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"Patrick Dupond, the absolute dancer”

Interview with Aurélie Dupont

By Antony Desvaux 06 March 2021

© Jacques Moatti / OnP

Aurélie Dupont et Patrick Dupond répètent Le Loup de Roland Petit en 1996

Patrick Dupond passed away on 5 March in Bordeaux. After winning the gold medal at the Varna International Competition in 1976, he was named "Danseur Étoile" in 1980, and then Director of Dance at the Paris Opera from 1990 to 1995. Famous throughout the world, he danced for Béjart, Nureyev, Ailey, Carlson... For Octave magazine, Aurélie Dupont, Étoile dancer and Director of Dance at the Opera, talks about her encounter, her work, and her friendship with this great personality from the world of dance.

"I first saw Patrick Dupond during a dance class. I was just starting to dance, and I was taking a class with Max Bozzoni, a former dancer at the Opera who had a small studio on rue Rodier in Paris. He was already talking about Patrick as a future great dancer. I observed him and I found him very distinctive indeed. He didn't look at all like what one imagines a classical dancer to be like, his work wasn't always very "clean", he wasn't the "star pupil", but a raw talent. Patrick had a drive, a desire to dance, like a child, and I found that fascinating.

It was later that I really got to know him. When I joined the Ballet, he was an Étoile dancer, and he was soon appointed Director of Dance. One day, I must have been 18, he came up to me and said maliciously and provocatively: "Your name is Dupont? I'll never appoint you to be an Étoile! "In the end, our two names brought us closer, and together we danced shows we called "Dupond and Dupont". It was exciting for me to work with him. I was nothing, and he was already everything. Patrick was a wild one, forever burning up every last ounce of energy. He would go all out on stage, sometimes to the point of being unmanageable, but from a positive point of view. He taught me a lot. He taught me that nothing counts more than being generous and totally honest on stage: Patrick didn't look in the mirror, he did everything for the audience. I've never seen anyone give so much of themselves. If there was a second of music left, he would add a pirouette, rather than finish "clean". He took risks, he was daring.

He was certainly outspoken, he could sometimes offend people. But this was due to his fragile side. He was sometimes very lonely, like a child lost in a crowd. I myself was subjected to a few taunts, but I defended myself! And then I read between the lines, and I knew that behind this attitude lay a fragile man, who constantly wanted to devour life. He didn't have time to wait. He was a dancer who kept running. Patrick did not live in slow motion.

I loved Patrick as Puck in Neumeier's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and found him fascinating in all of Béjart's ballets: Salomé, Le Chant du compagnon errant... I also remember him in all the classical roles, especially in the Spanish dance in Raymonda: he was exceptional, these are images I never tire of!

There was a sense of fun in his dancing. Something that sometimes gets lost... If he could, Patrick would improvise a higher jump, a mimic, a smile, a port de bras, he was having fun. He was happy on stage. I remember a Zenith in Nancy where we danced the pas de deux from Don Quichotte, I was 18 and I had never danced in such a large venue. When we took our bows, the audience rose to their feet, as if refusing to let us go. Patrick was used to crowded theatres, I was not. He looked at me and said he was hungry and wanted to take me to dinner. We left the theatre, the audience was still in the room applauding... That had a profound effect on me. Working, seeking perfection, then finding the detachment that goes with it... It was a lesson, and there were so many of them... Devastating, a super star, a go-getter, solar, yet at the same time down-to-earth, a big brother, a confidant. He was someone you will never see again. Patrick was, and will always remain, the absolute dancer. "

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