named an Étoile in Rudolf Nureyev’s Don
Quixote, Valentine Colasante is preparing to perform in Benjamin
Millepied’s Daphnis et Chloé
alongside Germain Louvet before joining up with Hofesh Shechter for the entry
of The Art of Not Looking Back into
the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire. An interview with a fresh, enthusiastic
and determined dancer graced who thrives on her experiences and perosnal energy
to perfect her art.
It’s been two months since you were named an Étoile. What comes to mind when you look back to that evening on January 5?
Valentine Colasante: I remember the performance more than anything else. I knew three days before that I was going to dance the role of Kitri. Everything happened so quickly. I found myself on the evening of the show not having had any time to think. I truly remember the energy of the Corps de Ballet and the speed at which the performance seemed to pass… And then, during the curtain calls, Aurélie Dupont arrived on stage…. And then, suddenly, time seemed to stand still and I had the impression that the whole thing lasted for hours! It was an amazing moment, particularly because I wasn’t expecting it. It was also Karl Paquette’s last Don Quixote. He is leaving next season so the emotion on stage was already palpable.
Did the implication of what it means to be named an Étoile sink in quickly?
In the last few years, an entire generation of Étoiles have been retiring. What does it mean to be an Étoile today and how do you see your own generation?
The Opera will soon be celebrating its 350th anniversary…
V. C.: Yes, I think about that from time to time! It’s like a torch being passed down. I will pass it on to others in the future. We’re fortunate to be able to count on the presence of the Étoiles who have danced and worked on the roles before us to facilitate their transmission to us. It enables us to assimilate a stock of knowledge. At the moment I’m rehearsing Daphnis et Chloé. Aurélie Dupont, who created the role, came to the rehearsal to show me and pass on what she knew.
Has anything changed for you yet?
V. C.: Not really! I continue to do my barre exercises every day, I work on my roles with as much fervour… I still haven’t performed my first role as an Étoile. That will happen on March 15. What might change later is the possibility of choosing roles and ballets. The “secondary” roles were very formative because they are a necessary step in acquiring technique and building confidence. But I’ve reached a point in my career where I want to dance the roles of a soloist and carry an entire ballet on my shoulders, knowing that it’s possible because my development has been progressive. I still see myself as a young Étoile who has a lot of things to discover and explore. Becoming an Étoile opens new doors, it’s not an end in itself.
What are your next projects at the Opera?
V. C.: I’m pleased to be taking my first steps as an Étoile in Daphnis et Chloé. That ballet tells a story; the music is absolutely sublime, Daniel Buren’s staging is spectacular and Benjamin Millepied’s choreography offers considerable freedom. There’s a pleasant fluidity to dancing the piece. The numerous pas de deux allow you to search for and build complicity with your partner.After that I’ll be performing in Hofesh Shechter’s The Art of Not Looking Back, a work that will be entering the Paris Opera’s repertoire. I’m familiar with his work but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with him. It’s important for me to be able to alternate classical and contemporary pieces. The contemporary enriches me in the classical and vice-versa. I’m awaiting the creation with impatience. It’s a unique experience to be in the studio. It creates a special human relationship with the choreographers who guide us and create through us.
Is there a repertoire in which you feel more comfortable?
What have been the other key moments in your career?
Who are the personalities that have left a lasting impression on you?
V. C.: The first major role I danced at the Opéra was Thème et variations. I worked on it with Aurélie Dupont, who was not yet dance director. It was my first experience in the studio with an Étoile. It taught me a great deal about the work of an Étoile, what it meant to dance a major role at the Paris Opera, and what I wanted to express. I also have a lot of admiration for Marie-Claude Pietragalla, her temperament, her strength and her beauty. I don’t know her personally but every time I’ve seen her dance, she transcended me. At the other end of the scale, the sensitivity and fragility of Carla Fracci also moves me. It’s important for an artist to be able to show different facets.
Elisabeth Platel, who was my director at the Ballet School and gave me my first roles when I was a pupil, has played an important role in my career. As has Jean-Guillaume Bart, a mentor for many years. He was there when I joined the Company, at the time of my competitive examinations. He always had a frank, precise and kindly regard.
In the last few years, I’ve worked with a lot of other artists—Clotilde Vayer, Stéphanie Romberg, Lionel Delanoë, Fabrice Bourgeois—all of whom who were wonderful coaches.