In ancient Greek mythology, the Phoenix is depicted as an immortal bird that symbolizes renewal and rebirth. It was said that only one of its kind can live for 500 years at a time, and just before its time was up, it would build a nest and set itself on fire. From the ashes, miraculously would rise a new Phoenix.
Akin to this story of resurrection, the famed Aliw Theater in Pasay City is also set to experience its own rebirth – after a series of well-publicized ordeals – as it opens its doors once again after an amazing renovation that meet the post-pandemic requirements for live performances, foremost by Ballet Manila, whose original home is Aliw Theater.
“I feel very encouraged and happy that our home has been restored and that the theater complex is an even harder working venue that is capable of so much more,” shared Lisa Macuja Elizalde, CEO and creative director of Ballet Manila.
As the flagship facility for events within the Elizalde Complex, the newly renovated Aliw Theater can support concerts, theatrical performances, corporate events, and all types of shows.
The main theater, which had over 2,000 seating capacity before the fire hit the complex in October 2019, has been adjusted to 1,275, which is the optimal capacity in the new normal. This is complemented by modifications on essential theater features for audiences’ better viewing experience: new top-of-the-line lights and audio equipment, and brand-new seats and carpets. But a major addition is the on-stage 36 ft. x 15 ft. LED screen in the main theater. “The LED screen will be a huge help in putting up our old repertoire with less cost for production without compromising on the quality,” Macuja-Elizalde says.
Another major highlight of the renovation is Aliw Theater’s new smoke suction and fresh air system. “This is basically like a built-in air purifier,” she enthuses. “We were rebuilding during the lockdowns and this allowed us to put in features that will make the theater safer given the pandemic conditions.”
Likewise, the theater lobby has also undergone major renovations. For audiences’ comfort, the theater has provided more comfort rooms, an elevator, and special seating for Persons With Disability (PWDs).
The newly renovated Aliw Theater is part of the Elizalde Events Complex which aims to be the next destination for live performances, events, and intimate gatherings. Two more facilities are included in the Complex: the Elizalde Hall and the Custom Space. The former is a 370-square-meter area which includes a spacious lobby and two meeting rooms. It is ideal for business meetings, small conferences and training events. Meanwhile, the Custom Space is a 500-meter area that can support all types of artistic endeavors, from intimate performances and recitals to exhibits and social events.
With the completely upgraded facilities at Aliw Theater, Ballet Manila truly is raring for its comeback with exciting live performances. And indeed, it will return in a big way with “Rise!” where celebrated conductor and musical director, Gerard Salonga, will be at the helm. As the actualization of Macuja-Elizalde’s “phoenix rising” promise, the opening show will be made even more special with the participation of international baritone singer Andrew Fernando who will perform and act as the vocal coach of all the opera singers. The show will also feature a full orchestra, opera and pop singers.
From its amazing comeback performance, the company sustains the festive energy with its “Holiday Cheer Series”, an annual event where the dance company will stage Christmas-themed ballets as a gift for families and kids. The series will re-stage Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s “Cinderella”, which has been one of the staples and bestsellers among Ballet Manila’s repertoire.
Lastly, on its 28th year anniversary, Ballet Manila will recommence its 25th performance season, which has been halted because of the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. Entitled “Of Hope and Homecoming”, it will open with Martin Lawrance’s “Romeo and Juliet” from February 18 to 19, 2023. Its mid-season will showcase Don Quixote with guest artists from San Francisco Ballet from May 27 to 28, 2023. The season will close with Gerardo Francisco’s “Ibong Adarna” on August 19 to 20, 2023.”
But while the ballet company and Aliw Theater went on a hiatus for two-years, Macuja-Elizalde shared they were amazed by the exponential growth in enrollment to their online ballet classes. Enrolment in the Lisa Macuja School of Ballet (LMSB) boomed with students logging in from the different provinces around the Philippines, other countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hongkong, Portugal, the United States and Australia and even Bahrain.
“We transferred our classes online and went on from there to develop an entirely new way of running the school. With online recitals, examinations, a developed syllabus and new classes such as the “Dance With Me” toddlers classes and the Ballet For the New Young senior citizen classes among many others – and we continue to grow!” she shares, adding that there were many challenges along the way, such as poor wifi signal, lack of floor space and proper equipment for students at home. “But some students were so invested in their classes that they bought barres and linoleum flooring! As I always say, when there’s a will, there is a way.”
Obviously, the past two years have been a learning experience for Macuja-Elizalde and for the people deeply involved with Aliw Theater, Ballet Manila and the LMSB. “We will continue to innovate in the area of non-traditional distribution of content and services. We have survived, and we continue to grow. I think that we are now stronger, wiser and better. It can only look brighter from now on. The best is always yet to come.”
Indeed it is.
With the totally upgraded Aliw Theater and the reignited fervor of her dancers, Macuja-Elizalde affirms audiences can look forward to more enjoyable and memorable performances “More than ever, we really need people’s support. Come and watch our performances in Aliw Theater. It’s been too long, and we really miss you!” Macuja-Elizalde concludes.
To know more about Ballet Manila and the Lisa Macuja School of Ballet, kindly visit https://balletmanila.com.ph/.
For inquiries or to book a space at Aliw Theater for your next event, visit https://aliwtheater.com.ph