Reverence: The Maverick Star

Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Marie-Agnès Gillot believes in going to extremes.
Published in the April/May 2010 issue.

Gillot in "Signes", choreographed by Carolyn Carlson

Photo by Icare

You are a choreographer as well as a dancer. What drew you to hip hop for Les Rares Différences, the piece you made for the 2007 Festival of Dance in Suresnes?
My subject was Auguste Rodin. I needed bodies like sculptures—ballet dancers are too lean. Hip hop dancers have an absolutely statuesque upper body. I learned a lot from hip hop, too, especially from the movement dissociations.

What are you currently working on?
I’m putting together the first dance flash mob in France, for a charity. We will have professional dancers performing in a train station.

Who inspires you?
All of my colleagues. I pay a lot of attention to them, and I always find something that I would like to replicate. I love taking a little something from everyone.

Of which accomplishment are you the most proud?
I loved my first Don Quixotes and Swan Lakes. It was a consecration—I was already an étoile, even though I didn’t have the title. The audience and the orchestra were stamping. My dressing room was so filled with flowers I couldn’t sit.

What do you do on your days off?
I sleep, and I go to the theater. I also paint—it’s  a good way to let go of everything.

What’s your specialty in the kitchen?
Turkey escalopes with potatoes, mushrooms and cream. I am something of a gourmet, and I eat a lot!

What skill would you most like to have?
To control the weather, so that I can take care of people.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I am keen on embroidery. It allows me to stop thinking, to focus on something else. I just think too much.

What advice do you have for students hoping to become professional dancers?

Watch those around you. That’s how I made it—by listening and watching more than everybody else.

To whom do you attribute your success?
To myself. To my determination.

How would you like to be remembered?
I think people will remember me in any case, because everything about me is so extreme. I’ve already made dance history in France.