Irinel Liciu - A Great Sensitivity And Its Fragility

I was touched and amazed to discover this skinny little girl, thin and long legged, who was doing her exercises in the ballet room with the concentration of a mature artist. The way she led her body had lost any trace of effort and it was describing meanings known only to her with an extraordinary inner freedom. Her big, sad eyes accompanied the gestures in their development, and Chopin's music led her simply and surely towards the soul's depths. This is my first image of Irinel Liciu. It happened many years ago in the school studio of the well-known dance teacher Elena Penescu-Liciu, and I was allowed to sit through the class. The little girl from back then has never ceased to move me every time I had the chance to meet her. Today, when Irinel Liciu is gone, there is a whole world opening up in my soul, a world in which her presence takes shape, and the attempt to arrange my images in an intelligible order for the others isn't an easy task. The essential encounters in my life were non-temporal; perhaps that's why the actual facts about Irinel's birth-year or other accurate information on her are as abstract to me as the details of her disappearance. Only the dimension of the love she lived with Doinaş gives me a more accurate perspective over her love for dancing, both of them ending so tragically. I only know that much. She left life as she had left the stage, out of too much love, as she said so herself. I try to understand her and I never forget that her great sensitivity and the fragility that went with it were a part of her being.I remember how miserable she was one day in the Opera's Dressing room, before her performance in "SwanLake", in the leading part. She used to hate the obsession of the technique and feared that the smallest imperfection might kill or distort the part's emotional meaning. It wasn't sheer emotion, it was her entire being suffering. Once on stage, she would calm down, transforming her fear into artistic feeling and she would move us to tears in transfiguration. An inner shiver was going through her body on stage, as in real life. Her body would become a seismograph: which was permanently loaded in order to vibrate at full potential at the climax moments. I'd like to reminisce of a period prior to her coming to the Opera. She had used to be Trixy Checais' partner for a while. For those who don't know who he was, I'm only going to say that he was a complex artist, with a vast opening in various dancing genres, a man of great culture (I had the pleasure of being his student and partner). In Trixy's choreographies, Irinel discovered new dimensions of her talent, by approaching different themes, new ways and techniques.Later, at the Opera House, the prime male dancer Trixy elaborated the unforgettable choreographic duo "Walpurgis Night", of Gounod's "Faust". The public was waiting anxiously for this danced moment that had become unforgettable. The couple Irinel-Trixy was defined by an impressive resemblance of their bodies, by the dramatic expression of their faces and by the delicacy of their sensuality.In describing Irinel Liciu's artistic asset, I find the competent opinion of a great master of the Russian ballet, Kurilov, to be of great importance. He thought that Irinel Liciu was "unique", "without comparison". In the ballet shows that she did, Irinel had talented dancers of the Opera House for partners. Among them, there were: Cotovelea, Ştefanschi, Ciortea, Gabriel Popescu. In the mind of the public from back then, the couple Irinel-Gabriel held great significance. Their performances besides the usual repertoire of the Opera impressed by the themes' variety, by a brilliant and unusual technique, an expressive flow, as in a constant, effortless improvisation. Their recitals are unforgettable, an ideal couple. An incident, very frequent in those days, ended dramatically this sequence: Gabriel Popescu remained abroad. And instead of help and understanding, harsh, irresponsible words, as it often happens, were said during a rehearsal. Thisunfortunate event forced Irinel Liciu into leaving the stage. Later on, a short comeback couldn't change her decision, which caused us all to mourn. Having been invited once to be part of the Varna dance competition's jury, she told me happily, when she returned: "Your pupil, Gigi Căciuleanu, was very successful. He took the 1st prize with a personal jazz choreography." We shared the joy of the good news.We spent the summer holidays at the seaside, Irinel, Doinaş and I. All those close to them would see them relaxed, happy, in those days. Irinel's childish laughter from back then, a short cascaded laughter, sounds in my ears even today. Even