Darius Grămadă, dancer of the Vienna State Opera: The process of becoming is stained with sweat and sometimes with blood
written by Mihaela Moldoveanu May 14, 2020
"If you want to become a dancer, it won't happen overnight. No matter how easy it seems for a dancer to move on stage, behind it are many years of hard work, sacrifices and a team of people on which this artist relies.
If you really want to become someone in the world of ballet, stick to your dream and don't give up until you are satisfied. I for one, am still looking to reach higher. "
Happy birthday Darius Grămadă! The youngest Romanian to ever receive a contract at the Vienna State Opera.
Today, May 14, Darius Grămadă celebrates his birthday. Last year, when he was only 17, Darius Grămadă received a very nice gift:
a contract at the Vienna State Opera. Darius Grămadă was thus the first Romanian in history to achieve such a performance at such a young age. An extraordinary achievement, after a hard road of almost ten years of work. But also a new beginning.
I discovered in Darius an unexpected maturity. I also feel privileged with a job that always gives me the opportunity to be surprised by the people, the thinking, the passion and the emotions they convey.
Darius' Tip: when life gives you lemons, make a lemonade!
- How did you experience isolation in Vienna? Did you continue to train? How did you use this moment?
The Opera has been and remains closed until now. And ballet, which took up most of my life, I miss a lot. I was isolated in the boarding school with other colleagues from Italy who weren't able to go home.
Joining the company at the age of 17, I am still in my last year of high school. This first season was a very interesting one but also difficult. After the training, rehearsals, and performances, I had to do my homework in each subject and study for exams, which was exhausting. Although a difficult situation for many, especially for athletes and artists, I managed to focus more on my studies and pass the end-of-year exams with good grades. Of course, I also trained, exercising in the room and running around the boarding school yard. I believe that we can turn any unfavorable situation into a positive one. "When life only gives you lemons, turn it into a lemonade!"
I feel that we need to use this moment to give ourselves a "refresh" and to be able to set new goals, no matter how big or small.
Attracted by the combination of graceful movements and classical music. Fascination and attraction
- Going back to your first of ballet, when did it happen? What drew you to the dance?
My first encounter with dance happened at a very young age, around 5 years old. If I remember correctly, my parents always asked me if I would like to do a certain sport. I wasn't particularly attracted to anything. I was still in kindergarten when my mother found out that there was a dance class for children and she enrolled me. My mother really liked folk dance, dancing in a famous ensemble from the Republic of Moldova. That's probably why she thought of taking me to dance class.
There, I met Mrs. Svetlana Zotina, my first dance teacher. I didn't start with ballet immediately, but with modern, simple, group dances. After a while, I kind of lost interest and stopped attending classes.
In the following year, Ms. Zotina contacted my mother, letting her know she was opening a new ballet school. So at the age of 8, I participated in my first classical ballet class, in the “Rhapsody Hall”, on Lipscani Street, in the old center of Bucharest. I remember with great pleasure those moments, which until now are engraved in my memory, as if it had happened yesterday.
I don't know what fascinated me. It was a mixture of curiosity and challenge, an element of dance unknown to me at that age. The way the graceful movements of ballet combined with classical music was fascinating to me!
I have always been a very competitive child and I never liked to lose, which made every hour like a competition with my colleagues, a concept that made me progress not only then, but also during my education, especially at the Vienna Ballet Academy.
Darius Grămadă: it is very important to have parents to support you, but also teachers to guide you.
If I saw a colleague doing better than me, I would train until I got the desired result. This factor has always pushed me to try to be the best and I know that it has helped other colleagues to move forward, creating this competitive atmosphere.
Unfortunately, I also had confusing periods related to ballet. I remember one summer I told my mother that I didn't want to dance anymore, that it was a boring, mundane thing. I had no idea what ballet meant at that age. My mother, being my guiding light, as in many situations, knew that I would change my mind the moment I stepped on stage. And so it happened.
In the following years, I went to countless contests and shows. I was an ambitious child and I kept rehearsing and repeated everything that didn't go well for me. And my teacher, Mrs. Svetlana, always made sure to show me where I was wrong and pushed me in the right direction to move forward. I liked the way he presented my attitude in dance. I will always be grateful for that.
Thinking about those contests, I remember Mrs. Svetlana giving me corrections until I entered the stage. I also remember my mother, who was always there, backstage or in public. No matter how excited I was, little by little, I fell in love with the stage and the audience. That's why I think it's very important to have parents to support you, but also teachers to guide you from the ballroom to the stage.
"When did you know you wanted to make ballet a career?"
In the last year with Mrs. Svetlana, I went to a contest organized in Cluj-Napoca. The reason I was there was because of scholarships for a lot of dance Academies around the world. There I met Mrs. Simona Noja, who supported me enormously throughout my studies in Vienna. She offered me a scholarship for the "Wiener Staatsoper Ballettakademie", with the chance to be renewed every year. That award meant a lot to me and my family.
I knew the risks and responsibilities that came with this opportunity. I remember that from the moment I stepped for the first time in the big and bright ballet studios in Vienna, I had a revelation. From that moment I realized who I wanted to become!
Ana Grămadă: "Darius is a gift that is given to people through his dance"
At the end of the school year, in 2019, the big news came! Manuel Legris, the artistic director of the Vienna State Opera Ballet, awarded Darius, at only 17, a contract with the Ballet Company. When I found out about this, I cried for happiness, jumped around the house like a child, and thanked God incessantly.
