1. Claude Bessy (former POB School Director) interview excerpt part 3/3


    But not all students recall the school years with pleasure. Once in an interview, Aurélie Dupont complained about the heartlessness of teachers saying that the children could have been handled better.

    "She speaks of herself. Because, despite of having brilliant facilities she has always been lazy and did not like the early days of school, where she was brought by her mother. Throughout the six years the expression of resentment never left Aurélie’s face, not a shadow of a smile, ever. All of the teachers knew the face. She told everyone of the suffering. Still I did not understand what was her problem: she was always first in class, always the center of attention, danced leading roles in school performances. But she immediately opened up as soon as she came into the company, has become freer because she has finally released from the teachers that made her work."

  2. Claude Bessy (former POB School Director) interview excerpt part 2/3


    But you were strict with students. When Manuel Legris bid farewell to the stage, he recalled, that you gave him very bad grades. Was that true? 

    "Yes, because he was so shy that he was hiding behind the other students in the last line all the time. He did not want to be seen, but at the same time he had all of the necessary facilities. This is terrible. If you want to be an artist, you have to be ahead rather than behind. That’s it. Hence the bad grades."

    Have your methods worked? 

    "Yes, he began to struggle with himself, to overcome this fear. It was difficult to become an artist, to develop confidence in himself."

    Today, that is hard to believe. 

    "This is true. When you look at the kind of a dance career he achieved as well - now leading the Vienna ballet, it is hard to believe that the closed boy in school and Manuel Legris - is one and the same person."

  3. Claude Bessy (former POB School Director) interview excerpt part 1/3


    Before your eyes a whole generation of brilliant ballet dancers of the Paris Opera grew up. Did you know from the beginning what a great future awaits them?

    "How can you make a mistake in Sylvie Guillem or Aurélie Dupont? Perfectly proportioned girls with the right posture, pliant, turned-out feet, with exceptional (physical) appearance. It is obvious that a future star is in front of you. To work with these children and later to see them on stage as Etoiles - It was a rare chance, good fortune and professional victory."


    How do you remember them at school?

    "Guillem was a very serious student, reserved and closed, I never have any problem with her. I found a common ground even with Marie-Claude Pietragalla, although she was complicated. During rehearsals, when something went wrong, she would started to beat her fists on the door - very angry at herself… But Le Riche have always listened to everything attentively. He was the pupil of my husband Serge Golovine and was quite charming. His letters are kept at home in which he thanked us for everything we taught him. Last year at the Paris Opera we revived "Phèdre" and talking with Nicolas, I asked how is he. He said that he will retire in one year. I was shocked! He is not old."

  4. Vadim Muntagirov answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition



    Vadim Muntagirov copyright Dasa Wharton

    When did you start dancing?
    When I was 7 years old.

    Why did you start dancing?
    Because my Mum, Dad and sister are principal dancers, and also because I love the ballet artform.

    Which dancer inspired you most as a child?
    I watched lots of videos of…

    View Post

  5. Cynthia Harvey answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition




    When did you start dancing?
    At age 8. A short time ago.

    Why did you start dancing?
    Apparently I preferred it to walking; actually I still do. Music was frequently played at home. My mother loved musicals and I think she secretly would have wished me…

    View Post

  6. Stéphane Bullion: “Living normally for me was dancing” - Part 2/2 Testimonial on his battle against cancer


    At what point did you realize that you’re going to survive? And how did you hold on (to it)?

    I became aware of everything that had happened several months after the end of my treatment. Initially I set up a goal: To go on tour in Japan. I then attacked my chemo, head down, without asking questions. I did not have the feeling of suffering over it or the side effects. That was not positive, but I tried to take things head on to reach my goal.

    Then I had other goals: The return to work in September and the concours (POB internal competition to move up ranks) in December. I started immediately to get back on track and Brigitte Lefèvre, the director of dance got me well distributed in ballets to come. I wanted to be there, to be in shape.

    In December, I wanted to finish the year in style at the concours, after training for six months, I wanted to pass this competition. But during the preparation, I started to have major problems physically. I had tendinitis everywhere, I was too tired, I had too much pain. So I arrived at the contest without really worked. I thought I’d be fit on the big day but in the end it did not actually happened like that… I left the stage after my contest, I went up to my dressing room, I took my phone and I called my mother to tell her that I will quit everything.

