Not all classes at Ballet Manila are taught by prima ballerina, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, but once in a while students are treated to a surprise visit by her as the teacher for certain classes when she is free. And while she and her professional ballet staff teach actual ballet classes for young students looking to become professional ballet dancers and adult ballet fitness and children's classes as well, the idea that intrigues us is what they say that ballet as a workout is also freeing for the mind and soul, and therefore is also beneficial in combatting mentally degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
"You apply previous knowledge from one class to the next class, and the next class, and the next class, and that's how you slowly build a ballerina. That's why it normally begins when you're six years old," says Lisa of the dance.
At least according to Lisa, we don't need to endure the pain and dance on our toes to enjoy ballet as an art form and workout. Ballet Manila School now offers adult ballet for fitness which combines movements from pilates, barre, and yoga together with actual ballet form and principles. Lead artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde is the Philippines' first ever Prima Ballerina.
Lisa divides her time between artistically directing two branches of Ballet Manila in Pasay City (HQ) and Fisher Mall. Students of varying ages and both professional and amateur dancers train in her classes.
We were given an opportunity to try adult ballet fitness and the result is a very relaxing stretch and challenge of your range of motion in your extremeties and joints. There are a couple of senior citizen students as well who attend the adult ballet for fitness sessions to improve strength and flexibility in a low-impact type of workout. You will break a sweat but not excessively, but be surprised when your joints and muscles are highly but satisfyingly sore the next day (which of course proves that the workout is effective).
"It works the right brain and the left brain, you learn a vocabulary of steps and apply it to music with the timing... so it needs coordination of the mind and the body. It's also very freeing for the soul because you express a lot of emotion in it. So it's really the best form to fight Alzheimer's, adult ballet," notes Lisa.
Lisa was trained in the Russian Vaganova method and was with the Kirov Ballet as the first ballerina soloist, so if there is anyone who has mastered the art of dance locally it is certainly Lisa. The admiration and respect overflow whenever she enters a room. Schedules for all classes in Fisher Mall can be found here and Pasay City schedule is here. Watch Lisa demonstrate a few excerpts and principles from the adult fitness for ballet class. Head Office: 1915 Donada St., Pasay City. Telephone: Pasay City Branch: +632-5255967 and +632-4000292; Quezon City Branch: +632-2851343 and +632-2851353 / E-mail: [email protected]
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Photographs by author and from BalletManila.com.ph