s School of Dance, Basilio Esteban Villaruz, William Morgan, Irene Sabas. However, you could say that the one person I consider my mentor is my Russian teacher Tatiana Udalenkova under whose tutelage I graduated with honors from the Russian Ballet Academy in 1984. In the Kirov Ballet, I was under the ballet coaches Galina Kekisheva and Gabriella Komleyeva. Now, I am nurtured by many friends and colleagues – mainly my co-artistic director and dance partner of 16 years Osias Barroso. I also love working with different choreographers. The learning and the growing never really stops.

VN: What are your requirements for a Lisa Macuja wanna-be? How can someone from the urban or rural areas from become like you? How do you help them? Do you offer, say, a Macuja-Elizalde Scholarship?
LME: Requirements would be a facility for classical ballet. Flexibility, musicality, coordination, nice body proportions – in other words, you have to be born with a certain amount of talent. Then, you need the really good training in classical ballet which takes up around 4 to 6 years of daily practice. I have a scholarship program in my Ballet Manila School called Project Ballet Futures. I have always made it a practice to train scholars in ballet dancing – but not all my scholars end up as professional dancers. You have to stick to it. There’s a lot of sacrifice, pain and hard work involved in training to become a ballet dancer. Not everyone who takes up ballet at the start, no matter how physically endowed they may be, succeed.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Second of seven parts) (October 15, 2012)

VN: How would you describe yourself as a mother? As a wife?
LME: As a mother, I would say that I am a pretty cool mom. Albeit a very busy one. I am not that strict. I don’t think so. I kind of tend to spoil my kids with material things because that’s what working moms normally do – you know – try to make up for less time spent with your kids with cool gadgets and toys and clothes and shoes and their favorite foods… but I always make sure that these are rewards that they earn, or deserve. It’s not just “Ask and you shall receive with me and my kids. I use a reward system for good grades or good behavior so that they feel that they have earned their treats.

When my kids were younger, I would spend more time with them. I would read to them. I would play with them more like a playmate than a mom. I am lucky that I don’t have to spend a lot of my energy doing household chores so I can really devote my full attention and enthusiasm to the passions of my kids when I am not working. Now that my kids are in Middle School, they more or less decide on their own how they want to spend their time. I often feel I’ve lost a lot of this time to the Internet and their computers. I make it a point to be able to attend school activities and of course, with Missy dancing in Ballet Manila, I spend a lot of time with my daughter at work. One thing I can tell you though is that now their math homework is Greek to me. And whenever I try to teach Missy ballet, we end up arguing so it is not a very pleasant experience for both of us. She prefers a different teacher than her mom. As a wife, I am what you would call a geisha wife. I even put the slippers on my husband’s feet! I really take care of him – kind of like my bunso. And he loves it! J I am also a take-charge wife. OIC. I am sort of like his secretary, executive assistant, dresser, groomer, schedule planner, organizer etc. etc… Mrs. All Around. Yes, I spoil him too, just like my kids. But, I also know when to draw the line. He spoils me too so I guess it’s fair. Ha ha ha I don’t cook. I don’t do the laundry. I haven’t even re-decorated our house that we have spent the last 15 years of our lives together in. I am not really a homemaker sort of wife. I don’t have the talent for it. If you come into our house, you will see a “creative clutter” that seems to work for us.

VN: How is it being married to the president and CEO of the Manila Broadcasting Company, the largest radio network in the Philippines and in Asia, with DZRH being the the oldest radio station in the archipelago?
LME: Well, I have my own radio show! Ha ha ha. Okay, seriously, except as a “radio host” of Art 2 Art (which is five years old already and has reaped a whole slew of awards so justified naman di ba?) I don’t really meddle into my husband’s businesses and affairs. He has so many people working for him already, I would rather not mess that up with my presence. We definitely compliment each other with joint projects such as Ballet & Ballads with MBC and Circus D’Ballet and the weekend and Christmas free shows in Star City. Not many ballerinas can truthfully say that for two consecutive birthdays in a row, her husband gave her two theaters – first Star Theater in 2001 and Aliw Theater in 2002. Fred is Ballet Manila’s patron and for all his support, we are forever grateful.

