Theodor and Lia Vasilescu



Lia and Theodore Vasilescu 2004



Theodor Vasilescu was born to a well-to-do, landed family near Cluj in Transylvania. He had no contact with village life or with peasants as a child, took lessons on the accordion, piano, and violin as a child. At the age of fifteen or sixteen, he began playing tango, foxtrot, and swing music at dance balls. (Americans were in Romania from 1944 to 1947, and American movies with stars such as Frank Sinatra and Dorothy Lamour were very popular. Theodor learned the film's soundtrack music.) He also played music for a folklore group, realizing that folkloric music could bring his orchestra more contacts. At that time, his father lost his position in the army and the family had begun selling the family's possessions to make ends meet. The instructor for the amateur folkloric group "Cununa Carpatilor" Folklore Ensemble for which he played was the famous instructor and folklore collector, Gheorge Popescu-Judetz, from whom Theodor learned to dance and teach, when Gheorge noticed that Theodor was correcting the dancers' steps and styling. Theodor joined the group in 1947 and within two years, he had become more knowledgeable about folklore than any of the other members. One of those members was his future wife, Lia.

Theodor finished secondary school in 1951 and went to a polytechnical college where he studied chemistry. The family moved from Cluj to Bucharest in 1944. He was accepted as part of the youth dance team at the university whose rule was "No dance without documentation," requiring him to go into villages to do research, learn dances, and write everything down (no video in those days!). The group danced for television shows and for ballroom sessions. He studied ballroom dance and formed a group of four couples that taught and performed for quarter-hour television shows. This exposure led to his being asked to create choreographies in Romania. Theodor graduated with an M.S. degree as a chemical engineer, working in the morning and dancing in the afternoon.

In 1964, having taken over the position and responsibilities held by a retired ballet mistress, Theodor decided to follow folklore research as a full-time profession. That same year, he choreographed dances for a group in The Netherlands and returned each year. He choreographed for professional dance ensembles such as AMAN International Music and Dance Company (Los Angeles), Budlet (Hong Kong), International Danstheater (Amsterdam), and L'Ensemble national de folklore "Les Sortilèges" (Montréal). He also has choreographed for several large open-air performances. He did numerous choreographies for professional and amateur ensembles in Romania.

From 1976 to 1985, Theodor was the Chief Choreographer of Romanian National Professional Ensemble Rapsodia Romana. He was head of Choreographie at the National Center for the Preservationa and Promotion of Folklore, was head choreographer for Cununa Carpatilor Folklore Ensemble in Bucharest, and was a teacher of Romanian folk and character dance at the Theater and Film Academy of Bucharest.

Under the socialist regime it was not easy for Theodor to leave Romania. His first visit to Japan in March of 1986 was possible because it was organized by the Japanese Folkdance Federation, which had official connections in Bucharești. That same year he was invited to teach at Bora Özkök's camp but was not allowed to leave Romania because of "official national duties." After 1990, travel became easier and Theodor taught in Germany, Hong Kong, and the United States.

Theodor was an independent choreographer and dance instructor, as well as the leader of the Folklore Dance Academy and the president of the National Association of Folklore Choreographers of Romania.

Wanting his paper qualifications (specialized studies or certificate) in folklore, he enrolled in the Academy of Music, later receiving grants to study in Russia and China. He began writing, editing, and publishing books on dance and methods of teaching folkloric dance, publishing more than 56 volumes. He developed and perfected a dance notation system specifically for folkloric studies that was less complicated than that of Laban. This notation system is currently used by professional and amateur chroeographers throughout Romania and other countries. He also authored Folclor Coregrafic Romanesc (Romanian Folklore Dances), based on several years of research throughout Romania, that includes a collection of 130 dances from all parts of the country.

Lia Vasilescu was born in Sibiu, an old town and important cultural center in the Transylvania region. She was attracted by music and dance, and sutdied classical music and ballet at the local Art Schgool. After graduating from high school, she attended the University in Bucharest, graduating as an English teacher. While in Bucharest, she became interested in folk dance and joined the amateur group Cununa Carpatilor Folklore Ensemble, where she met Theodor Vasilescu, then the group's choreographer and dance teacher. The group toured Belgium, China, France, Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Russia, Viet Nam, and several other European countries. Lia was a member of the group for 24 years.

Lia and Theodor were married in 1959 and have a son and two grand children. The couple worked together in the in the field of research, enriching their knowledge about the traditional life and the creation of Romanian villages.

Theodor and his charming wife, Lia, participated in many workshops, which endeared them to many dance communities. Beginning in 1990, Lia started teaching workshops and week-end camps together with Theodor in California, Main, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Washington. They gave workshops and master lessons throughout Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States, presenting with a style that was swiftly paced, yet attentive to details.

Several dance teachers, such as Sunni Bloland and Niko Hilferink, have popularized many of Theodor's dances.

Lia passed away on October 20, 2018 and Theodore passed away in 2024.

Dances Theodor and Lia taught include Alunelul Amestecat din Bistret, Alunelul Bătut de la Isbiceni, Alunelul de la Orodel, Aoleanul de la Petresti, Ardeleană din Lugoj, Ariciul, Bărbătesc, Bătrânesc din Valea Drăganului, Bătuta de la Botoșani, Bordeiașul, Brâu de pe Valea Bistrei, Brâul pe Sașe, Cerchezeasca, Cerchezeasca de la Daeni, Chilabaua, Chilabaua de la Roseti, Codrensc din Șomcuta, Craițele de la Meri, Dans Țigănesc, De a Lungul din Salcuța, De Purtat din Urca, Drăgaica, Fedelesul, Floricica de la Gropeni, Gaida, Giocu di Auși de la Cobadin, Gârliceanca de la Dăeni, Hora a Dous de la Goicea, Hora Anton Pann, Hora Colințană, Hora de la Bolintin, Hora de la Chircani, Hora de la Ivesti, Hora de la Mehadica, Hora de la Murgeni, Hora de la Pietroșani, Hora de la Rezina, Hora de la Tulnici, Hora din Campie, Horă din Sud, Hora Femeijlor, Hora Lăutărească de la Mitreni, Hora Libertatea (Jianul din Slanic), Hora Mireșii, Hora și Slanic, Hora Veche, Hora Vlaha din Valea Timocului, În Gradina lui Ion, Învîrtită din Mărginimea Sibiului, Jianul de la Slanic, Joc Bătrînesc, Joc Bătrînescă din Niculitel, Joc de Fete, Joc de Leagane, Joc în Patru de la Târgul Lăpuș, Jocul Căiuților, Jocuri de Nuntă din Cămărzana-Oaș, Matura de la Felnac, Mugur Mugurel, Murgulețul, Murgurlețul de la Beiu, Pandelașul, Pe Picior, Poloxia, Preumblata de Femei, Românul de la Bolintin, Sârba, Sârba de la Balți, Sârba de la Cahul, Sârba de la Călărași, Sârba de la Nufăru, Sârba de la Voinești, Scaloianul, Stânga de la Gropeni, Stângaceaua, Straca-traca, Țarina din Sohodol, Țepușul, Țepușul de la Goicea, Țiocul de la Malesu, Toconelele, Tora, Trei Păzește Bătrînesc, Trei Păzește de la Goicea, Trei Păzește de la Macesu, Tropitica de la Balti, Vlâșcencuța de la Gostinu, and Zvâcul de la Pietroșani.