Ballet Beyond Borders: Romanian dancers on the art of the duo

Romanian dancer Alina Ciceo isn’t competing in her third year attending Ballet Beyond Borders.

But Wednesday, as she sat in the Dennison Theatre at the University of Montana and watched dancers move about during an open practice sessions, she missed the pressure.

“Seeing them on the stage,” Ciceo said, “I want to feel those butterflies in my stomach again.”

Ciceo turned to her partner Radu Domsa and asked if he was nervous for his turn in that afternoon’s competition.

“This is what I trained for,” he replied. “I’m ready.”

He would soon get up to change and warm up. Ciceo promised to be there soon to fix his hair.

Domsa and Ciceo have been dancing together for around seven years, and have been a couple for five. They live in Cluj-Napoca, a city of around 400,000 people in northwest Romania.

The two started dancing together when Ciceo recruited dancers for her company and was impressed by Domsa’s skills, even though he was still in high school (and got his start as a break dancer).

After a summer performing in Greece, the two realized they had something as a duo and proceeded to work together self-instructed, which resulted in a unique style and deep connection.

“It’s like only one heart beating at a time,” Domsa said. “The energy you can create together is fabulous.”

Ciceo added, “now we just look at each other and know what’s next.”

Although Domsa is competing and Ciceo is judging, the two were most excited for their duet performance during Ballet Beyond Borders’ closing gala Saturday night.

The two have won many awards in previous years, for individual and duet performances, but they say it’s not about the awards, or even for the thrill of competition.

Rather, unlike the European dance festivals they frequent, Domsa and Ciceo said they love Ballet Beyond Borders’ encouraging, growth-focused atmosphere.

“The judges try to connect with the dancers. It’s about the exchange,” Domsa said. “It’s about that feedback and growth.”

Ciceo is on a jury for the first time this year, and is excited to be on the other side of that exchange.

She’s continually impressed with how internationally diverse Ballet Beyond Borders is, and loves the chance to share her love of dance with people from so many cultures and backgrounds.

Being a performing artist is a hard profession no matter where one lives, Ciceo said. It shrinks the world to meet someone from Russia or China or Cuba who has the same passion and similar struggles.

“It’s very difficult to live with this profession, but we keep doing it,” she said. “The people who make these (festivals) happen, they don’t let us die.”

This is the only American festival the two attend, largely due to the expense. But after three years in a row, Domsa and Ciceo aren’t ready to stop coming.

“Back home we finish the holiday stuff and come here, and it’s like another holiday,” Domsa said.

“Everytime we discover something new,” Ciceo added. “This is a good vibe we all get.”