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Encounters

Two Etoiles Shining in the Firmament

Encounter with Léonore Baulac and Germain Louvet — By Aliénor de Foucaud

On 28th and 31st December last year, following performances of Swan Lake, Germain Louvet and Leonore Baulac were appointed Etoiles. Consecration or continuation, they look back on their careers so far and give us their impressions.


How did you come to be a dancer?

Germain Louvet: I began dancing at the age of four, it was already very natural and instinctive for me. When I was seven I entered the National Regional Conservatoire of Chalon-sur-Saône where I learnt classical ballet, then, at the age of 12, I was admitted to the Paris Opera Ballet School under the direction of Elisabeth Platel. I joined the Corps de Ballet when I was 18.

Léonore Baulac : I studied dance for two years at the Paris Conservatoire before being admitted to the Ballet School at the age of 15. Then, when I was 18, I joined the Corps de Ballet.


How do you perceive the role of an Etoile?

G.L. and L.B.: It all depends on where you are in your career as a dancer. When you are a child, the Etoiles seem like demi-gods, then you get to know them, you follow their careers. As we climb the echelons, the fantasy that surrounds the Etoiles becomes more and more real and accessible. When it happens to you, you realise that being an Etoile is just being a dancer like any other but with new responsibilities, it’s a continuation. In the end, life in the company stays the same.

With Prince Siegfried and Odette/Odile, you took on new roles, how did you tackle them?

L.B.: We both worked on those roles with Clotilde Vayer (Ballet Mistress at the Paris Opera Ballet). I was an understudy before being officially cast in the role, but I was determined to work on it as if I were going to dance it. I was apprehensive of my first rehearsals. Unlike the role of Juliet, (Léonore Baulac danced Juliet in Romeo and Juliet for the first time in 2016) which was fairly instinctive, the role of Odette/Odile did not come so easily. There was a lot of technical work and the coaching I had helped me a lot to progress. Today, I’m proud of the work I accomplished, as I didn’t start out with it all cut and dried. I had been studying the role of Juliet since I was very young and I knew the character perfectly, whereas it took me much longer to get into the character of the Swan. We’ve seen so many dancers interpret it that it takes a lot of assurance to perform it on stage. The passing on and learning of this role were crucial moments. We create bonds with our partners and coaches and accomplish work of fundamental importance on a personal level.

Léonore Baulac (Odile) et Germain Louvet  (le prince Siegfried) dans « Le Lac des cygnes », Opéra Bastille, 2016
Léonore Baulac (Odile) et Germain Louvet (le prince Siegfried) dans « Le Lac des cygnes », Opéra Bastille, 2016 © Svetlana Loboff / OnP
G.L.: Prince Siegfried is a role that I apprehended but which I had always dreamed of performing: it’s something of a myth in the classical ballet repertoire, very difficult technically, a magnificent challenge also. It was fairly natural for me; I felt comfortable with the character from the beginning of rehearsals. We had both had the opportunity to work on certain variations in the past, for exams for example.

Being nominated by Aurélie Dupont, the new Director of Dance must mean a lot to you?

G.L. and L.B.: A common destiny links us to Aurélie Dupont, as she was already our coach for rehearsals of The Nutcracker, the first ballet in which we both performed in solo roles. We were Coryphées at the time. Aurélie Dupont has followed us since our debuts in the Corps de Ballet. She knows our work, our relationship with the stage. There is something reassuring in this nomination because she has been helping us prepare roles and examinations for a long time (Aurélie Dupont trained Léonore Baulac for the Coryphée exam, in a variation of the Black Swan…). So it is a beautiful way of handing on the torch.    

Are there roles that you dream of doing, choreographers that you would like to work with?

G.L: Suddenly a range of possibilities opens up before us. The roles of Lenski or Onegin in Onegin would be lovely. I would also hope for choreographic encounters rich in ideas for us. Sasha Waltz’s Romeo and Juliet is also a contemporary ballet that I really appreciate and, of course, all the Pina Bausch repertoire.

L.B.: I also really like Onegin – Tatiana and Olga are really interesting roles – because I like narrative and dramatic ballets in which the story is important. In Onegin, there is a progression, a magnificent quest. But last September, Crystal Pite’s new work, The Season’s Canon, was also a magnificent revelation. It’s a stunning piece. I love the energy of this choreographer.

Interviewed by Aliénor de Foucaud

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