Performing across the world

Fritzie tells of her decision to come to Australia. Pictures: Louisa Jones

By Angie Hilton

Fritzie Punsalang and her husband Jordan moved to Australia from the Philippines with just $800 to their name and a 3 year old in tow. It was a case of sink or swim.

But their tight bond, optimistic outlook and determination saw them establish their roots firmly in Geelong and form strong bonds with the local performing arts community.

15 years down the track, they have a thriving performing arts school called Parallax and their two children Adam & Page are excelling in the professional music theatre world.

Snapshot of Fritzie…


Communications and Engagement Professional by day, Singing Teacher by night (Parallax Performing Arts), Professional Musician some weekends (Salted Fish Acoustic Duo)

Husband: describe in 3 words

Jordan – family oriented, mentor, visionary

Children: describe in 3 words

Adam (18) – creative, articulate, great listener

Page (13) – independent, brave, nurturing

Favourite quote:

“If a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” Alexander Den Heijer

Favourite song to belt out in the shower:

Anything musical theatre, 90s, Adele, Carole King, Lady Gaga…also Filipino tunes

Favourite movie:

Forrest Gump (but closely followed by Pride and Prejudice)

Favourite thing to do with your kids in Geelong:

Eat out – we love food! Watch a movie, check out some live music or local shows. Hang at our studio to sing and dance!

Your secret to happiness:

Travel light and always be grateful.


Let’s start with your journey to Australia. What brought you here and what was life like in the Philippines?

We just became tired of the politics in the Philippines. It didn’t seem like things would change so I made the decision to get out of the country.

Jordan wasn’t too keen to leave. He was a sought after choreographer and events director in the Philippines. We ran a boutique events and dance company. I did the marketing and wrote event scripts. Jordan would direct the shows, source talents and choreograph dances. We loved it, especially after pulling off a show or a live event. But the lead up was always stressful and work was seasonal.

I was also working as a lecturer in a university in Manila, teaching and doing research in language and literature. I did that for about 8 years – although I did take a break for a year to work at the Senate of the Philippines while I was writing my dissertation. I finished my doctorate degree in June 2006 and in October 2006, we arrived in Australia.

I was the only one in my family who decided to move to Australia. The rest of my family (my mum, dad and siblings) moved to the US. I was a fan of a postcolonial book called ‘The Empire Writes Back’ by Australian writers Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. I was hoping to continue my academic career in this field. I’ve also always admired Melbourne’s vibrant arts and culture scene. But most of all, I thought it’s better to stay on this side of the world and be one of the first to celebrate New Year’s!

When you arrived did you know anyone? How did you start to establish yourself?

We only knew one person – and that’s my mom’s older sister, my beloved Aunty Ging. She’s an absolute legend. She had so much faith in us and in our skills. This really helped us gain confidence to take risks, which is often hard when you’re in a new environment.

We only had $800 when we arrived in Australia. This clearly isn’t enough to start a new life in a new country especially with a 3-year old in tow. But we got into action pretty quickly.

It was close to summer when we arrived so lots of places were looking for kitchen staff. Lucky Jordan studied culinary arts in the Philippines so he immediately got a job cheffing at a pub in the Bellarine.

We saved just enough money to buy our first car – a second hand red Mazda 121, it was tiny but reliable. We rented a small unit in Herne Hill with furniture and basic household items from op shops and garage sales. The only ‘new’ items we had were the fridge and washing machine which were factory seconds. We actually still have the same fridge – it’s still working!

I started teaching in a university which was good but realised I wanted to try something new. I got a job curating local performing arts events in a youth arts centre. This was so much fun – I met so many like-minded people and was introduced to the bustling performing arts scene in Geelong.

In 2009, I gave birth to Page and Adam started primary school. I took a break from work for about 12 months. It was quite full on especially because we didn’t have our usual network of supports. But we focussed on what we can do and we had, instead of what we can’t do and what we didn’t have.

Tell us about the birth of your babies

Adam was born 2 days early. My water broke as I was washing dishes from breakfast. I didn’t sleep well the night before because I was already experiencing some form of labour pain, but it wasn’t enough to make me go, this is it. So I was confused when my water broke.

It was a stormy day and Jordan drove through heavy rains, possibly speeding, to get us to the hospital. We got there only to be told that it may still be a while. After about 15 hours of labour and everyone around me getting impatient, Adam came to the world via C-section at 1am the following day.

Page on the other hand decided to come out the day after her due date. We had some friends over the day before so I was pretty tired when I headed to bed that night.

I started feeling labour pains a bit after midnight and could not sleep. The pain escalated and at around 3am Jordan drove me to the hospital half awake. We got there and once again were told that it may still be a while. After more than 10 hours of active labour and people around me getting impatient, Page finally arrived at around 1pm via C-section.

Did you have any support network in Geelong to help you?

