Gelu Barbu At 45 Years From The Debut

The ballet dancer who made his debut on the stage of the Kirov Theatre in Sankt Petersburg, prime ballet dancer at the Opera in Bucharest, then, after 1961, prime ballet dancer at the Norwegian Royal Opera in Oslo, decorated by King Olaf with the "Constitution medal", first ballet dancer of the Nuremberg Opera, and after his settlement in Gran Canaria at Las Palmas, the one that became, in time, member of the Canarian Arts Academy, president of the Dance Teachers Association and of the Professional Dancers Association, president, then president of honor of the International Stage of Dance from Lisbon, the organizer of the International Stage of Dance from Las Palmas that he has led since 1985 – but, first of all, Gelu Barbu from Lugoj has remained continuously tied, through invisible strings, to the country he belongs to, Romania. After the first tour in the autumn of 1991 in Timişoara and Bucharest with his dance company from Canary Islands, founded in 1960, Gelu Barbu wanted to celebrate the 45 years from his debut in the country, at Lugoj, in Timişoara and in Bucharest. Here, during a recital held by today's prime ballet dancers and soloists of the National Opera, Carmen Angheluş and Alin Gheorghiu, Simona Şomăcescu and Tiberiu Almosnino, Corina Dumitrescu and George Postelnicu, Daniela Constantinoiu, Florica Stănescu, Magdalena Rădulescu, Costel Georgescu, Mădălina Slăteanu, Johanna Lindh, Doina Acsinte and Mihai Tugearu and alongside with his guest Ioan Tugearu, danced two prime ballet dancers of the Canarian company, Wendy Artiles and Miguel Montanez, the creation of Gelu Barbu Miserere, music by Michael Nyman and the choreographer himself after a song of Maria Tănase, My Thoughts. A dancer with a good classical education (Vaganova from Sankt Petersburg), but distinguishing himself first of all through a bodily graphicalness extremely expressive that comes forth even today, after so many years from his debut, in his movements, the ballet dancer, choreographer and educator Gelu Barbu wanted in the end of the show to honor his teachers whose representative today is still Mitiţă Dumitrescu, his generation colleagues such as Gheorghe Cotovelea, or younger such as Ioan Tugearu, but especially his stage partners Sanda Orleanu, Rina Constantini, Simona Ştefănescu, Valentina Massini, Irinel Liciu, Puşa Niculescu, Ileana Iliescu, Cora Benador, Alexa Mezincescu, Magdalena Popa – but mentioning also his students, Francisc Valkay, Petre Ciortea and Florin Gavrilescu that signed the direction of this recital. A vibration of warmth and fellowship, rare in these parts of the world, seized, on the occasion of this recital, the stage and the hall of the National Opera. Perhaps, who knows, an echo of it will persist. Liana Tugearu: Maestro Gelu Barbu, you have a classical formation, started in the country and accomplished at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Sankt Petersburg. On the stage of the Bucharest Opera you have interpreted only parts from the great classical repertoire. When, how and under whose influence did the mutation towards the sphere of the modern ballet took place?Gelu Barbu: I think that the crucial moment was that when, after I went abroad, I saw The Rite of Spring by Maurice Béjart that created in me a true state of exaltation. I consider him a leader of the modern dance, although some say that he is a classicist as he uses the ballet shoes for toe dancing. I consider him a revolutionary of the ballet in this century. In fact, I was prepared to understand modern dance, because my first teachers from Banat, Delia Bârlea and Edith Poticeane attended the expressionist German school of Mary Wigman or Harald Kreutzberg. At us, in Lugoj, I used to dance freely as they had taught me, while father played the piano for me. When I came to Bucharest and Floria Capsali, my first teacher of classical dance and the founder of the Romanian Ballet School, put me to the bar, I had a shock. Gradually, I came to understand the beauty of the discipline and then I specialized in this branch of dancing at the Russian school. And after my departure in 1961 at Oslo, I was still dancing Swan Lake but I came to a saturation, I wanted something else and the opportunity appeared with the coming there of a Swedish choreographer Ivo Cramer, who created, in a modern style, in my opinion, the performance Catharsis (The Life of Saint Anthony of Padova) on the music of a composer now a celebrity, then