    Up till the end of the concours I did not ask any questions and anyway, in my eyes, there was only one outcome: I was going out

    And suddenly, on leaving the stage that day, I became aware of what I had been through up to this time and the severity of my cancer. I needed to take some time alone to think. During my illness, I did not take notice of the image that I sent to others. But looking at pictures of me being sick, I had the sudden realization that I really did not have a good head, especially at the end of my treatment when I lost 8 kg within five days.

    I also needed to read the experiences of people who have gone through the same ordeal. I did not want to forget where I had gone to and how lucky I was to be here, to be able to get up every morning to go to my classes and to physically perform as a profession. This period lasted about four months. In April, I was able to resume dance.

    How did you learn to manage your job in a battered body of a dancer?

    I pay more attention to my body! I had the chance to meet a doctor who helped me that was in pieces to recuperate and gradually recovered after the concours’ period. I followed and I always take his advice to continue dancing while respecting my body because even though I have been declared “cured” some of my physical problems have lasted very long. I have been very well supported throughout my illness.

    Today, I can say that there are more positive than negative consequences. It is not a strength, but it allows me to enjoy some of the simple things in life instead of passing it.

    How did dancing help you to pass this ordeal?

    Some people sometimes ask me if dance is a passion for me. But it is much more than a passion, it’s part of me. It’s like breathing, it’s a need. It is true that dancing helped me to set myself goals but if I continued to attend classes during my chemotherapy, it was not just to achieve and keep myself in shape. I wanted to continue living normally. And living normally for me was dancing.

  7. Stéphane Bullion: “Living normally for me was dancing” - Part 1/2 Testimonial on his battle against cancer


    Stéphane Bullion entered corps de ballet of the prestigious Opéra National de Paris at the age of 17 years old, all destined for a great career. Unfortunately, six years later, in 2003, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at an advanced stage that put everything in question.

    Thanks to his will to live and his inherent need to dance, Stéphane Bullion took his illness head on and fought tirelessly to return to the front of the stage.

    His intense efforts, the presence of his companions and his fighting spirit were rewarded through his appointment as Danseur Etoile in 2010: a model of hope for all people affected by cancer.

    Stéphane Bullion retraces his history and shares with you his experience.

    At 23, while you continuously rehearsing and performing, how did you find out that you were suffering from cancer?

    I started having health problems in October 2003 after adagio rehearsal during which my partner kicked me in the testicles. I first consulted with an urologist who treated me for inflammation. But in early December, the pain had worsened, and one evening I went to the ER. Two days later, I did blood test, scan, ultrasound, MRI… The announcement came on December 24. On January 9, one month after I did the surgery I went to the urologist again with the results of my biopsy. He then announced that I was not one of the lucky number. I left collapsed. A week later, I started chemo for a period of four months.. It was a treatment bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin in cycles of three weeks.

    I started my sessions very quickly in order to adjust my shows and continue to attend classes. At first, everything went pretty well for my first cycle. But very soon I realized that I could not go on like this, not only because of the fatigue due to chemo but also because of my surgery wound was healing, I could no longer do any jumps.

    But overall, I still managed to keep a “fairly normal activity” in my work and in my personal life.

    What side effects have you faced during all of your treatments? And what were the most difficult?

    On my first round, my hair began to fall. I was amused at the beginning: I shaved my head by making holes, drawings, a peak … Later, when I started to lose my eyebrows and my eyelashes, it was more difficult. That was nevertheless the least unpleasant side effect because the rest was really difficult to live with.

    I was really extremely tired and out of breath, I could not sleep, I lost all feeling in the hands and feet. I had no more feeling of the ground and for my work, it was very strange. I had to wait two years before the sensations come back completely.

    I also lost my toenails a month after the end of my treatment. I was on tour in Japan that time. I was dancing intensely in my slippers. So I re-taped my nails before each performance as to make the steps not too painful.

    I also had nausea, vomiting, intestinal problems, hyper dry skin, major pressure sores on the heels … The slightest effort, like opening a bottle of water, my skin did not cut but torn as if it burst out.

    I could not eat because there were very few things that I endured and made me want. Smells bothered me very quickly. There was one thing I could eat: raw endive! I do not know why, but I still love it!

