Photo: “Nutcracker” – Ballettschule Theater Basel
How did you get along in the new school? How was it different from the previous school?
My first school year in Basel was very confusing and somehow difficult because the Swiss school has a different schedule and some extra study objects compared to Romania; for example in the tenth grade, students at “Floria Capsali” High School of Choreography do not study pas-de deux, Yoga, Pilates, anatomy and other theoretical objects related to the professional and personal life of a dancer.
All these study objects helped me a lot and gave me more self-confidence, but these sudden changes were not easy.
Second year in Basel also came with other changes!
First, my ballet teacher changed. Last year, I had a Russian teacher; therefore style and technique were Russian. That was easy for me, since I learnt Vaganova in my Romanian school.
I practiced also American style, since Mrs. Bennett, our Director, trained at ABT School, in New York. For 2 years in a row, I had the honour of taking 2 weeks studies with Mrs. Cynthia Harvey, Artistic Director of ABT. I could have never imagined I would have such a ballet teacher. Every time at studies I felt every exercise and every correction she gave imprinted in my body. Everyone knows her as the prima-ballerina of ABT, but not everyone was so lucky as us, the students of Ballettshule Theater Basel, to see her teaching. From my point of view, Mrs. Harvey had a very specific teaching style, combining the exercises. she came everyday with new ideas, new combinations and each of the combination seemed to be part of a famous ballet! I tried to get advantage on every class with her. Thank you Mrs. Cynthia Harvey!
In the second year, a French teacher came to our class. I have to admit it was tough for me in the beginning to get used to this new technique, to get adapted and to start using it every day.
Now, with my French teacher, I have not only learnt a new style, but also discovered a new technique that suits me better and I that I now prefer. Mr.Sebastien Riou and Mrs. Sandrine Cassini , also French, helped me realize that the French style is more freely, the movements are larger and broader, and the arms are more expressive.
Of course, the base is the same in all 3 styles, just some details are different.
I am trying to get a little bit (or more) from each of my teachers, steal a secret and then try it on my body. Ever since I left home, I have learnt a lot. People in Romania say to me that things are much better in Western Europe. I think there are, like everywhere else, advantages and disadvantages. Here, conditions are better, people invest in art, ballet is appreciated and there is a higher standard of life.
However, I wish I would come back to Romania, stay with my family and dance with Bucharest National Opera. I like their new ballet performances and I would like to be part of it.
Describe a day in your life – from waking up to going to sleep
During the year, our daily schedule usually begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends around 7 p.m. When we prepare for performances, such as before the winter holiday or before the summer vacation (we have 2 performances a year), we start rehearsing the roles with a month and a half before. Then, two or three weeks before, we have full-length rehearsals almost every day in the classroom. In the last week, depending on the theatre’s schedule, we have one, two or three full-length rehearsals on the theatre’s stage.
I remember, the last week before the summer show premiere, I was talking one night with my roommate. Before going to bed I asked him what day of the week was it, because we had the same schedule every day that week: waking up at 6:15 a.m., going to the theatre, classical studies from 8:15 a.m. until 9:45 a.m., than another rehearsal from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and after the lunch break till 1 – 1: 30 p.m. Then, various show rehearsals, and in the evening from 6-6:30 p.m. until 8:30-9:00 p.m., full-length rehearsals.
Which was your biggest challenge so far?
At the end of 2015, Mrs. Amanda Bennett, our school Director, decided together with the other teachers to have me participate in Nutcracker rehearsals in both principal roles (a.n. together with my colleague and friend Amyra Badro)
My mind’s voice said “it’s now or never”. Why did I say that? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted that all the audience watch me and my partner as Principals and I’ve always wanted to play the Prince.
4-5 years ago, teachers used to say that I was fitted for first soloist, specially for the Prince. I was very pleased with such nice words and I dreamt of being a prince on the stage.
So time came for my dream to come true
This was an experience I would always remember!. It was the most stressful experience of my life, those 3 months prior the performance! I lost 3 kilos in 2 months; I lived only for thinking of my 2 principal roles. Every moment, I kept thinking of teacher’s corrections, the role I had to play, I was very nervous as I wanted everything to look perfect from the very first time.