in those moments of relaxation, her personality never ceased to seduce me. We would gather around at night, all kinds of artists: the poetry combined with dancing, our discussions about literature and music were held casually, without any elaborated settings. And all of us who were in that small village, at 2 May, would watch, fascinated, the floated walk, as in a barely shaped dance, of the superb Irinel Liciu. I miss Irinel, I miss her unprejudiced openness to Dancing, her camaraderie and her sincerity, her sublime art. It's Silvia Ciurescu's merit to have done something for television, a precious sample of the dancer's art, gathered from the few images we have of Irinel on film. Irinel Liciu quit dancing and took refuge in her love for Doinaş. By losing Doinaş, she lost her only place of escape. I wonder now, as I did then, if her quitting dancing as well as her departure from life are signs of weakness or, on the contrary, of great courage. I'm only trying to understand. What matters is that a great artist must never die in our memory. The great ballerina Irinel Liciu left us suddenly. Maybe as suddenly as she did in 1969, when she closed the Romanian Opera House's gates for good, regaining her freedom in a calm marriage with her life-partner, Ştefan Augustin Doinaş, a great scholar of the Romanian culture. The dance world of that time was shocked. She had triumphed on the world's greatest stages, her performances remained in the public's mind : "The Fountain of Baccisarai", "Walpurgis Night". The sculptural perfection of a body led by the intelligence of a talent which eliminates the useless, the perfect, rigorous gestures, always suggesting sensuality and passion, these have always been Irinel Liciu's assets. She was the first Romanian ballerina who performed Odette-Odile, in "SwanLake" on the stage of the Romanian Opera House in Bucharest. Each time, another star of the Romanian Ballet, Gabriel Popescu, was with her on stage. They met on the stage, sharing the same divine fate. But in art, those who reach perfection remain isolated in their genius. In 1964, after Gabriel Popescu's emigration to Italy, many refusals forced Irinel Liciu into loneliness, regrets, disappointments and a profound sadness due to the mistrust with which she was regarded by those to whom she had given her consuming passion for dancing. That's why she decided, while she was still in her prime, to leave the Romanian Opera House for good, after the general rehearsal of the "Miraculous Mandarin" by Bela Bartok, a show whose modern choreography was signed by Oleg Danovski. She was sad because she had been treated unfairly, for not knowing to be anything else but herself, in her passionate love for truth and beauty. A beautiful love story, begun in 1955, saved the unmistakable Irinel from artistic life's hardships for 40 years. Ever since she had found out about her husband's severe illness, she would always say to her close ones that she could not survive it. She had the impression that she would have been cheating on herself by cheating on truth, on life.The Romanian dance world is in a shock. 
Irinel LICIU
 B. on 22 February, at Cluj-Napoca***Her first performance in the 40's; she studied with Elena Penescu-Liciu, ballerina and choreographer***She married Ştefan Augustin Doinaş in the late 50's***As a prima ballerina of the National Opera House in Bucharest, she performed in most of the leading parts of classical ballets, the double part Odette-Odile, in "Swan Lake" by Tchaikovsky, under the choreographic direction of Oleg Danovski (1957), compelling her recognition on the stage; she was remarkable in "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev (the choreography was signed by Vasile Marcu); "The Fountain of Baccisarai" by Asafiev (Seda Vasilieva Sarchizian); "The Red Poppy" by Glier (Ivan Vasilievici Kurilov), "Harap Alb" by Alfred Mendelshon (Oleg Danovski), "The Copper Rider" by Glier (Igor Smirnov), the feminine part from "Călin" by A. Mendelshon (Tielde Urseanu), "The Return from the Deep" by Mircea Jora and "Concert in F" by Gershwin (Oleg Danovski), "Scheherazade" by Rimsky-Korsakov (Vasile Marcu),"The Table of Silence" by Tiberiu Olah (V. Marcu); she enjoyed great success during her tours in France, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Russia (she refused to continue her career in Moscow, after her performance in "Swan Lake"); she danced particularly with Gabriel Popescu, and the choreographer O. Danovski cast her in most of his shows; at the end of her career she approached contemporary dancing as well; she retired from her artistic life in 1969, before the opening of the "Miraculous Mandarin" by Bela Bartok.

by Miriam Răducanu; Silvia Ciurescu