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Ballet with Old World flair

By Meg Murphy
Globe Correspondent / October 6, 2011

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Melinda Marculetiu, a former dancer in the Croatian National Ballet, watched as her husband, Cosmin, a Transylvanian native, uttered instructions in French to ballet students at the couple’s dance studio in Norwell.

“Our students can go anywhere in the world and take a ballet class. If they want to take a class in St. Petersburg, they can do it,’’ said Marculetiu, noting that her studio follows the Russian ballet method Vagnova. “Our students know the vocabulary, the history; they understand the various ways ballet is taught.’’

The International Ballet Academy of Norwell, located in a spacious suite of studios tucked away in what looks like an office park, is developing an intense band of ballet loyalists from Hingham, Norwell, Marshfield, and surrounding towns.

Since the academy opened about a year ago, its reputation as a fledgling studio for serious dancers has spread by word of mouth, and it has become popular with South Shore parents and young people with big ambitions and, often, an eye toward Europe.

This season, those dreams will be channeled into the academy’s first production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.’’ On a recent afternoon, the devotees, poised at the ballet barre, wearing leotards and focused expressions, their eyes and movements marking the exercise, said they will commit to this “Nutcracker’’ production with the same diligence they bring to almost daily two-hour ballet practices.

These are the older students, many with over a decade of ballet training, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to dance that they said has been enlivened by this studio run with eastern European flair.

“We will reproduce ‘The Nutcracker’ as close to what it was in the original as possible, but we’ll look at our students and adjust so it best suits them, too,’’ said Marculetiu, who lives in Quincy.

Hingham resident Lauren Walter, a ballerina doll multiple times in other “Nutcracker’’ productions, said she is excited to be involved with the academy’s version. Walter has been dancing ballet for 14 of her 16 years, and practices at the studio five days a week for about two hours per class.

“I think this place is different than most American studios,’’ said Dilara O’Neil, a Marshfield High School senior with an international background herself, having a mother from Turkey and a father from Ireland. “They have more of a European style. They expect a lot of you, but they’re also fun and inspiring. You never forget why you are a dancer here.’’

O’Neil, who began appearing in “Nutcracker’’ productions at age 11, said she enjoys dance because it creates a home for her, no matter where she is in the world.

“It is where I feel most comfortable. It makes me feel more graceful. I like being on stage,’’ she said.

Mikaela Bukow, 14, a Whitman resident who has portrayed a “party girl’’ in three “Nutcrackers’’ in the past, said she practices six days a week and wants to go professional.

“I want to be part of the New York City Ballet,’’ she said.

“That’s a big dream. You go for it!’’ said Academy student Georges Jean Robens, 27, a Cambridge resident from Haiti with six years of dancing experience.

“Melinda and Cosmin help you develop your whole personality. They teach you that you have to believe in yourself. There is nothing impossible,’’ he said.

Here, even the younger ballerinas imagine lives as professional dancers, unselfconsciously placing themselves in the same sphere.

“Our ‘Nutcracker’ will be just the same as the Boston Ballet, just at a different theater,’’ said 7-year-old Patricia Breen of Hingham, her hair in a dancer’s bun but her feet no longer in ballet slippers after a recent rehearsal. She articulated her views while spinning in circles with her younger sister, Elizabeth.

According to her mother, Patricia studies ballet at home, including the French terminology. She, along with other 7-year-olds, takes careful notes while at the academy: tendu (stretch), jeté (throw), balançoir (swing), rond de jambe (circle the leg).

The terminology is reflexive for the older students; but the younger must learn it so that they think, when dancing, in French terms, said Marculetiu.

The cat step, or “pas de chat,’’ as “Miss Melinda’’ tells the children, is the best, said Inga Andruszkiewicz, a 7-year-old Hingham resident with a Polish-Lithuanian last name and a German mother, Daniela.

Inga, preparing to leave the studio with her mother, leaped sideways, demonstrating the move, many times. She said she likes it, a lot.

“I think it’s important they have fun but they’re also learning something. This place is more serious; the children are really taking in a great deal,’’ said Josephine Megwa, mother of Clelia, a 7-year-old Norwell resident dressed in a blue leotard.

Young people performing in the academy’s “Nutcracker’’ will learn about its Russian history, its composer, the historical context, details of its first performance, and other background, so they are involved with it, own it, said Marculetiu.

“I want our students to understand how ballet works,’’ she said. “We’re passing down what we’ve learned and experienced.

“Ballet is important for me because it’s my life. It’s important for children because it helps them to develop so many skills; they mark the dance not just with their bodies but also with their minds.’’

Meg Murphy can be reached at msmegmurphy@gmail.com.

The academy’s
principal players
Melinda Marculetiu
Director of education at the International Ballet Academy of Norwell
Began studying ballet at age 6 at Virginia Beach Conservatory of Arts
Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts from Radford University in Virginia; performed with Radford University Dance Theatre and Roanoke Ballet
Performed with Croatian National Ballet in Zagreb and at Dubrovnik Summer Festivals; appeared in Croatian commercials, movies, and cultural programs
Danced with Landesbühnen Sachsen in Dresden, Germany
Cosmin Marculetiu
Executive director of the International Ballet Academy; former artistic associate director with Jose Mateo’s Ballet Theatre in Cambridge, and dance faculty member of the Boston Arts Academy
A native of Romania, discovered at age 9 in a nationwide search for artistic talent
Trained at Academy of Arts and Choreography in Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Soloist with the Romanian National Ballet in Cluj-Napoca and the touring company Europe Ballet
Danced with Croatian National Ballet; appeared in commercials and television programs
Soloist with the Landesbühnen Sachsen in Dresden


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