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About the Change

Aurelie Dupont
Etoile, Paris Opera Ballet

by Ivan Sebastiani

Icare ©

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Ivan Sebastiani caught up with Aurelie Dupont last summer and got some interesting answers about likes, dislikes and a family...

Ivan Sebastiani: Tell me something about your history. How did you start to dance?

Aurelie Dupont: I was born in Paris and I studied at the Paris Opera School. I started dance at ten, very late, but it was not my first passion: I wanted to became a pianist, my first passion was piano. I was touched by beautiful things, like nature or music. I had something different, was very sensitive, I felt good but most of the time I was alone and I needed to go on music or something else. Every Christmas I was waiting for a piano, but my parents didnít want to, I donít know why. When I understood that I couldnít have a piano, then I decided to search something else. I thought: ďmaybe if I take dancing lessons there will be the piano in the studioĒ. Thatís why I started to dance, because there was the piano in the studio.

When did you decide to become a dancer?

When I saw the first performance in the Paris Opera I realized I wanted to become a dancer. Everything was so beautiful, I was crying! But I never said : ďI want to dance Swan LakeĒ or ďI want to be an etoileĒ. I was interested in the work, but not in having the first role. I just wanted to give all my energy to be at the best level of myself. In everything I do, I want a beginning and an end, I donít like to stop in the middle.


Aurelie Dupont in POB's Sylvia
Photograph by Icare ©

How was the school in the Paris Opera for you?

I am the only one to say that was very hard. Most of the dancers, etoiles or not etoiles, never say it. Itís like a secret. I think we have good teachers, the level is very high, you have good lessons and you work very hard, but I didnít like a lot of things in the school. It was not human, we are children and sometimes they forget that we are children, they donít see this part. I was fragile and very shy but I didnít show it to become stronger. That was hard for me. I became a good soldier but I never forget that behind all this I had sensitivity. I think it is important for kids to keep the ďinner childĒ, otherwise you do dance as robot. When I was in the school I wasnít so sensitive as I am now, because you are not allow to show it. Then it is very hard to search in yourself what you had to hide, and to put all this back. Now it is in my personality and I am happy because I think I am more honest on stage: if I want to be strong I know how to be strong, and if I want to be fragile, like me, I will be fragile.

Who helped you in this process?

I worked with Angelin Preljocaj in Annonciation . He helped me a lot because he believed in me. But the one who was like a bomb in my self was Pina Baush. I danced Le Sacre du printemps. She didnít talk a lot at the rehearsal, she was just watching. One day I was doing the steps very strongly, very hardly. She stopped me and told me: ďAurelie, what are you doing? Itís not you, itís someone else! Itís like you want to be hard with yourself instead of just being yourself and be fragile, and thatís what I want to see. If you show this part you will be interesting and you will enjoy dancing!Ē. This was a shock for me. She helped me and then, day after day, I was more and more like I am. When I danced Le Sacre on stage it was great!

Do you think it is easier to be yourself on the stage?

It depends. On stage it is easier to be yourself but I never forget that I am acting. I take some part of me and I put on stage, but I am always ďawareĒ. I need the stage to express myself, it is a way to feel free, to say what you want and give love. Thatís why I want to dance, not only to do nice pirouettes. I like very much modern ballets because I think itís easier to be yourself. When you dance Sleeping Beauty you are Aurora, when you dance Romeo and Juliet you are Juliet. But when you dance something modern on you, itís you, itís not someone else.

Which ballets are your favourite? Which give you most pleasure?

I loved to dance Le Sacre du printemps by Pina Baush. I love Kylianís Bella Figura and I love Giselle by Mats Ek, even if it's very hard for the physique. In this moment I have a lot of problems with my knee. Giselle, itís a good memory and a terrible memory. Good, because I meet Anna Laguna and I worked a lot with her and with Mats Ek. Terrible memory because my knee was a bit disastrous, it was hard. But when I meet a choreographer itís always a great sensation on stage, because you can share and work together.

