Maria Minoiu. The story of a first-ballerina who had to leave Romania and start over in Denmark

Maria Minoiu was a prime-soloist at the National Opera in Bucharest in 2016, at the time of the scandal that shook this institution to the ground. She has danced parts that any ballerina dreams of, Manon or Silfida, but the had the power to give it all up, when she felt that NOB is refusing it’s own evolution.

The artists at the National Opera have split then into two sides: that of romanians, led at those protests by the conductor Tiberiu Soare and that of the choregraph Johan Kobborg and and of the world-ranking ballerina, Alina Cojocaru, the two of them being supported by ballet dancers from Romania and from other countries.

The Romanian side was accusing Kobburg that he was favorizing foreign artists, and his supporters were claiming that Romanian ballet had never reached a such a high level as the one imposed by the Danish choreographer. The scandal, which had a racist side to it, got the attention of international press, at the time writing that the great ballerina Alina Cojocaru was being cheered against in her own country, something impossible to comprehend for any ballet lover who is aware of her immense value.

After a period of strikes, cancelled shows, interventions from the cultural minister and a some management changes, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg left Romania, many ballet dancers following them.

Among them was Marina Minoiu.

Marina now dances for The Royal Danish Ballet. She misses home, but she keeps her distance, as does Romanian mentality regarding art and appreciation of it’s values keeps it’s distance from normalcy.

Marina, how and when did your story as a ballerina start?

My career started with the opportunity to see, with my sister and mother, at the National Opera in Bucharest, the Giselle ballet. In that moment a desire was born, a great joy that has followed me until my first ballet lesson. And I suppose that from that first ballet lesson, I knew that this is what I want to do.

Like when you fall in love with something or someone. You only want to do that thing or to be with that person. It was my first love. And, as the years passed, this passion hasn’t diminished, it’s as alive at ever, it grew and matured.

In Romania, more and more parents point their children, especially girls, toward ballet. What would you tell them as to what to expect if they want to reach a professional level?

I’m happy that more and more children are guided toward art and dance. There’s great potential in Romania. We’re a passionate people, hard working, who want to enjoy fine arts.

But a professional ballet dancer’s career is a lot of work, daily, permanently, because we’re talking about working with the human body as our instrument.

This profession consists of dedication, passion for this art form, that means leaving your ego to the side and making room for true human values.

A professional ballet dancer’s path is full of joys, disappointments, frustration, injuries, wonderful moments that one can not imagine.

It is very important to know what you want to do, where you want to get to and what kind of dancer you want to be. Life will show you the way as long as you stay dedicated, honest to yourself and especially confident.

My advice for parents guiding their children toward ballet is to evaluate or identify if there is passion for a future profession and identify in time if there is an opportunity of the development of a career in this field.

There are many situations when ballet remains a hobby, which is a good thing. Children are able, even this way, to take contact with certain elements that can help develop them artistically.

Doing it as a hobby is one thing, and being a professional ballet dancer is a whole other thing. When you chose the second option you must know that it’s not only about awards at competitions or glitter and pretty costumes. These are elements that appear later on in a ballet dancer’s career.

Of course, the guidance and support of a teacher are essential.

I would like to see some more training or education toward essence for the youth, maturity and clarity and less of an inclination for the commercial and superficial.

What’s the hardest thing in a ballerina’s life? Have you ever had moments when you wanted to quit?

The relationship between mind and body is something difficult, and I give this a special, permanent attention. This relationship can be challenging, but inner balance, faith and acceptance come in.

Yes, I’ve had moments when I wanted to quit. Moments when I felt that this is not my path. But life has shown me that it wasn’t the case, it turned me away from denial, it taught me that even in hard times I have to learn to let things happen.

I like to believe that what is right for me will eventually happen.

You’ve had a long career at the National Opera in Bucharest and you left following that scandal in 2016. What did the period spent with the choreographer Johan Kobborg mean to you?

The years spent at NOB will always remain highly meaningful to me.

First of all, that is where I formed myself as an artist and I can’t erase that stage, regardless of the events.

Looking back, I know that I’ve learned something from each experience that I had there. On that stage I saw my wishes come true, I danced parts that I had never even dreamed of dancing, I learned about myself, I cried, I laughed. A part of my life that I often find myself thinking about in joy and in nostalgia.

The years working with Johan Kobborg meant an important professional growth on my career as a ballerina. They represented a rediscovery of myself, of certain parts of my, both as a human being and as a ballerina, of which I was not aware. The challenges were permanent, in the idea of giving all my best on the stage.

Marina Minoiu on a poster – NOB

What does Alina Cojocaru mean to you?

Both Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg are two elite artists that have left their mark and have changed the world of dancing through their vision and the way they regard ballet. They have inspired and continue to inspire people, artists, generations of dancers. In the time that I had the chance to work with both of them in Bucharest, I had a lot to learn.

One of the things that remained in my head is that they had faith in people and managed to see beyond appearances or titles.

They both permanently encouraged us to discover ourselves, to have courage and fait in being authentic.

How did you get to the Royal Danish Ballet and what did this change mean to you?

At the Royal Danish Ballet I’ve arrived following my departure from Romania. It was a big change because I left everything behind and started from zero. In a new country, with a different culture, in a new company.

In the first 6 months I felt that I couldn’t find stability in anything. But the support and the love of my family, along with my faith in God, have helped me find that stability again, being away from home.

Marina Minoiu / Photo: Niko Hudak

Did you find any negative reactions from your colleagues because you were coming from Romania?

My colleagues received me well and our collaboration was a pleasant one from the first days.

How is life in Denmark?

The standard of life here is very high. Many times I felt spoiled, coming from Romania. In time, you get used to the life style, but there are cultural and social differences that I still feel.

Something that I can not get used to is the weather and the darkness during winter.

I strongly believe, though, that as long as you are open and confident, you will meet the right people.

Oh, and another thing. Danish pastry is absolutely irresistible.

Is the balance between earnings and spending a positive one, compared to how it was in Romania?

I would say yes, referring strictly to the period living in Romania. I know that things have changed for the better in Romania and I was glad to hear that. In the same time, it is hard to compare because they are two countries in different stages of development.

Are you thinking of remaining there?

Hard to say right now…

Photo: Selina Maier for the “What Dance can Do” project

Do you miss Romania? If so, what do you miss about it?

Yes, absolutely! I miss the beauty of the places in Romania, the energy I feel when I’m at home. I miss my friends, my godson – a little artist in becoming, my puppy Sasha, our churches and most of all I miss my family.

What could make you come back as a ballerina at the National Opera in Bucharest?

A change in mentality and the support of the development of this profession.

Did you see any shows at NOB?

Not since I’ve left, no.

If you were to start over, would you chose ballet?

Probably yes, I don’t know. I like to think that we have a purpose in life, that our journey here, as people, is given to us to take us somewhere. For me this meant the path of dancing, although when I was a child, I wanted to become a judge, and then an archeologist.

Photo: Selina Maier for the “What Dance can Do” project

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