    Towards the end of my treatment, I had so many problems with sores that I had to postpone my last cycle. I could not eat for eight days so I had mucositis. I had sores everywhere, swollen tongue, the palate was irritated. No treatment relieved me.

    I believe that fatigue was the the most difficult side effect. To such an extent that at the end of treatment, I said “That’s good, they killed me. I will not be able get up”. For a while everything would cost me. I went from my bed to the bathroom on all fours so I was out of breath.

    What made you well? How did you manage to ease these side effects?

    I was given a long list of medication to counter the side effects such as cortisone or anti-emetics. I supplemented it with homeopathy and plants such as bamboo or radish. It helped me well for my liver problems because there were many things that I had to put up with. I continue to take it even today as I had been told that everything would recover but this is not the case with me, I still have weaknesses in the liver.

    My mother also taught me the basics of relaxation and sophrology. It helped me a lot during the long days of chemo when I was so tired that I could not speak. To stay lying down for twelve hours without saying anything and moving, it gave the time to meditate.. Sophrology helped me try to accept my pain.

    But more importantly, it allowed me to hold it around me. My family have always been there for me. For example, my mother often took a day off the day after my chemo to stay with me while I spent my day resting without even speaking. She was just present. We did not talk, but the fact that she is close to me changed everything. And then there was Pauline my wife, she was 20 and she faced it all in a way unheard of, she accompanied me, supported me. She made sure that we remain a normal couple, with her ‘Joie de vivre’, she has been essential and she still is.

  8. Diana Vishneva interview excerpt in Vogue Russia - 4/4

    Why would you live from performance to performance and from plane to plane, always painful, sore feet, like the Little Mermaid, for extra adrenaline?

    "Ballerina is still remembered for the work that specifically delivered for her. (Galina) Ulanova - Juliet, Maya Plisetskaya - Anna Karenina and Carmen. It must be placed under her repertoire, currently nobody thinks about it, but time is running out and I by all means must pursue it. That’s what I set up a fund for - The theater will not look for the choreographers for me, I myself should organize everything."

    Do you not even thinking about having a child?

    I think about it all the time. But I said to myself, still have to hold out a little bit. Suppose I have it, the abilities of the body which already limited then will not be able to dance the classic perfectly. Classical dance requires absolutism.”

  9. Diana Vishneva interview excerpt in Vogue Russia - 3/4

    On Sylvie Guillem

    "At school, the first time I saw the video of Sylvie Guillem. I was shocked by this incredible physique, ‘God, what we are doing here! We know nothing, see nothing, we do not understand!’ We must work the feet in a different way, in another range. I was very impressed by her path - to leave the Paris Opera Ballet in order to dance contemporary choreography and ballets that are made specifically for her.."

    William Forsythe withdrew a role from Diana for failure to appear at Mariinsky rehearsal - It was simply a misunderstanding but nevertheless a lesson for her - Star status does not excuses caprices.

    "You have to forget about the crown. It’s hard, because you’re sort of a star, but you need to turn into clay in the hands of the choreographer. Nothing gives such an adrenaline rush as working with a choreographer."

  10. Diana Vishneva interview excerpt in Vogue Russia - 2/4

    When she was little, Diana watched all of Mariinsky Ballet from the third tier

    "All the stairs were mine, I first saw Don Quixote when I was eleven years old and I cried bitterly at the third tier, because I thought I would never be able to dance it. But it took eight years." - and she was still a student when she was offered Kitri.

    On her first love

    "Farukh (Ruzimatov) was my first love. He was a complicated man, all the time he was never satisfied - with himself and with me. But there were moments of such happiness that made them worth all of the suffering."

    ”..We parted and got together again -  it was a passion which could end only in tragedy.”

  11. Diana Vishneva interview excerpt in Vogue Russia - 1/4

    Favorite food is cheese

    "Since childhood I love cheese curds, if I do not eat cheese in the morning, then later in the afternoon I will think ‘Damn, I’m missing something, I forgot to eat cheese!"

    She was invited to an audition for Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” - although Diana did not know for what role - she was unable to attend because she has tour in Japan

    "I realized from the first shots that it is necessary to forget about ballet in that movie, watch only for Natalie Portman’s acting. And all these ballet stories - (are) nonsense of course but what a promotion of ballet to the world! How tickets now fly away, you have no idea."

