A Paris Opera Ballet etoile on being young, gifted and successful

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Paris Opera Ballet etoile on being young, gifted and successful
Hugo Marchand, a Paris Opera Ballet star, poses in front of an Anselm Kiefer painting at Gagosian Gallery in Le Bourget, France, on March 17, 2021. In his memoir "Danser," Hugo Marchand describes, often with poetic intensity, the grueling, competitive world of the Paris Opera Ballet school and company. Jonas Unger/The New York Times.

by Roslyn Sulcas

PARIS (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Hugo Marchand, probably the starriest of the Paris Opera Ballet’s stars, or etoiles, stares out, bare-chested and muscled, from the cover of his new memoir, “Danser” (Arthaud), published in France last month.

Marchand, 27, seems a little young to have written an autobiography. Although he has made a quick climb to the top — by 23 he was an etoile, the company’s highest rank — he still has a whole career still ahead of him. And from the outside, his life looks like a untroubled series of achievements, validated by critics and audiences, who love his lyricism, virtuosity, acting abilities and leading-man looks.

Why, then, a book now? Marchand asked the same question when an editor approached him three years ago. “I had a lot of doubts, but the editor told me she wanted to hear the voice of a young person talking about following their passion, and what the costs were of that,” he said in a video interview from his apartment in Paris.

As it turns out, he had plenty to talk about. In “Danser” (French for “to dance”), Marchand (with the help of journalist Caroline de Bodinat) describes, often with poetic intensity, the grueling, competitive world of the Paris Opera Ballet school and company, and lets the reader into its claustrophobic confines.

He also writes movingly of his own struggles with self-acceptance. At 6-foot-3, with a naturally muscular build, he felt too tall and too big for the fine-boned Paris Opera Ballet ideal, and his career has been permeated by self-doubt and visitations of stage fright. And he touches, although lightly, on the tricky politics of the past few years at the Paris Opera Ballet: Benjamin Millepied’s brief tenure as director, Aurelie Dupont’s current reign and an internal report in 2018 about the dancers’ dissatisfactions.

Since June, Marchand and other dancers in the company have been able to do daily class and rehearse, although performances have been curtailed. Marchand has also worked on a project, a pas de deux with Hannah O’Neill (a Paris Opera Ballet colleague), for Gagosian Premieres — a series of filmed collaborations between visual artists and artists in other disciplines. The film, which will be released online Tuesday, is set among a series of huge Anselm Kiefer paintings now on view at the gallery’s le Bourget site in Paris.

Kiefer, who was present for the filming, called the relationship between the dancers and the art “a lucky and wonderful intersection.” In a video interview, he said, “It was as if the dancers emerged from the paintings, writing fugitive lines in the air,” adding that the paintings “are fugitive too; they are never finished, still in action, and the dancers make that so clear.”

Marchand spoke about the Gagosian project, the Paris Opera Ballet’s recent report on diversity and an ambition to dance in New York. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Q: What appealed to you about doing the Gagosian piece?

A: I have always wanted to work with other artists and bring other artistic disciplines into play. Hannah and I asked Florent Melac, a friend of ours in the corps de ballet, as we liked his choreography. He chose the music, Steve Reich’s “Duet.” I like the way it loops and matches Kiefer’s work, which uses recycled and repeating materials. We were lucky to meet Anselm Kiefer, and I was very touched and moved by the paintings.

Q: Are there other projects or ambitions you want to pursue?

A: I have always wanted to explore another house, dance with other companies. I would love to come to New York and perform with New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre. I am very interested in the American ballet style, how quick and efficient it is, how well people move. But we can’t even cross the borders in Europe at the moment. Maybe one day!

Q: Benjamin Millepied encouraged and promoted you during his tenure. After he left, Aurelie Dupont came in and there seemed to be a lot of dissatisfaction in the company. How did you feel at the time?

A: When Benjamin arrived, it was a fresh wind. What was crazy was that these rules that hadn’t moved for years suddenly changed. We could dream about having roles even if we weren’t the “right” age or with the right rank. He gave me so much attention; I would have done anything for him as an artist. In the two years he was there, I went from understudy to soloist, and when Aurelie arrived, I was worried.

Q: Why? And what is your relationship like now?

