Floria Capsali - Musical Vibration Turned Movement

In the summer of 1982, as I was saying an emotional good-bye at Floria Capsali's deathbed, the whole mournful world felt we were witnessing the end of a living legend of Romanian dancing. Indeed, for over half a century (she was born in 1900 in the town of Bitolia, Macedonia, and performed on her own from the age of 15), all the major ballet events produced on the Romanian stages between 1920-1975 bore the mark of the unique dancer, choreographer and teacher Floria Capsali. "Looking at her," the pianist Cella Delavrancea wrote after a recital at Gaveau hall in Paris (1926), "one understands that dancing is musical vibration turned movement." Stimulated by Sergei Diaghilev's "Russian Ballet" and recommended by him to the Parisian master Enrico Cechetti, the young Romanian dancer studied in the French capital both classical and character dancing with Léo Staats, Nicholas Legat and Christine Kerf, and eurhythmics with Jacques Delcroze, while also attending lectures on the history of arts at the Sorbonne and acting at the Théatre Atellier – Charles Dullin's school, all this just to later serve Romanian dancing. "I wanted to bring forward the value equivalencies and the semantic connections the Romanian folklore radiates" – she confessed to her disciple, Raluca Ianegic – "and relate it to the folklore of other peoples. I wanted to create a typically Romanian choreographic style that would bear the mark of our matchless folklore." She saw her dream come true, at first in her original and unique dance recitals organized by the Romanian Composers' Society (headed by George Enescu), and later on the stage of the Romanian Opera House and of other Bucharest theaters, in ballet performances such as Wedding in the Carpathians by Paul Constantinescu (1938), Miss Mariutza by Mihail Jora (1942), The Elf by Zeno Vancea (1943), When Grapes Ripen by Mihail Jora (1954) and The Romanian Rhapsody by George Enescu (1955). And if Floria Capsali made herself a legendary name in France (1926), Greece (1933), Yugoslavia (1935), Czechoslovakia (1943), Germany (1943), etc., her outstanding ballet galas, featuring choreographic miniatures on music by Jora, Negrea, Drăgoi, Brediceanu, Paul Constantinescu, Silvestri and Rogalski brought her even more fame, as well as recognition as the founder of our national dancing school. Major writers and musical critics have dwelt on Floria Capsali's originality in their articles. "Her body – a great master's skilful brush – draws successive lines, interpreting the meaning of the chosen rhythm. Her physical weight no longer exists. She is a spiritualized idea that has found its expression in the delicate shape of a body filled with the fluidity of music" (Cella Delavrancea). "Floria Capsali has extracted the rhythmic essence, the pure idea and the profound line of our folk dances from the hora and the Dionysian delirium of our village dances" (Dan Botta). "Performed by Floria Capsali, Romanian folk dances regain their Latin significance. The steps of the Romanian dances appear pure, cleared of all residues... The genius of this dancer has turned the mechanical Alunelul or the monotonous Hora into a Dionysian chain, oozing with the Orphic mystery" (Paul Sterian). Lastly, the great poet Tudor Arghezi, overwhelmed by a "liturgical feeling" he experienced during one of her recitals, wrote enthusiastically: "Even the break is impressive with Mrs. Capsali, placed at the psychological moment between two movements, when a mute melody is inserted, so to say, a vibration that slips outside and lingers in the hall unheard but present." The founder of the most important Romanian dance school in Bucharest in the first half of the 20th century, Floria Capsali achieved an exemplary national choreographic synthesis against a background of rich local village folklore and Romanian academic art of Byzantine origin. Many Romanian dancers have taken over her heritage (all the stars of the '50s-'70s were her disciples), thus promoting the ineffable art of movement all over the world.

by Viorel Cosma (b. 1927)