VN: Could you tell us more about your award-winning radio show Art 2 Art? Is it also televised?
LME: Yes, it is also televised now on Cable TV. It’s in a teleradyo format. 30 minutes every Sunday at 3:30 to 4pm on DZRH and RHTV. We normally tape four episodes for the month on a Monday (which is my official day-off from dancing). I interview artists of various disciplines. We pay tribute to our National Artists every last Sunday of the month. We have run out of National Artists to pay tribute to because we have been on every Sunday since March 2007 and have taped and aired more than 265 episodes! I learn so much from the interviews and so many artistic collaborations have sprung forth from the ideas shared on Art 2 Art. We are proud to have been awarded 2 CMMA’s as Best Eductional Radio Program and 2 Gawad Tanglaws for the same category. I even received a Best Radio Anchor from Gawad Tanglaw 2 years ago! I have a great team! Anjie Ureta has been my best friend for more than 20 years already and she is the writer of Art 2 Art. Susan De Guzman is our researcher and she is also a great friend. So, I really have a good time taping Art 2 Art, it doesn’t feel like work at all. Kind of like my dancing in Ballet Manila which also doesn’t feel like a job at all.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (First of seven parts) (October 05, 2012)


Based on the high approval rating of our kids Psalma, Wika and Sulat who were silent witnesses to the loud crowd enjoying Edgardo Maranan’s Alamat: Si Sibol at si Gunaw at the Aliw Theater last 2 September, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde lived up to everybody’s expectation.

But, for her age, hello?

Prima ballerina Lisa Teresita Pacheco Macuja-Elizalde just turned 48.

Last Wednesday, 3 October, while celebrating her birthday, she was busy rehearsing for her Don Quijoteshows last week as part of her Swan Song Series 2012. It will continue on 19 and 21 October with Giselle at the Aliw Theater and on 26 and 27 October with Carmen at the Star Theater -- all under Ballet Manila which she helped create in 1995.

Mind you, she is not just its Artistic Director but also the Directress and faculty member of the Ballet Manila School.

Aside from hosting Art2Art , she too sits as the founding board member as well as treasurer of the Artists Welfare Project, Inc.

Before, she used to find time serving as the Vice Chair of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission and as the Commissioner of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women.

What could be the secret formula of this first Philippine-based prima ballerina and first foreign soloist who ever joined the Kirov Ballet?

Could it be the Vaganova method?

Or simply the Macuja-Elizalde style?

She wakes up early. Usually around 6am on a school day so that she brings her kids to school before 7:30am. Her mornings are spent on her porch with her laptop to check emails and do some office work and when she feels the need for it, she does some yoga and stretching to help her body along. She eats brunch with her husband Fred and then it’s off to her ballet studio from 1:30pm until around 5 or 6pm. After her dancing is done for the day, she devotes the rest of her evening to her family. They sometimes have homework, movie nights.

For herself, she has her own “massage nights” and “long baths nights”. She is normally in bed by 9:30pm and asleep by 10pm.

What will tomorrow bring to the spirit behind Project Ballet Futures, a dance training in partnership with local public schools and non-government organizations in Pasay City and Manila?

Fervently we wish that she will never stop bringing ballet closer to the hearts of the Filipino masses. Well, she won’t be the world-clas Ballerina ng Bayan for nothing.

Vim Nadera: Are your kids aware of how great their mom is?
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde: My kids grew up immersed in the arts. From the visual arts of their father and our resident French artist Henri Eteve, to the ballet studio and the two theaters Star and Aliw theater which they would consider an extension of their playground. I make it a point to bring them to plays and musicals and all sorts of shows. They grew up watching me perform so I think they are used to it. I remember when we were in Bohol one time and a fan asked me for a photo. My son, in a very loud voice complained, “I thought this was a family vacation Mama!” That’s when I realized that they do consider the fame part of the “working mom” package.

VN: Would you allow your kids to follow your footstep? Why and why not?
LME: Missy, age 13, already is my little ballerina. She is a company scholar in Ballet Manila and has already clocked a number of roles – one she even inherited from me! (The role of The Narrator in Tatlong Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang). I have mixed feelings about her becoming a ballerina. A side of me wants to protect her from the physical pain and discomfort, stress and heartache that come with the profession. Then, a greater part of me is so proud and happy that she and I can share something that is so close to my own heart and expertise. When I see her working so hard in the studio, she reminds me of myself. She has talent and the willpower. She also has access to the best training for ballet in the Philippines. So, we shall see where all of this will go. She did have a start – stop in ballet before, when she was 6 years old. But then, she turned 11 and decided to give ballet another go and has been quite determined ever since. My son Manuel has not expressed any interest whatsoever in learning to dance ballet. If he did, I would probably react the same way I have with Missy. I would support his wishes and encourage him with everything in my power – but still have the tendency to protect him from the pain and sacrifice that the art requires.