Even at the ballet they’re blaming the foreigners

It’s been a busy few days in Bucharest.

On Monday the DNA charged Ludovic Orban with corruption, forcing the erstwhile candidate of the PNL in June’s mayoral elections to withdraw his candidacy. The PNL responded by swerving to the far-right and nominating a notorious fascist sympathiser, Marian Munteanu, as his replacement. Then, on Thursday, the DNA charged Robert Negoita, mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 3, with tax evasion. Negoita is the sixth of the seven Bucharest mayors elected in 2012 to be charged with corruption.

And yet if it’s real drama you want, then the place to be these past couple of weeks has been the Romanian National Opera, home of the Romanian National Ballet.

Two weeks ago Romania’s Minister of Culture Vlad Alexandrescu made the conductor Tiberiu Soare the new Managing Director of the National Ballet. Soare’s first act as director was to sack Johan Kobborg as artistic director. Kobborg is a Danish dancer brought in last year (along with his fiancee and lead-dancer at the Royal Ballet in London, Romanian Alina Cojocaru) to drag the ballet into the 21st century and make it a genuinely international institution. A task the pair more than succeeded in achieving.

A day or two later, around two dozen dancers – led by Cojocaru, who refused to perform in a new production of Manon, the highlight of the season – protested outside the opera house. Alexandrescu responded by demoting Soare, and named Vlad Conta as the new managing director. Conta attempted a rapprochement with Kobborg, but failed. Word is Conta asked Cojocaru to lie for him. Kobborg resigned on Monday.

Cojocaru led a small protest on Tuesday in support of her fiancee, but was heckled and booed by a group of opera employees who shouted ‘get the foreigners out of the country’ at the finest ballet dancer Romania has ever produced. Lovely people.

Meantime, Ileana Iliescu, who performed at the ballet when it first opened in 1954, declares that ‘foreigners are now doing whatever they want at the Romanian Opera.’ Other dancers and performers complained that foreign dancers are being paid more than Romanians.

Question: If Cristiano Ronaldo were to play for Steaua Bucharest (bear with me, it’s only an analogy), would the Romanian members of the team expect to be paid the same?

By Wednesday the whole sorry spectacle was in danger of becoming a diplomatic incident. Ballet-fanatic Paul Brummell, UK Ambassador to Romania who has helped facilitate the arrival of British dancers, declared: ‘The dancers I’ve spoken to say they came to work with a top artistic director at a great company. Delighted talented young British ballet dancers have chosen to develop careers at Bucharest National Opera. Hope uncertainties there will be resolved soon.’

They haven’t.

The negative impact on the ballet has already been huge. Not only as Manon been cancelled, the ballet’s Easter International Gala of Dance, scheduled for April 28th, has also been called off.

Top work everybody.


12 thoughts on “Even at the ballet they’re blaming the foreigners

  1. Collateral damage. I’m really sorry for them, but it is what it is: we need to get rid of the European Union in its current form.

    Unless everybody understands that the European Union’s political role must be drastically reduced, nationalism shall rise to alarming levels.

    Then again, we (Romania) also have a political problem with the Americans… we shall settle that later.


  2. The Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedoms will hold a meeting tomorrow in Sinaia (location: Casino). Marine Le Pen will be joining.


  3. The National Ballet is a state-founded institution. It’s absolutely normal to expect its employee to actually speak romanian when doing their job. Not all its employees speak English (and why should they? They live and work in Romania).

    What would happen if a British Ballet hired as a director a romanian which speaks no English and expects everyone to switch to romanian when working with them?


    1. I can see why someone’s not speaking Romanian might be upsetting, but for better or worse, few people speak Romanian other than Romanians. If you want to open your talent pool to expertise, leadership, and achievement from other places, you may have to accept that the leaders you choose may not speak Romanian.
      To your question…if the British ballet hired a Romanian, it would probably arrange for translation services if he or she spoke no English at all. And at that level it’s a good bet that the Romanian would speak some English. Don’t most Romanians by now?
      Opera, ballet, gymnastics, tennis and football are increasingly internationalized. Understandable why some don’t like it, but to compete that’s the way it’s going.


      1. The Romanian national football team is the only team in Europe whose entire squad is composed of ethnic Romanians.

        Back in 2008 when we last participated in a final tournament, it was Romania and the Russian Federation which were the only teams to display squads composed of ethnic nationals alone.

        However, Romania is the only team that had a Romanian technical staff as well because the Russian Federation had a foreign coach.


      2. “The Romanian national football team is the only team in Europe whose entire squad is composed of ethnic Romanians alone.”

        True, the only country that comes close to that is Estonia and their squad is no more than 70% ethnic Romanians.


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