at the first work, Arne Nordeheim and with the scenography of the Norwegian painter Guy Krog. It was my first big modern role. Once settled in Canary Islands I founded first of all a dance school based on the discipline of the classical dance, but for the rest, on stage, the movement was free. Even from the beginning, twenty-four years ago, I linked my name to that of some contemporary composers like Stockhausen, Pierre Henry or Luis de Pablo and I celebrated in a performance Manolo Millares, an avant-garde Canarian painter. And during the International Seasons of Dance that take place in winter in Las Palmas and in summer in Lisbon, alongside with classical dance they teach classes after the method Limon, Graham or Cunningham.L.T.: You mentioned in the words addressed to the colleagues and to the audience at the end of the recital, the great value of the Romanian folklore both in itself and as a source of inspiration, value equal to that of the Spanish folklore. Even though in Romania there were creators like Floria Capsali, Vera Proca Ciortea, Petre Bodeuţ and later on Ioan Tugearu, that valorized in their work this folk source, there wasn't a school created and there isn't continuity in this activity. Which is the situation in Spain?G.B.: In Spain, there were on the one hand, schools and ensembles of authentic folk dance, for example of flamenco – flamenco is a Spanish gypsy dance and the gypsies from Spain are proud of their art – and also a group of commercial flamenco. We may talk about the Spanish classical dance school, an example being jota. Out of the two national groups supported by the state, the Spanish National Ballet highlights the folk Spanish dance, stylized. The other state ensemble, The National Ballet, founded by Victor Ullate, Béjart's student, was started as an ensemble of classical dance and continued to be as such under the direction of Maia Plisetskaya, to incline towards the contemporary with the directorship of Duato Nahio, a student of Jiri Kylian.L.T.: In the latest years the contemporary Romanian dance was strongly influenced by the co-operation with educators and choreographers belonging to the French contemporary dance school. Did you have the opportunity to see the ensembles of these French choreographers in Spain? What was your impression of them?G.B.: I saw very few French ensembles of contemporary dance and those few that I saw seemed to me to work after the same cliché and they were obsessed with the sexual aspects. There are in Spain small private ensembles of contemporary dance that have as main theme in the show the violence and the brutal love. They don't appeal to me.L.T.: What other dance ensembles are there in Spain and who backs them up financially?G.B.: In the Basque Country there is a classical ballet supported by the Town Council. Near the border with Portugal in Galicia there is an ensemble of stylized folk dance supported by the government. Besides the homologated private ensembles such as the one from Las Palmas that I lead, they receive financial support from both the autonomous government and the Spanish Foreign Office. They support the projects of performance presented; they pay for the costumes, set and dancers only for shows and tours. Most of them ensure for themselves a constant income as teachers.L.T.: Bearing still in mind the dancers with whom you performed on the stage of the National Romanian Opera in Bucharest, before 1961 and comparing them to today's dancers that you had the opportunity of seeing in the recital, what can you tell us about these two generations?G.B.: I belonged to a generation of dancers that the critics of that time considered to be a golden generation. They were, each of them, a personality: Irinel Liciu, Valentina Massini, Simona Ştefănescu, Puşa Niculescu, Gabriel Popescu, Gheorghe Cotovelea. I liked today's ballet dancers better technically. A superb girl, Simona Şomăcescu, young Costel Georgescu, Mădălina Slăteanu, then, in Swan Lake Carmen Angheluş and in Don Quixote Corina Dumitrescu and George Postelnicu (although the last two danced better at the rehearsal than they did on the stage.) But, generally speaking, I recommend them to work not only on classical dance, as I see it being done today in Bucharest, and not in modern dance either, as it happened in the last years at the National Ballet in Spain. The extremes are not good. They should cultivate more dance genres and especially, they should cultivate their personalities.

by Liana Tugearu