Alexa Mezincescu - Interview

I suggest a discussion about superlatives. You have had a superlative career – as a matter of fact, two careers that at first intertwined, and then continued separately. Chronologically, who were your best teachers? My maestros were Anton Romanowski, Oleg Danovski, Gelu Matei, Tilde Urseanu and Vasile Marcu, all outstanding personalities. As a ballerina, I had the chance to go for specialization to Leningrad, after snatching the first prize at a national contest. I also had the chance to attend the choreography department of the Art Institute in Stockholm, whose teachers were international personalities, among which Birgit Cullberg, who had her own modern dance troupe with which I was practicing and applying our experience in creation; it is an extraordinary advantage to get your hands on professionals when you experiment with a new work! Which choreographers did you admire most? In my youth I admired Romanian choreographers, because their creations were quite varied: the same Romanowski, Danovski, Gelu Matei, or Tilde Urseanu to a certain extent. Among the foreign ones, I liked in particular George Balanchine, a genuine innovator, who recreated great classical ballets, but also smaller neo-classical ones, full of savor and technique, in an unmistakable style. I also appreciated Jerome Robbins, John Neumeier, Jiri Kylian – a staunch adherent to neo-classicism with boundless and abundant imagination, irrespective of the music he employed, and, of course, MacMillan, one of the greatest 'adagists', who treated the andantes with amazing naturalness, although these are extremely hard for a dancer to execute. As a prima ballerina, which was your favorite role, and which was the partner you best harmonized with? I belong in a generation with many partners. At a certain age, when I had reached maturity as a ballerina, I "raised" many youths. I felt great dancing with Gheorghe Cotovelea, Mihai Babuşka, Laurenţiu Guinea, George Bodnarciuc, George Iancu (who debuted with me in Giselle). It was a unique experience, and I suggest the present-day ballerinas change their partners from time to time, because each of them brings in something new in the communication between the characters. My favorite part was Giselle, which I danced at the première, because it was quite appropriate for me as a Romantic and dramatic ballerina. I also liked Juliet, Esmeralda, Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty… Each creator has a favorite child. Which is yours? Hard to tell. Perhaps Vivaldi's Seasons, or Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, or La fille mal gardée by Herold; or maybe Byzantine Poem on Doru Popovici's music, a newfangled work, as Byzantine art is less popularized through dance these days. What do you appreciate most with a dancer and a choreographer, which are their essential qualities? Culture is essential for both, as well as an intellectual level that will allow them to create characters. For a choreographer, I believe it is crucial to tackle each work as a competition against himself as to documentation, knowledge and learning. In this profession, as in medicine, no matter how much you learn, you can never say you've finished. The diversity of the stylistic range is as important: classical, neo-classical, contemporary. It would be ideal not to confine oneself to a single style, but to test one's capacity of creation with new musical scores and ideas. Then there is a problem of language, of the elements through which you express your thoughts, for a choreographer might have a well-thought project, whereas the language does not serve his exposition. From the present-day generations, whom do you appreciate most as a performer or creator? There are many kids, and they keep coming out of school, because dance will never die, it will only go from one stage and one generation to another, with its sincere exposition and frankness before the audience. I appreciate very much Corina Dumitrescu: she is very complex, she can approach any type of choreography, because both her body and her mind help her a lot. We have other good dancers too, whose repertoire must be taken care of, because each has a different line – neo-classical, demi-character, etc., not all of them are as all-inclusive: Mădălina Slăteanu, Monica Petrică and others. Loredana Salaoru promises to become too a wide-ranging ballerina. A rising dynamic choreographer is now Mihai Babuşka. It's good that he keeps an eye on the change of generations and plans to carry on the good things we have done and build a bridge, together with us, for the generations to come. It's good to have a team and competition, for a creator must be incited by the creation of others who overtake him, springing ahead but knowing whom they have passed by. As a young dancer you received the Honored Artist title. Almost four decades later, President Iliescu paid you homage by granting you the Knight Rank Faithful Service Order on the 80th anniversary of the Opera. After a few months, during a ceremony, you met your former theater colleagues on the stage. How was that encounter with people who were receiving the same distinctions a little later? It was a great pleasure. I was part of the "golden generation" of Romanian ballet. At the time, there was a very productive competition among the prime dancers: each excelled in something – some were good performers, others had a good technique, others had a special body plasticity. The meeting was touching, and it is great that President Iliescu granted the awards to these distinguished ballet dancers of the National Opera, because they made a career in the country, then spread the glory and the name of their country abroad as performers, teachers, assistants. It's been years since praiseworthy artists were last rewarded for their toil and devotion. Your daughter's career took after yours. Which was the most important piece of advice you gave her? Lucia danced for ten years with the company of the National Opera – and I am proud of her – , with good results, before she settled in the USA. As a ballerina, she excelled in ease, technique and musicality, and I am glad she was appreciated by my colleagues, by choreographers and by her partners. My advice was to keep her eyes open to her profession and to professionals, to blend as well as she can her native characteristics and talent, and to respect her colleagues. Not long ago you said you still had unexploited artistic resources. Did you refer to any specific projects or just to a general readiness? I have a few projects – I do not feel yet the time has come for me to give up creation. Andersen Fairy Tales on Swedish music – a most welcome title, I think, because we have too few shows for children; Medea, with music by Samuel Barber – a modern ballet drama; Symphony in C, by Georges Bizet – a sparkling piece of work with a lively, exuberant score that lends itself to a neo-classical approach as well as to a contemporary one; these are titles I have been dreaming about for years. How do you find the latest premiere, Cinderella? The performance adds beauty to the structure of classic parts and a new form in the pantomime of the three, very well balanced, masked characters – the Mother and the Stepsisters. Mihai Babuşka's show will have a long life in our repertoire. One felt the need for a show that would cheer us up, among the big titles of our repertoire, most of them dramatic or lyrical. Corina Dumitrescu's level of technique and artistic performance enchanted me again. The choreography is well chosen to suit her personality – Mihai Babuşka found the appropriate line of the character, endowing the part with expressiveness, warmth, accuracy. Cinderella is one of Corina's greatest performing achievements compared with all the Cinderellas I have seen abroad so far.

by Vivia Săndulescu