I was happy for him. I knew how hard he worked to get there and how much he wanted to succeed. But I did not know that this wish would be fulfilled sooner than we expected. So I received Darius' decision to become a ballet dancer with great, great joy!
Everyone says that this job is a difficult one, that ballet dancers have a short career, with a high degree of risk, and of course, some parents consider that it is not a satisfactory job for their children. As Darius' grandfather thought, to his abilities, he could have become anyone in life, but not a dancer.
But where there is talent and passion, a grace from God, isn't it a sin to cut off the wings? How else will they fly to achieve their dreams?
Darius is my "Gift" from God, and he will "Give" to people through his joy of dancing extraordinary emotions. Everything that cannot be expressed in words. I know this and feel this!
The flame of passion maintains the love for the stage
- Darius, tell us how you would define your ballet career? How was the meeting with Vienna, the ballet school and then the collaboration with the Vienna State Opera?
Mr. Theodore Constant, my first teacher in Vienna, another great helper, supporter and advisor, saw in me that flame, that passion, which I still have for classical dance. I progressed the most with him, because from a technical point of view I was far behind all my colleagues.
Vienna is a wonderful, imperial and grandiose city, full of history, which attracts anyone interested in the arts. The Vienna Opera is one of the oldest in the world, with a rich history, a sanctuary of culture. And it has an extraordinary dance Company, which motivates me to work more and more every day.
Every day, on the way to the Academy I was looking at the State Opera, and every time I imagined that one day I would step in there as a dancer of the Company; that I would be part of this family, that I would be a part of this amazing culture.
Now that I'm dancing here, this love and admiration for the stage and the people in the Company hasn't changed. I know how privileged I am to be able to dance with them on this stage and I know that many dancers would dream to be in this Company. That's why every day it inspires me to be a little better than the day before.
Darius is an online teacher for his brother Dragoș, who has been doing ballet for a year
- How is the relationship with your brother, Dragoș, who also dances? Does he ask you for advice? Are you a role model for him? Do you help him in his training?
My brother Dragoș, who recently started dancing, is on the right track. My father first took him to tennis, where he was not very happy. From what I've seen, he works hard and likes what he does, which is very important for an artist. Along with this love of the profession come other qualities, such as perseverance and the will to become better.
Ever since his ballet school closed due to the pandemic, I've been his online teacher for the past few weeks. I had the opportunity to observe his progress and potential. He convinced me that he has the right qualities to become a professional dancer. We get along very well and he knows that he can count on me at any time not only for ballet, but for anything else, too. I'm his older brother!
- The ballet dancers' diet is still a topic of discussion. How do you keep fit? What diet do you follow?
I feel that this subject tarnishes the reputation of ballet dancers in some way. No, there is no specific diet or plan to lose weight or keep fit. It's all about eating in a balanced way, of course while giving up soft drinks, fast food and excess sweets. But at the same time, it doesn't mean eating only salads. Given that a professional dancer can work up to eight hours a day, burning hundreds, even thousands of calories, it doesn't really matter how much you eat. It is important that the food is varied, full of nutrients, so as to generate energy for a day full of rehearsals. As long as you eat healthy and balanced you should have no weight problems.
But sleep is very important. It is crucial to be rested every day in order to be able to demand your muscles to the maximum, progressing in a faster way.
- Do you have a model that inspired you to dance and motivated you to continue?
I have a lot of role models to follow, and I am inspired by many dancers such as Leonid Sarafanov, Tetsuya Kumakawa, Isaac Hernandez and others, but those who motivated me to continue were always my teachers and my family, who supported me unconditionally.
Mihail Sosnovschi, my teacher in the last year of studies at the Academy, but also a soloist at the Vienna State Opera Ballet, was a great source of inspiration. No matter how tired I was or how much my legs hurt, he was always full of energy and made me give my best. It was his second year as a teacher. But he is a man with so much character and power, a true mentor, that we were able to evolve at an amazing pace, becoming strong not only as individually, but also as a group. We became a very strong class of boys.
Darius Grămadă: I'm already living my dream, but I won't stop here
"Your biggest dream?" A place where you dream of dancing a role, something that would make you feel fulfilled?
For me, dancing on the stage of the Vienna State Opera is already a dream come true. I know that I worked hard to get here and I still have a lot of work to do to reach even further within the Company.
Yes, I have a dream! I want to get to dance an important role and my family, which has supported me so far, to be in the audience.
I am convinced that I will go even further. How far? This question will be answered in time.
- What would you convey to those who want to do ballet and do not feel understood or supported by those around them?
There are many clichés about ballet dancers, about their diet, sexuality or mentality. Only people of culture know how to differentiate between these stereotypes and reality.
If you want to become a dancer, it won't happen overnight. It is a long, difficult and sacrificial process, stained with sweat and sometimes with blood. Many do not know how much effort is put into this profession. No matter how easy it seems for a dancer to move on stage, behind him are many years of hard work, sacrifices, and a team of people on which this artist relies.
If they want to persevere, do not listen to those who do not understand you, but seek help from someone in the ballet world who may have gone through these difficult times. If you really want to become someone in the world of ballet, stick to this dream and don't give up until you are satisfied.