A: Ballet is a matter of tastes; it’s not because one director liked you that the next one will. But Aurelie made me an etoile six months later, which changed my life.

She has ideas about a long-term career, and that can be frustrating when you want to dance particular roles. Sometimes she will think it’s too soon. But she has the experience of a long career; at the Paris Opera, you have to be a principal dancer for the long term because you are usually there until you retire at 42.

Q: An internal survey in 2018, which was leaked to the press, showed high levels of company discontent. In your book, you talk about this very neutrally. Did you identify with some of the issues that came up?

A: I was shocked and sad when the internal survey came out. Aurelie hadn’t been there long, and it was unfair to saddle her with long-term issues of harassment or bullying. The survey should have been there to help the institution grow and improve, but it had the opposite effect.

Q: What are your thoughts about the Opera’s recent commission of inquiry into racism, and its conclusions?

A: The report pointed out that change has to happen from early on; that we have to send the message, you are Black, Asian, mixed race, whatever, and you should come to the Paris Opera Ballet School if you have the ability. That message hasn’t been communicated until now, but the report means they will work on it. The company needs to look like French society, and in a few years, it will.

Q: In your book, you vividly describe the Paris Opera Ballet School training — the rankings, the competitiveness, the desperate desire to get into the company. Are you at all critical of the system?

A: Being a good ballet dancer isn’t about being good in the studio. It’s about being able to dance your best at the right moment, in performance. The system is violent, but it helps you to understand this very early. Of course, it is very stressful to face competition and exams at a very young age. But it gives you the weapons for that moment when you need them.

Q: Is the annual competition for promotion, once you are in the company, a continuation of that idea?

A: When you get into the company, the annual competition plays an important role, because for the first year or so, you don’t dance at all, you’re lucky if you ever get onstage. The competition gives you a concrete goal and a reason to work and improve every day. There is some luck and chance involved; two minutes onstage determines your fate for the next year. But again, it’s all about dancing your best at the right moment.

And I do believe that ultimately people arrive where they need to. Ballet is about talent, a lot of work, the right body type — but also that you would die to perform onstage. That is my best talent: I love ballet so much, I could die for it.

© 2021 The New York Times Company

Today's News

March 23, 2021


Uprooting colonialism from the fossil-finding field

How the world's oldest wooden sculpture is reshaping prehistory

Major retrospective of Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp's work opens at Kunstmuseum Basel

Clyfford Still Archives team digitally releases to public Clyfford Still's diary notes from 1944-1951

Historic documents saved from bonfire for just £25 come to auction with a £4,000 price tag at Ewbank's

Signed or estate-stamped, museum-quality prints by Magnum Photos photographers for $100, available for one week

The Museum of Cycladic Art presents works from the Thanassis and Marina Martinos Collection

David Bowie's suit takes the spotlight at auction

Alexandra Deutsch named Director of Collections at Winterthur

Auction features two monumental oil on canvases by V S Gaitonde from the early 1970's

British Museum reveals exciting rare finds to be acquired by museums across the UK

Andrea Festa opens the very first solo show in Italy of Danilo Stojanović's work

National Galleries of Scotland announce first Virtual Exhibition Experience, with Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema

Exhibition at Ayyam Gallery features Thaier Helal's most recent body of work

Review: At the Guggenheim, they heart New York and indoor dance

A Paris Opera Ballet etoile on being young, gifted and successful

Two single-owner collections of British coins are 100% sold at Dix Noonan Webb

Eric Motley joins National Gallery of Art as Deputy Director

Seven works by five contemporary artists donated to the National Gallery

Artist LUAP brings good vibrations to Notting Hill as latest high street window is unveiled in Kensington + Chelsea

California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks announces reopening, new exhibitions

In the Latin Quarter, Paris' intellectual heartbeat grows fainter


The Best Live Casino in Singapore 2021

11 Tools for Emergency Car Repairs

Impact of Casino on Contemporary Culture

The Role of the Casino in Culture and Art

Unique Wedding Ideas to Wow Your Guests

Nail Art: The Latest Addition to the World of Contemporary Art

Meet The Vinyl Glasses That Allow You to Take Your Favourite Artists With You Wherever You Go

The Best Gift Ideas for Your Kids

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful