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.