It was really the performing arts community in Geelong that became our first support network here. We were passionate about the same things and everyone was just so warm and welcoming.

You seem like such a tight family unit. What do you put that down to?

The assurance that we will always have each other’s back, no matter what.

Tell us about Parallax Performing Arts and how it came to life?

Jordan had burnout after a hectic summer in the kitchen. He couldn’t see himself working as a chef and dreaded the thought of another summer. He wanted to dance – choreograph, teach, make dance shows.

He combed through job ads and eventually saw an ad for a funk / hip-hop teacher. He applied and got the job. Word got around and he was hired to teach in more dance schools.

In May 2007, he decided to start his own dance school – Parallax Dance Company.

He started with 1 class on a Sunday night at the old Geelong Performing Arts Centre (now Geelong Arts Centre). There were only 2 students in his first class, but he persevered.

Each week more and more students joined so he offered more classes. We even opened a class at The Potato Shed in Drysdale.

Word about the quality of his work started spreading and he was invited to choreograph some local musical theatre shows. In 2012, he was given a Choreography Award by the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria for one of his works.

In 2014, we decided to start offering dance classes for kids, primarily because Adam and Page started showing interest in the performing arts. We thought it would be good for them to learn with others.

In 2016, we rebranded ourselves as Parallax Performing Arts to cover dance, singing and acting.

I teach / coach most of the singing classes – private and group, preparation for auditions, shows, scholarships, exams, competitions, live music and songwriting.

Most of our current students are strong dancers, singers and actors. They’re passionate about what they do and they always strive to take their skills to the next level.

Parallax has a proven track record of providing quality training with many of our former students now working as industry professionals here and abroad.

Your children are both highly successful. What is the secret to their success and tell us about their journeys to success.

Some kids find joy in sport or creating things with their hands, Adam and Page find joy in the performing arts.

They’re both able to express themselves more fully when they sing, dance or engage with an audience.

Adam joined The Voice Kids when he was 10 – no singing experience, he just wanted to meet Joel Madden because he also wears hats.

He then realised he liked singing and performing in front of people and would often ask me when he can perform again.

I saw an open call for Matilda the Musical on social media and I asked if he’d like to audition seeing he was looking for an opportunity to perform in front of an audience. I showed him a video of Revolting Children to give him an idea of what the show is about. He instantly said yes. The audition process was tough and he prepared really hard for it. So he was so happy when he got the role of Eric as part of the original Melbourne cast of Matilda. He also had the opportunity to perform in Sydney and Brisbane.

After that, he did Carmen for Opera Australia at the Arts Centre, then Siddhartha the Musical where he played Young Siddhartha at the Athenaeum Theatre, and finally as Fletcher the son of Whitney Houston’s character in The Bodyguard at the Regent Theatre.

His interests have shifted a bit now. He is more interested in choreography, directing and writing music rather than performing. He also just started law school and absolutely loves it.

Page’s love of musical theatre started when she played Tam at Footlight Productions’ Miss Saigon. She enjoyed being on stage and watching all the singing and dancing.

When she was 7, she was cast in Peter Pan at the Comedy Theatre featuring Tim Maddren and Todd McKenney. She totally loved it, especially working with an amazing cast and making friends with kids like her.

Soon after she played Young Yasodhara in Siddhartha the Musical at the Athenaeum Theatre. Both kids were in the show and it was so lovely to see them together on stage.

Most recently, Page played Young Elsa in Frozen the Musical at Her Majestys Theatre. She also had the opportunity to train and perform in Sydney before the show came to Melbourne, as well as perform at last year’s Carols by Candlelight at the Sidney Myer Bowl.

She’s currently in Year 7 and is playing Matilda in her school’s junior production of Matilda the Musical.

What makes a great performer?


They know their ‘why’. They perform to express, not to impress.

They honour their audience, the creative process and everyone behind the scenes.

They find time to sharpen their tools and give themselves time to recharge.

They radiate joy when they perform.

Were you and Jordan brought up in performing families?


Jordan comes from a family of dancers. His older cousins are accomplished professional dancers and dance makers who toured the world.

My grandfather was a violin player and wrote patriotic songs, mostly in Ilocano (regional language in northern Philippines). Both my parents play the guitar and sing (my mum is great at harmonies). All my siblings sing – my brother was a lead vocalist in a band, as well as my youngest sister (she also wrote songs).

What did you take from your own upbringing that helps you parent today?

Lead by example.

My parents practised what they preached. I saw them persevere, problem solve, learn from and laugh at mistakes, nurture relationships / friendships, and prioritise family at all times.

What was the hardest part about migrating to Australia?

Getting used to the weather! Especially where we are – 4 seasons in a day literally.

Also not having your usual network of supports around you.

What would you say to anyone else who is new to the country?

Everything is hard at the start, but keep at it. Australia is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. It won’t take long for you to call it home.