Celebrating a marriage of the arts

Celebrating a marriage of the arts

When business tycoon Fred Elizalde exchanged wedding vows with prima ballerina Lisa Macuja in 1997, it brought together two individuals whose shared passion for the arts would lead to an enduring creative partnership. Alongside their romance, the artistic sparks flew between the prolific painter and the ballet dancer.

The art patron in Fred helped propel Lisa and her company, Ballet Manila, to new heights. Lisa has always acknowledged Fred’s support in continuing BM’s twin mission of bringing ballet to the people and people to the ballet. With his encouragement, Lisa has also extended her advocacy for the arts through broadcast media.

In the book A Marriage of the Arts (2002), which showcased his paintings and her ballet photos, Lisaenthused of their marital union: “Our lives were permanently intertwined and I would like to think that we have since fully blossomed as artists, as well as human beings!”

Many years have passed from that time, and the artistic bond between this couple has only grown stronger. As Fred and Lisa celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on June 7, the Ballet Manila Archives presents a sampling of memorabilia from its collection that affirm the essential role the arts have played in their lives and the legacy they have jointly created and contributed thus far to Philippine dance and art.

The painter and the ballerina

In Lisa, Fred found a muse. Dozens of his canvases are filled with her image, serving as a tribute to her as a dancer and to the art of movement. Several of these works – marked by Fred’s characteristic use of vivid colors and exaggerated features – grace the pages of A Marriage of the Arts, a coffee-table book that has been described as a testament to their artistic collaboration.

Ballet & Ballads

As a touring ensemble, Ballet Manila had already performed from Abra to Zamboanga in its first year. Building on this, Fred thought of putting together ballet and pop music in shows that would be brought to different parts of the country as presented by the Elizalde-owned Manila Broadcasting Company and its partner-stations nationwide. Working with local governments and sponsors, the series dubbed as Ballet & Ballads has introduced the uninitiated to the art of ballet and made it accessible to them. Ballet & Ballads also usually caps BM’s performance season in Metro Manila, serving as a showcase for new choreography and ballet numbers danced to the songs of acclaimed pop singers, with tickets sold at popular prizes.

Supporting Ballet Manila

Fred has proven to be Ballet Manila’s principal benefactor, providing the group with its headquarters and studio and eventually its performance venues. Having the Star Theater and later the Aliw Theater allowed BM to have an annual season and a suitable space to mount bigger productions. Fred is a familiar presence on opening night of BM shows where he gets to enjoy the spectacle of ballet while also gauging audience reaction instantly. As a BM supporter, he has generously contributed to the company’s Project Ballet Futures scholarship program and has joined the group’s delegations to international competitions.

Hands-on creative genius

Creating synergy seems to be a specialty of Fred who has conceptualized major efforts involving Ballet Manila, Star City and the Star and Aliw Theaters. Again in keeping with the aim of making ballet accessible to more people, Star City patrons are treated to free shows as a break from the theme park rides. He also thought of introducing the Circus D’Ballet series, merging the beauty of ballet with the excitement of circus acts in an original storyline that is changed according to the season. He has also lent his ideas to various Ballet Manila productions that are part of its regular season.

Art 2 Art

Intent on pursuing her mission of developing a greater appreciation for art and culture among Filipinos, Lisa was encouraged by friends to put together an educational show where she could engage in heart-to-heart conversations with fellow artists. Thus was born Art 2 Art in 2007 with the “Ballerina ng Bayan” herself as host. Again with Fred’s support, the program was produced by the Manila Broadcasting Company and initially aired on radio via DZRH on Sunday afternoons. A few years later, Art 2 Art also started broadcasting on cable television through RHTV. After guesting hundreds of personalities from all arts disciplines and receiving honors from various award-giving bodies, Lisa says Art 2 Art – now marking its tenth anniversary – remains committed to its aim of bringing “Usapang sining at kultura para sa lahat!” (Art and culture discussion for all!) in every episode.

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