  12. Sylvie Guillem’s tip on how to make your pointe shoes last longer (apparently she wears Freed)

    I have a questions to Ms Guillem, what kind of pointe shoes do you wear? Like what brand? I have a really high, flexible, banana shaped arch and I can never find a perfect pointe shoes for myself yet (it’s a big issue for me though) I’ll be glad if you can give me some information about it!

    Sorry for this late answer. I am using the Freed pointe shoes. Hope this will help.

    Best wishes Sylvie Guillem

    Dear Ms Guillem, thank you for answering my question. I’ve tried the Freed’s pointe shoes before and it died so quickly. I know that you have such a great arches, and how do you use Freeds for long time? Do you put Jet-Glue or anything like that? It will be so helpful if you can give me some tips. Thank you so much love, AC.

    I put some wood varnish inside the shoes to make them harder. The name of the varnish is Eclat d’Or and I find it in Paris in the Hardware shops. This is the only way to keep them longer. The girls in the Royal Ballet are using a product called Shellac (maybe they find it at Freed) But I never used this product. Hope this will help. 

    Best wishes Sylvie.

  13. Igor Kolb on dancing with Sylvie Guillem

    • Ask: Which dancer of today do you most admire?
    • Igor Kolb: Sylvie Guillem. I was absolutely stunned when I saw her dance in a work called “Smoke” which was recently broadcast from Graz on Russian television.
    • Ask: And would you like to dance with her?
    • Igor Kolb: It’s not realistic.
    • Ask: You’ve got to dream
    • Igor Kolb: I haven’t lost my mind yet! (laugh)
  14. Agnes Letestu Q&A part 6/6 - Diet for dancers and the future of classical ballet

    A lot has been written about how dancers stay so thin. What is your diet like?
    People have the impression that ballerinas subsist on a daily diet of an apple and yogurt—that’s completely untrue! We wouldn’t have the energy to dance. Dancers watch what they eat and just avoid fatty foods because they’re bad for the joints. Not too much alcohol either, because toxins get in the muscles. Especially not white wine; it’s acidic. Red wine is fine in small doses. Dancers eat a lot of pasta and slow-release carbohydrates, especially before shows. Not too many fast-release carbohydrates, because they give you energy for five minutes, and then it’s all over. We sometimes eat chocolate bars to get a boost before dancing or during intermission. Basically, we eat everything in moderate quantities. What makes dancers so thin is exercise.

    There has been quite a debate lately regarding the future of classical ballet—some say it is dusty and stuck in the 19th century, others believe it still has a future. What are your views?
    I think it really depends on the performers and the ballet masters. There’s nothing dusty about a well danced “Swan Lake” with contemporary sets that remains faithful to the choreography. What’s dusty are the people performing it.

    If performers are capable of adapting today’s technique to the choreography, of taking away everything that’s fussy and superfluous and keeping only the essentials, there’s no reason that ballet should end up on the scrap heap.

    It’s like fashion: A classic suit that’s updated and freshened will always be chic. All you have to do is occasionally alter the collar, the waist or the seams, and you have a suit that you’ll want to wear for years yet that will always be the fashion du jour.

  15. Agnes Letestu Q&A part 5/6 - Personal life and career

    It seems that today, dancers manage to have much more of a personal life.
    Yes. I’ve always managed to combine a personal life with my professional career. I haven’t always been with the same man, but that’s life, regardless of whether you’re a dancer or not. But I never felt the need to live as a recluse, and neither do the other dancers. Quite a few of them, in fact, have children. Most of them stop working when they start to show, usually two or three months into the pregnancy. They come back to work pretty quickly, about two months after giving birth, and are in great shape.

    Ballerinas also seem to be enjoying longer careers.
    The official retirement age at the Opéra is 42, but you are allowed to continue to dance afterward as a guest. Age 42 is a little too soon to quit. Men get worn out faster than women because they do more strenuous things such as jumps and lifts. Women are in very good shape until the age of 45 or even 47.

About me

Fangirling Aurélie Dupont, Xavi Hernandez and Benedict Cumberbatch
Paris Opera Ballet
FC Barcelona