Japanese ambassador hosts reception for Ballet Manila

Japanese ambassador hosts reception for Ballet Manila

Watching Japanese prima ballerina Yoko Morishita (left) in Swan Lake at age 14 inspired Lisa Macuja-Elizalde (right) to pursue ballet as a profession. Photo from Ballerina of the People

As a fourteen-year-old girl, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde sat in awe in the CCP Main Theater as she watched Japanese prima ballerina Yoko Morishita transform into the fascinating characters Odette and Odile in Swan Lake. So inspired was she by that performance – particularly by a petite Asian dancer like her – that then and there, she decided that she too would become a professional ballerina like Yoko.

Celebrating Japanese-Filipino relations: Ambassador Haneda (third from left) with (from left) dancers Akari Ida and Hyuma Kiyosawa, BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, dancers Nanami Hasegawa, Kotomi Narai and Sayaka Ishibashi, and Project Ballet Futures managing director Sylvia Lichauco

Ballet Manila’s artistic director shared that life-changing moment at a reception hosted by Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines Koji Haneda in his residence recently, with the company’s dancers and select guests in attendance.

The reception was held in honor of five Japanese dancers who are currently part of Ballet Manila. Ballerinas Nanami Hasegawa, Akari Ida, Sayaka Ishibashi and Kotomi Narai are company artists, while danseur Hyuma Kiyosawa – silver medalist in the 2018 USA International Ballet Competition – is a guest artist.

“The company is proud to have these five hardworking dancers with us,” said Macuja-Elizalde, whose Japanese “connection” also includes winning the silver medal in the 5th Japan Ballet Competition for Young Dancers of Asian Pacific in 1987.

In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Haneda congratulated Ballet Manila on the success of its recently concluded 23rd season, saying how fortunate he was to have watched the final show, Deux, and to have seen the five Japanese dancers perform in it.

Ambassador Haneda with Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and representatives of EON (from left) – Adam Crayne, Angelica Pettersson and Angela Blardony Ureta. Photo by Mark Sumaylo

As ambassador, he said one of his missions is to bridge lasting connections between the Philippines and Japan. Apart from the areas of trade and investment, tourism and sports, he said there are also Japanese-Filipino exchanges in the performing arts.

He underscored the importance of cultural exchange, saying that the two countries already enjoy a strong bond in this regard. He cited as examples the selection of Yoshikazu Fukumura as Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor, and Tanghalang Pilipino’s staging last year of Manila Notes, a local adaption of the popular Japanese play Tokyo Notes.

Having the Japanese dancers in Ballet Manila, he added, is a testament to the role of human connections in forging and strengthening Japan-Philippines relations and he thanked the company for playing a significant part in this effort.

In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Koji Haneda stresses the importance of cultural exchange between Japan and the Philippines. Photo by Mark Sumaylo

Sylvia Lichauco, managing director of Project Ballet Futures, Ballet Manila’s scholarship program, also attended the reception with Ballet Manila assistant ballet mistress and rehearsal mistress Eileen Lopez.

Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines Koji Haneda (standing, sixth from right) welcomes Ballet Manila – led by artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde (beside him, in blue) – to a reception in his residence.

Aside from the Japanese dancers, Ballet Manila was represented by principal dancers Joan Emery Sia, Abigail Oliveiro, Elpidio Magat and Mark Sumaylo, soloists Rissa May Camaclang and Nicole Barroso, and company artists Marinette Franco, John Ralp Balagot, Godwin Merano, Brian Sevilla, Rafael Perez and Alvin Dictado, and Ballet Manila 2’s John Carl Concepcion and Jefferson Balute.

Representing EON – a communications consultancy company whose EON Foundation has partnered with Ballet Manila Foundation to support Project Ballet Futures – were Angela Blardony Ureta, Angelica Pettersson and Adam Crayne.

In her brief remarks, Macuja-Elizalde also invited Ambassador Haneda and other guests at the reception to watch Ballet Manila when its 24th performance season opens in September.

Prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde shows Ambassador Haneda and two Japanese guests basic ballet steps which they then tried to do. Photo by Mark Sumaylo

Why company member Akari Ida chose ballet and continues to love it

Why company member Akari Ida chose ballet and continues to love it

The Lisa Macuja-Elizalde I know

The Lisa Macuja-Elizalde I know