2 months before the premiere, I had rehearsals almost every day. I was exhausted…and the toughest part was still to come – 2 weeks before general rehearsals added to an already busy schedule
I had 3 Nutcracker performances. First was on December 5th and the other 2 were in the same day of the following week: one in the afternoon and one in the evening. So I said to myself: “once I finish dancing on Sunday evening, I will scream out loud to release the whole tension:” I had never been happy and satisfied with myself; somehow I felt that I didn’t do all my best. Thanks to my first teacher, back in Romania, I tried everything to be as perfect as possible and that got into my head and became kind of a reflex. She used to say “when someone dances perfectly, no one can say anything wrong about him and he cannot be disadvantaged” I tried to apply this words everyday and every time I went on stage.
Finally the big day was there. I was almost satisfied by the Premiere, but the thought of the following 2 performances was knocking me down. “The” Sunday finally came to an end and one of the teachers came to me to congratulate and asked “are you finally laughing?” question that made me laugh even harder. I finally laughed, after all the time while I couldn’t force a smile, being so stressed up with my role and so involved in improving my dancing skills.
This experience was unique to me for 2 reasons: first for dancing the role of Prince on the Basel scene, then for being the most stressful period of my life.
It was an enormous chance for me to learn and also an extraordinary experience.
Another unique experience I have lived recently, when my father died with brain cancer.
He went through a brain surgery a couple of years ago, when suffering from a tumor. After that, half of his body remained paralyzed. Then, he slowly started to recover using all kinds of therapies, but unfortunately we ran out of money . My mother was the only house provider as dad was not able to work and we hardly met the ends meet. By that moment, he reached a point where he could walk and his left part was a bit better although he couldn’t use his left hand.
On December 17th, 2015, he decided to go to the hospital to run a couple of tests since he was not feeling well. Doctors quickly decided to perform surgery. I clearly remember that day of Thursday 17th. I was on skype talking to my family as usual and they gave me the news of my father’s surgery. I had a sudden feeling and told them that as weird as it sounded, that I thought he would not live any longer.
It was winter holiday and I arrived in Romania and got into his hospital room on a Saturday night, and then again on Sunday. His surgery was planned for Monday. That Sunday, a day I would always remember, we brought him home made food, he ate like a baby and then I helped him to bath. As I was washing him, I felt his was out of power; he was worried about the surgery, but didn’t want me to know. As I washed him, dressed him up and tucked him to bed, I was thinking I was only doing a tiny bit of what he deserved, but at least I did that from the bottom of my heart.
On that fatidical Monday, December 21st, me, my brother and my mother went to see him, no more than 1 hour. So tough for me to see him, the powerful and optimistic man I knew, now being so afraid…
We all felt powerless…and I went to dance as I had promised to my colleague Amyra to dance a Nutcracker PDD on Bucharest National Opera stage. Half an hour later, I was at the Opera House ready to start rehearsals for the next day. I only got dressed up and my phone rang. It was my uncle saying “take a cab and come over” On the way to the hospital, I was flooded by all kind of bad thoughts but I tried to keep cool. Once I got there, he was at Intensive Care, where I saw the doors opening and my mother crying as hard as I never saw. My brother was crying too, only my uncle was trying to remain calm. I learnt dad was in coma and doctors didn’t know how for how long would he survive. I wanted to see him…The picture of him with a drain in his head was terrible!
After all this I was supposed to dance to keep my promise…I thought if I would have the power and decided to give it a go.
First I wanted to dance for my father, then I knew that a dancer should always dance under all circumstances. So, I did it. On December 22nd, I danced on the National Opera’s stage.
I was so happy to do it! It was the performance I had managed to show to my father prior his surgery. He was so proud of me, that he showed the reel to all nurses in the hospital! Then I felt so calm, so serene and so powerful, that was a tremendous experience! I was sure that my father knew I wanted to dance so he had given me the power.
For the next two weeks, we went to see him every day, although we knew he would never be the same again, he would never wake up, never hold us…
On January 3rd, he died in the morning. It was the day I was supposed to get back to Basel. I had to change tickets and stay for the funerals.
I wrote all the above and opened up in front of you, my readers, because I believe I am not the only one to get through all these. I am sure there are children in more difficult situation. To be honest, I consider myself one of the luckiest persons in the world, because in spite of all the terrible events, all my dreams came true. I have worked hard and I won’t stop here
I would like to end by suggesting you all, that no matter what happens between you and your family, friends, colleagues, or people you have just met, try to appreciate each second as the last. If there is one thing I learned, is that nobody is here forever. So live for the moment, each and every day.
As a final note, I want to share with you my father’s last message:”Do everything you want to do today, but take care not to be ashamed by that tomorrow”
Photo: “Nutcracker” – Ballettschule Theater Basel