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Aurélie Dupont : who really is director of the Opéra de Paris ballet ?

Aurelie Dupont portrait

She is gifted with amazing talent. Her style, her beauty, her independence, her energy, her natural grace: Aurélie Dupont is the star of Parisiennes… Stepping in after  Benjamin Millepied as Ballet director, the darling child of the Opéra de Paris confirms her excpetional love story and creativity inside Garnier. During the Chanel and colette podcast, we had the privilege of  an exceptional encounter with the most striking dancer of her generation.

She never left the Opéra de Paris. She started ballet school at 10 years old, then integrated the ballet corps, retired at 42, the legal age for dancers… before becoming 2 years ago the new director of the Opéra de Paris la nouvelle ballet. “I myself produced a line of jewellery that I sold in the Opera boutique—and I adored it!”  

She totally panicked when she became a star dancer. In 1998, Aurélie Dupont was named prima ballerina, at the end of a representation of Don Quichotte by Rudolf Noureev. “I am very exacting with myself. I was very pleased, but I did not feel I was quite up to par. I really appreciated it later on”.

She was one of the first once to denounce the violences of teachers in dance school. At 18 years old, Aurélie Dupont does not hesitate to openly criticize dance school — not for its teaching which she salutes— but for the utter meanness of certain teachers with their young pupils. “ Things happened that would no longer happen, all the more so now that I am their director !”.

She no longer wanted to work with a choreographer. “I cannot tell you who it is, but I worked with a very nice choreographer, a wonderful man, gentle, accessible. He wanted to create on me—I could not refuse. A real ordeal! Every step he would ask me to make… was like tasting food that is not good ! My body just could not do it. To such an extent that I went to see the director at the time and asked her to make retire. She said no : “I adore you: he absolutely want you at the première”. I had to stay, it was terrible.”

aurelie dupont danseuse etoile

© Aurelie Dupont and Francois Alu, for « Daphnise et Chloe » premiere in May 2014, at Opera Bastille. / MARTIN BUREAU/AFP

She doesn’t force-feed culture on her kids. “Aside from the love I give my children, which is without limit, I do absolutely nothing for their creativity! I find that creativity occurs when one has limited knowledge. I prefer to allow them to imagine and to in any direction they wish that’s what creativity is all about !”

She always had stage fright. “Even for my first representation. I was 10 years old. The ballet corps presentation, a ritual that no longer exists, created by Liffart. It’s a very solemn presentation where all the dance schools march at the Opéra Garnier, a lineup that goes all the way to the oldest star dancer. It was the first time that I was with the entire ballet crops. I already had stage fright and I still do.

She suddenly had a very shameful peal of laughter on stage. “It was during the representation of a ballet by Preljocaj. We were 3 couples, all star dancers, on stage. We all started laughing for a really long time… All our makeup started running …  My partner had to wipe his running makeup on my dress in order to see something. Catastrophy. We were chided like children.”  

She is quite remiss to no longer dance at the Opera of Paris. “It’s a heartbreak to no longer dance on the Garnier stage. For dancers, retirement takes place at 40 years old. It’s sad, but one has to leave the slot for others. Otherwise there are plugs and it’s important to allow talents to stand out... I dance elsewhere, in New-York. Now that I am the director: I cannot say:  “move over here I am”, it’s a question of respect.  Nonetheless, I will dance again in September at the Opéra— a solo by Martin Graham…”

opera garnier

She assumes not being obliged to do certain things. “Learning too much, knowing too much, going towards too many things prevents you from having your own opinion and your own imaginary. Sometimes, you have to admit not having seen such exhibition, just because everyone says you should...

She only needs 1 minute to spot a future dancer. Children arrive at ballet school around the age of 10. “Talent stands out right away. Immediately. It takes me less than a minute. The way they hold their heads, the allure, their physical capacities... What one does not see, that comes out later, is that they are intelligent… Another quality for a great dancer.  
Sometimes I see kids in the street... It’s obvious they are made for that! I tell their parents. But it never worked…. hahahaha ! The last time I stopped to talk to parents in New York, the mother was flattered. Her daughter replied: “But Mom, I hate dance.”

 

Also discover the interview of Juliette Gernez, a dreamy ballerina.

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