After Pécs, on the way to Linz, we had a little stop in Vienna. The main reason of our visit was the meeting with Simona Noja, prima ballerina of Vienna State Opera and director of the ballet school belonging to the institution. She is also ambassador of Cluj Napoca 2021, and therefore we had a brief discussion about the candidacy of the city regarding the European Youth Capital title.
What was your motivation to accept the title of being an ambassador of Cluj 2021?
I have always cared about Cluj. Although I was not born in Cluj , but I have lived in Cluj from the very early age of nine months. I had my education -a very good one- in Cluj, and this proved to bring my success later. I thought that after so many years spent in Cluj, and abroad, it is time to give something back to my city. This was my motivation to try to do something for Cluj!
Does Cluj-Napoca deserve to win the title of European Capital of Culture?
Cluj definitely deserves to win the title because it fulfills the necessary conditions. It has always been a city of multiculturalism, a transit city in Transylvania where all the roads must have led to. This was the reason why, in the past, was called the “City of Treasures”. A city with a creativity “puls”. This is the feeling that I got each time I come to Cluj, when I am watching Cluj from the outside or when I hear information about Cluj. It is a city with a great dynamics due to the large extent of young people and students. Cluj is a city that develops at a high pace, growing quickly both from an economic and from an artistic perspective. Simultaneously, it plays a so-
called “cultural-catalyst” role in Transylvania, and even more, I should say, Romania. Also for foreigners, Cluj is a city that is worthy of investment. They spend time here and establish economic and cultural relations. Cluj’s geographical position is also an asset, but the mentality of the city is more valuable. This has been always distinctive, healthy, and constructive. “Take the best, leave the rest”, it was not only the mentality of my generation, but it is a philosophy that rules all my previous relations to this city for the last half of a century.
To be able to win, Cluj must focus on capable and constructive people. There are plenty of individuals like this, driven by good intentions. Me, personally I had to do only with this type of people. However, I also have -of course- information about some decisions, that make me wonder where were the people from Cluj when these decisions were reached?
What would make a person, who has never been to Cluj, visit he city?
There are plenty of things to see in Cluj. Starting from all the important historic places –old and new churches-, through cultural monuments, sports arenas. the Casio, Central Park, -newly renovated- , the Botanic Garden, which is absolutely fantastic. There are several attractions in Cluj, that create an outstanding experience, culturally, historically, and aesthetically speaking.
How often do you visit Cluj? Which occasions bring you to the city?
I still have some family in Cluj, and this is the reason of my 5-6 visits per year. I go relatively often, every 6 weeks. Having 2 children, it is important for me to establish a certain contact with Romania, with Cluj, being the original environment of my family.
I am also interested in the cultural life of Cluj. I am part of that and I have an extremely good surprise each time I do so. Cluj is a city that inspires me, personally, not only from a human but also from a cultural perspective.
There are several events that I am in touch with, both directly and indirectly. The latest event was the TIFF, and before that, I have participated at a book-festival. In the autumn, I will come again for another book-festival. These are the plans for the near future.
Which are your favorite things in Cluj?
If I think about a favorite place, that would be Kogalniceanu Street, because this used to be my way between the two schools, starting at Calea Turzii until the Memo (Memorandumului Street), where the City Hall is right now. It is normal, to see how the city transforms and changes… I remember when, 30 years ago, I could not see anyone on my way at Kogalniceanu Street, which was full of pupils during the breaks only, but otherwise it was usually empty.
The city transforms and this is very good. It is natural to have all those powerful emotional memories bound to our childhood, but I find it lovely to see how the city changes. I think of it as having a certain manner some time ago, that was good, and now it is different, but also good in another way. I have a good feeling about this transformation.
What can you tell us about the “Simona Noja” Cultural Foundation?
The Foundation was established to help and support young dancers. I consider that the most delicate and difficult part of an artist’s professional career is at the beginning. This foundation aims –mainly- to support the transit of a dancer from the time of graduation to the professional world of the ballet. These 2-3 years of transit are difficult. This was my case as well, and the case of others. We all have passed this period and have had the chance to be supported exactly at this transit time.
I remember that my teacher used to say that the artist is just like an extremely delicate flower at the beginning and needs to be protected until it grows some strong roots. After that, it will be resistant enough to handle any storm but until that point, it needs protection. More or less, this is what the Foundation works for.
We have created a dance (ballet) demonstration, a bigger project of the Foundation. We united young and recognized artists within a ballet demonstration, compiling the beginnings of classical dance with the aspects of a dancer that has accomplished all the stages of becoming a professional dancer. For me, this was a successful show, because all the participating groups had a good time. All the groups were presented in a favorable manner that brought appreciation from the public and from the artists as well. The show took place at CCS within the “Days of Cluj”.
Do you have a message for Cluj?
Cluj deserves to become European Capital of Culture. Cluj deserves trust!
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