x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Paris Opera ballet heads to Dubai

Ten soloists from the prestigious Paris Opera National Ballet are performing in Dubai this weekend. We chat with Karl Paquette and Valentine Colasante, who lead the group of star performers.

Valentine Colasante. Courtesy Paris Opera Ballet
Valentine Colasante. Courtesy Paris Opera Ballet

Soloists from the oldest national ballet company in the world, the prestigious, 300-year-old Paris Opera Ballet, will be coming to Dubai this week to perform four exceptional galas.

The Ballet has five ranks of dancers: étoiles, premiers danseur, sujets, coryphées and quadrilles. Karl Paquette has been graced with the highest title of étoile dancer for the past four years, ever since he stunned the ballet world with an impeccable performance of The Nutcracker. We talked to him about what it’s like to be one of the company’s elite.

On his start

I started dance pretty young. I was six. My parents made me do music, judo and dance. It turned out that I quickly found my way.

On the daily grind

The work day of an étoile dancer varies. It is true that the daily class is the secret of a long career. Sometimes, one can work two or three roles at the same time. Therefore, we can keep dancing from 10am to 7pm, six days a week.

On tough acts

I think some ballets are more challenging than others, on the technical, physical and artistic points. For me, Romeo and Juliet seems the hardest ballet to dance.

On injuries

Throughout my career as a dancer, I have never had accidents. No one has ever had to replace me for performances and I could always calmly work my roles … though I have often had to replace injured dancers during shows.

On ballet boys

There is an equal number of male and female dancers in Paris Opera Ballet, and in most ballet companies. If you look at international ballet competitions for young dancers, such as the one in Lausanne, you see more male candidates than female ones in the last few years. Ballet is becoming very popular in Asian and South American ­countries.

On his favourite ballets

When I was young, the role of Solor in La Bayadère was dear to my heart. Since I have had access to all the soloist roles as an étoile, I have discovered more roles and the richness of each of them. If I had to choose one, I would say the role of Ivan the Terrible, because it is a role I like but have never danced.

On the étoile status

In my view, being an étoile is a recognition from the world of dance of your work and your qualities as a dancer. Becoming an étoile was a new start and opened doors to new roles for me.

On the art form

I think all other arts converge to dance: painting, music, moviemaking and sculpting. Dance has always suffered from the higher importance given to the opera than to dance. But ballet has always been popular and is the guarantor of the popularity of dance.

• Grab the chance to see Paquette in his toughest role yet as Romeo and Colosante’s favourite choreography, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, along with excerpts from other neoclassical ballets and popular ballets such as Swan Lake. The 10 soloists will perform four galas on January 9 at 8pm, and on January 11 at 2pm and 7pm at the Madinat Theatre. Visit www.madinattheatre.com for tickets

Valentine Colasante

Also gracing the stage in Dubai will be the premiere danseuse Valentine Colasante, who, like Karl Paquette, has been pirouetting since she was 6.

On her start

I started dancing at my local conservatory because I had lots of energy and could hardly stay in the same place. Quickly, one lesson per week wasn’t enough for me. I had heard about the Paris Opera Ballet School where I could dance every day. I quickly realised it was the only thing I wanted to do and it became my job.

On her career highlight

I was so impressed by our choreographer for In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated last year, William Forsythe. He is a genius and such an inspiration. His pieces require an amazing energy and self-transcendence – but what a joy to dance.

On making it look easy

No one movement is really more difficult than another, but some combinations of steps and movements can be more difficult than others. It is very necessary to repeat the sequence until you assimilate it completely, so the audience cannot perceive the difficulty behind it.

On aspiring ballerinas

Dance requires so much discipline and perseverance. It’s a tough job that requires always questioning yourself and exceeding your own limits. When dancing becomes your passion, your life, it gives you so much in return.

On her home

Yes, I am a true “Parisienne”. I live in Paris and I am very attached to this city where I grew up. However, I love travelling and discovering new countries. Thanks to my job, I have the chance to tour a lot. This will be my first visit to Dubai – I am very delighted to come and discover it.

artslife@thenational.ae