Ioan Tugearu: If I Don't Move, I Die!

I met Ioan Tugearu in Constanţa at the Oleg Danovski Ballet Theater where he spent days on end staging Kurosawa, Mon Amour, on a collage of traditional Japanese music, with stage decoration by Ion Codrescu. The show premiered early in September. With a tape-recorder in his bag, next to his training gear, Ioan Tugearu "commutes" twice between his place and the ballet hall like any respectable choreographer for whom summer almost never means holiday. Here you are again in front of a Japanese-inspired work. Wherefrom this affinity for the country of the Rising Sun?Years ago I read a book by colonel Gurgulescu who was ambassador to Japan between 1935 and 1940, and I was impressed by this people, bloody but with a formidable culture and sensitivity. The first thing I did was to name the dolls I had in my car twenty years ago after characters from a book, Yasuhiko and Namiko, a couple like Romeo and Juliet. That was the first impact. Then everybody knows Kurosawa. It is hard not to fall in love with such a film director and his impressive works. If you get involved in a show built on a certain type of civilization it is advisable to go straight to its outstanding men of culture.You staged demi-character choreographic pieces, or other shows inspired from Spanish (The House of Bernarda Alba), Greek (The Greek Legend), Japanese literary pieces (Japanese Prints), and also from the Romanian folklore (Metal Gavel Music, The Cap, and others). What is more important, the specific nature of the national dance or the literacy value of the work? Let it be clear that I don't believe a specific Japanese dance actually exists. There is, of course, the traditional Japanese dance, but not a modern one. It all ended with the butoh dance seemingly. Now when you see a Japanese dancer you cannot say this is a modern Japanese dance because everybody interprets freely what they choose. The Japanese are, nevertheless, one step ahead of the European choreographers in the sense they do not start from a story but they render relationships, types of sensitivity, like the relationship man-nature, what the sinews feel, what the skin feels, an immediate physical contact. I remember a piece where the dancer was actually whipped on stage so that the spectators may experience the reaction of the flesh, of the sinews. There is no Japanese dance from which I take inspiration proper. Perhaps the butoh, here and there. In fact, I set out from the literary world of the Japanese art. Your style was deemed a combination of neo-Classic and modern elements, all grafted on a personal stock. Have these influences become sifted in time or has the hodge-podge remained intact? I have no particular style, I do not belong to any trend. Genuine creation has a personal signature. When I see a show by Maurice Béjart I know for certain it is Béjart. When I see choreography by Jiri Kylian I know right away it is Kylian and so on and so forth. I am interested in what I want to express not the manner. If I need a classical arabesque I use it. If I need the plexus to be tightened in the style of Martha Graham in order to express pain, it's fine. You cannot say "the Ioan Tugearu style". At most, you can say that the adagio characterizes me as a choreographic form. I have been thinking, without any modesty, that when I'm dead and gone if they were to give a "Remember Tugearu" show on TV, I would like it to include my adagios from the ballets The Taming of the Shrew, Anna Karenina, Manfred, Romeo and Juliet, and others. I love creating love duets. I am not interested in a certain style or whether my expression is mixed or not but in the literary worth of the work from where I set out. When I create I use whatever suits me. The other days, you spoke about the fact that before the rehearsals you prepared at home and came with your homework done. The Oleg Danovski theater turns out premieres one after another. Still, I have the feeling that when you stage ballets you don't think of the contemporary public as just a rapid consumer of diverse art.In general, I work all the time. It is the public's job to consume a work quick or not. My job is to create shows. How fast the theater director expects me to finish a performance it's his business. I am interested in the creation itself. Afterwards they can cut me into pieces, rip me up. Having my homework done does not mean I have the choreographic movements ready but that that I know the music perfectly because I have listened to it over and over again. During the rehearsals I look for the movement and the dancer together. I suggest, I collaborate with the dancer, I do not impose anything. I don't choreograph things at home, and I don't think anyone does such a thing. There would be too many things to remember and besides it sounds stupid. It is an obligation to listen to the music in advance, to find the right musical atmosphere, but the choreography proper is done in the ballet studio.You train together with the dancers which seems extraordinary to me after so many years. I understand you have this need to experience movement with your own body. It is not enough to imagine it, you must actually feel it. This is a defect, most likely because I am no longer very young and when I get back home I am exhausted. But then I am often faced with the question: How can you do it when I can't? And then I have to explain, and it's simpler to show, for the dancer, at least. The movement is his business but the intention stems from my body. Then I train because if I don't move I die. If in my holidays I don't practice, then I chop wood, I take long trips. It's an excess of energy that I must release.You have been collaborating for quite a long time with the dancers of the Oleg Danovski Theater. Do you prefer to explore thoroughly the possibilities evinced by some soloists you already know or to scout new talent? This show is due to director Ana Maria Munteanu who has a special penchant for Japanese culture, as she confessed, and is a person of great musical culture. Usually we staged big shows with only two or three soloists and two hours of ballet. This time every ten, fifteen or twenty minutes I have other soloists, other corps, other worlds. It is a chamber show and therefore it is difficult to discover new talents. Anyway, now we have here a source of talent, more, a nursery of talent, and shows being staged ever so often. It's sheer madness! One day I'll think about that if I get the chance. The troupe is full of big surprises and every time I'm astounded by their evolution. For the time being I am very pleased to have different soloists for each piece. I have never had this opportunity. It's a new stage in my life. You have several projects in mind to translate into life? When you stage something do you already know what the next is going to be? No. Never. I expect to be offered something. I have reached an age when I wait to be given, and at the same time I have the cheek to be choosy. Judging by my pension of 120 dollars after 43 years of work deemed 56 in the labor record because ballet dancers go in the bracket of rough work, I could be tempted to make shows only for money. But when I begin something new the thing becomes kind of sacred, and I assume a great responsibility. If two or three projects are offered to me I pick up the one that interests me the most. I don't know what I'll do next. Is it just an impression or you feel here as snug as a bug in a rug?I have to thank the admirable director Munteanu for the way this company works. I feel very close to it because it's part of my world somehow. I am an active, agitated person and when I see this troupe working and seeking new things, without respite, I find it sensational! That's how I've always dreamt a company should be – that's how they are in the West – and the entire technical crew of the theater is impressive by the enthusiasm they put in launching a new show. Moreover, being born in the region of Dobruja I find it natural to have a weakness for the place!

by Vivia Săndulescu