Ballet Stars

Fabrice Calmels on His Decision to Leave the Joffrey Ballet After Nearly 19 Years

Fabrice Calmels as Othello in Lar Lubovitch's Othello. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Larisa Elizondo.

After nearly 19 years, Joffrey Ballet dancer Fabrice Calmels announced Monday that he'll take his final bow with the company after a performance of Nutcracker on December 29. Born in France, Calmels trained at the Paris Opéra Ballet School before moving to the United States to study at the Rock School, Boston Ballet School and School of American Ballet. In addition to the long list of roles he's danced at the Joffrey, Calmels has worked as a model, and in 2014 won the Guinness World Record as the world's tallest ballet dancer.

We caught up with Calmels to hear about why he's leaving, and what his future after the Joffrey will hold.


What's behind your decision to leave the Joffrey?

I've been with the company now for almost two decades. I was hired by Gerald Arpino, the co-founder of the Joffrey Ballet—I was the last dancer that he really truly hired. He was a fantastic mentor, and taught me so much about integrity and respect. There was such a mentality and work ethic in the company that I grew up with, and things have changed, the company has been through so much. I've done incredible roles, one after the other. But as an artist and a performer I always want to improve and feel like I can get to the next level. Watching new dancers come into the company reminded me of what it was all about, and I think it's my time now. Also the Joffrey is going to be leaving the Auditorium Theater for the Lyric, and my whole career has been at the Auditorium. It's been 18 years, which is the age I was when I came to the United States, so all of these were signs that told me that it was necessary to move on.

But will dancing still be a part of your life?

Absolutely. I think I'm at the top of my game. I'm not retiring, I'm not doing this because of health. And I love teaching and coaching. I've done that since 2003, and I love the kids I train. I've just been doing it when time allows.

You're not only leaving the company, but you're moving from Chicago to Los Angeles. Why California?

First of all, California is warmer, and I need that for a little while. Also California makes sense because a lot of things that I want to do could be movie related. I also feel like it's far away from ballet. There are a few companies out there, but not that many, and I like that challenge. I'm interested to see what California has to offer.

You've been pursuing a modeling career while dancing for the Joffrey. Do you hope to focus more on that in the future?

I've been signed with IMG for the past few years, but it's kind of slowed down because the Joffrey's schedule is so packed. It's really grueling, and we're constantly in production. What I've refused to do though now is really have a set plan. I want to slow down, and not rush into anything.

What part of life with the Joffrey will you miss the most?

What I really love is acting—when I was in France I used to take acting classes. I love being onstage, and performing a full-length story ballet, and doing the due diligence of learning the character. It takes a lot of preparation, which I really love.

What have been some of your favorite roles?

Karenin in Anna Karenina, and Othello. Also Apollo. And working with Sir Anthony Dowell, and Christopher Wheeldon. Chris makes ballet fun, and has been a huge influence in my career. And we have the same hero: Gene Kelly.

Can you tell me a bit about ILYS, the new business that you're working on?

It's still under wraps, but it's about the dance industry. In the American market, dance is so niche, and only a very cultured audience come to the ballet. My biggest passion now is to really change the way that people think about ballet, and make it part of the culture. So I'm not done; actually, I'm just starting.

Instagram

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Ellison Ballet
Rachel Neville, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

If you've got your heart set on dancing for, say, San Francisco Ballet, you should attend a school that specializes in Balanchine, right? Not necessarily: It's actually a misconception that you have to train in a particular style or technique in order to pursue a career in that style. Ellison Ballet in New York City—which specializes in Vaganova technique—is living proof: Graduates of Ellison's year-round program and summer intensives go on to ballet companies that perform in a wide range of styles, and use what they've learned from Vaganova to land jobs.

Here are five reasons why studying Vaganova technique can actually make you a sought-after dancer for any number of ballet companies:

Keep reading...
Ballet Stars
Karina González in Ben Stevenson's Coppélia. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Are you more of a Giselle or a Juliet?

I've always said that my favorite role is Juliet, because of her vulnerability and maturity throughout the ballet. But now that I've performed Giselle, I find her so incredibly enjoyable, from being a village girl who falls in love for the first time to the most tender, almost weightless dancing in Act II.

Are you more at home in the studio or onstage?

I love the time in the studio. The process of starting from zero to getting better each day is so rewarding. My favorite phrase in rehearsals is "Let's do it again, so I can sleep in peace tonight." I need to feel so comfortable in the studio so that when I am onstage there are no bad surprises.

Keep reading...
News
Getty Images

Dancers certainly don't need anyone to tell them how physical their profession is. But now, we have the data to prove it.

Researchers at InsuranceProviders.com analyzed data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a national organization developed through support from the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration, to determine the 20 most physically demanding jobs in the country. They analyzed the level of strength, stamina, flexibility and coordination required for a host of jobs, and each category was assigned

Keep reading...