Lisa Macuja by Sara Black

Lisa Macuja Elizalde

Artistic Director & Chief Executive Officer, Ballet Manila

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde is undoubtedly the most phenomenal ballerina the country has ever produced. Her career is best summed up by these numbers: 28 years of dancing the lead in over 300 full-length ballets, performed in 90 cities that span five continents around the globe.

Macuja-Elizalde started ballet at the age of eight under Felicitas Radaic at the St. Theresa College School of Dance, where she became a member of Dance Theater Philippines.

In 1982, she received a scholarship from the USSR Ministry of Culture to study at the Leningrad Choreographic Institute (now the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet) in Saint Petersburg under the tutelage of Tatiana Alexandrovna Udalenkova.

Graduating at the top of her class in 1984, she was the first foreigner to join the historic Kirov Ballet a revered dance institution in Russia. She debuted as principal ballerina in The Nutcracker, Don Quixote (with Faroukh Ruzimatov as Basilio), and Giselle at the Mariinsky Theater.

Returning to Manila in 1986, she was the first artist-in-residence of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and performed as guest artist with Ballet Philippines until 1988, when she became a principal dancer of the Philippine Ballet Theatre. She performed principal roles with foreign companies in Russia, the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia.

In 1995, she established Ballet Manila, together with perennial partner Osias Barroso and ten other young dancers. Ballet Manila has since grown into the most sought-after Filipino ballet company.

As Ballet Manila’s principal ballerina and artistic director, she led the company’s performance tours that brought them to 16 cities in Russia, 15 cities in the USA, the Aberdeen Youth Festival in Scotland, the Folk Arts Festival in South Korea, the Asia Arts Festival in China, the Angkor-Gyeongju World Culture Expo in Cambodia, the Philippine Fiesta in Japan, and a concert tour of England and Ireland.

As directress of the Ballet Manila School, she established Project Ballet Futures, a program where poor but promising young boys and girls are given free ballet training, apparel, meals and allowances to help them reach their dream of becoming professional dancers.

In 2011, Macuja-Elizalde launched her Swan Song Series, as she said goodbye to her favorite full-length classical roles within a three-year-period, paving the way for her retirement in 2014.

Aside from her diploma from the most distinguished ballet academy in Russia, she pursued her academic education and received an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies in 2004, leading to her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management (with honors) in 2007, both from the University of Phoenix, USA.

She is married to Fred J. Elizalde, and they have two children, Missy and Manuel.