Classics, I love Nureyevís Cinderella. I like acting and as Cinderella you have different characters during the ballet, I like these changes. And I love Manon, itís a great ballet.


Aurelie Dupont and Jean-Guillaume Bart in POB's Manon
Photograph by Icare ©

You are dancing LíHistoire de Manon and you are really well received by the audience. How is your Manon? What do you feel as Manon?

Some dancers allow themselves to think that Manon is a bitch or a prostitute, but I donít think she is. When I go out with G.M. at the end of the 1st act, in this moment I am really in love with Des Grieux, but I am very ďnaiveĒ to think that I will have money, jewels and the love of Des Grieux. She wants the love and the money, but itís not the money for her, itís the money for them. Manon thinks that her love is so big that nothing can go wrong, and she is not aware he will suffer. She is not stupid but very naive. When she come in the second act with the black dress she is like a little girl: ďOh, this beautiful night, this beautiful dress!Ē. She is not calculating, she is beautiful but she doesnít know it. During the party Iím always very aware about where he is. I am with G.M but I always have a look to him, not with a smile, I just watch him because I love him. Iím very naive and maybe a little bit impressed by the money, but I would never let the men kiss me or touch me, even with G.M. I would say: ďNo, thank youĒ.

You saw Diana Vishneva dancing LíHistoire de Manon with Paris Opera Ballet. What do you think about the Kirov style of acting?

Last year I went to work with the Kirov. I had to dance Romeo and Juliet and I asked to work three weeks with the Company, because I was very interested. I think they have beautiful arms that we donít have here. It was a good opportunity for me. They donít work with the feeling you have. Everything is worked, everything is the way you look. In the end everything is beautiful, is perfect, like a model. It was very interesting for me and I learned lot of things. You will know exactly how to put your hands or your head. For example if you feel like looking at your partner in a certain way they would tell you: ďno, put your head like this because itís more beautifulĒ. Thatís true, but if I feel like doing it in another way maybe I should do it, instead of doing just something pretty. But the way of working was very interesting and Diana Vishneva is a beautiful dancer, even if sometimes maybe everything is worked too much and Ė for me Ė maybe not natural.

Whatís the most difficult ballet for you?

Raymonda. Itís a huge ballet, and Nureyev is so complicated, it is the most difficult ballet of my life. You have six or seven variation, three pas de deux, at the end you are dead. Itís good to do it because you keep a good technique, when you can dance this you can dance everything. But for me itís too much, itís like eating too much. There is a lot of technique in this ballet but the pleasure is very little. When you work with a choreographer you can meet each other or not, sometimes you can have a fight but you can feel something. With Nureyev of course itís different because he is dead. So, sometimes Iím a little bit frustrated with his choreography because I donít like to work only on videos, or with other dancers who say: ďI was doing thisĒ and another one ďno, I was doing thatĒ.


Aurelie Dupont in Balanchine's Four Temperaments
Photograph by Jacques Moatti ©

What will you dance next season?

Iím going to dance many things here. The most interesting thing for me is that Kylian is doing a creation and he chose me for the creation. Iím very pleased and honoured. Next I will dance a ballet I love. It is Balanchineís Four Temperaments. I love Balanchine, I think he is one of the great choreographers. I changed a lot in my body and in my head: I had an operation one year ago, I stopped dancing for one year and I have danced again for two months. My knee is not so good, so if I want to dance longer maybe I have to dance less. But itís interesting, because maybe I have to say no to many things, but I will have three months of creation with Kylian! Before, when you are a young etoile itís different, you dance everything.

What will you do in the feature?

Good question. I would like to have a family, very much, I canít imagine myself without children. Before the end of my career, I hope. I donít know if I want to stay in the dance world. Maybe I would like to work with children, to share. But for me dance is a game: everything is very soft, very light. I'm not doing this work to see my name in a book when Iíll be dead.

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