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Aurelie Dupont explained she did not share Polunin's values. Photo via Instagram

Sergei Polunin, whose recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts have sparked international outrage, will not be appearing with the Paris Opéra Ballet as previously announced.

POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont sent an internal email to company staff and dancers on Sunday, explaining that she did not share Polunin's values and that the Russian-based dancer would not be guesting with the company during the upcoming run of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake in February.

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The Paris Opéra Ballet has remained mostly silent in response to the dancers' calls for reform. Photo courtesy Zipporah Films

You'd think the Paris Opéra Ballet would be in damage-control mode after a leaked dancers' survey, in April, brought up worrying reports of harassment and mismanagement. But instead of addressing these issues internally, the French company is suing one of its own dancers in order to strip him of his union representative status and subsequently be free to fire him.

Dalloz Actualité, a French online magazine specializing in legal matters, elaborated on the lawsuit in an article published last week. The corps de ballet dancer taken to court, whom we'll call "S." to protect his identity, wasn't actually a member of the Commission for Artistic Expression, the elected group of dancers who put together the survey. He is described as a "geek" who provided technical support to ensure the validity of the results.

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Viral Videos

When La Sylphide premiered at the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1832, it was an instant hit, establishing the romantic aesthetic and ushering in a golden age of French ballet. La Sylphide's legacy is part of the fabric of the Paris Opéra Ballet—as is Aurélie Dupont, the company's current artistic director and former étoile of 17 years. As the Sylph in Pierre Lacotte's version of the ballet, based on Filippo Taglioni's 1830s original, Dupont breathes fresh life into the traditional romantic style.



In this variation, Dupont dances with inward focus, creating an intimate scene of the Sylph alone in the forest. The long tutu highlights her precise footwork; each point of her foot is a supple articulation, harkening to the romantic era when pointe shoes were little more than ballet slippers with a bit of darning. She invokes an ethereal character without looking fragile. Instead, she floats through each movement with gentle, sustained energy. Even during her bow, Dupont embodies the sophistication and purity that make this art form timeless. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Viral Videos

From Polina to Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer, there are plenty of ballet-themed films hitting movie theaters this month. But if you're looking for something to share with the ballet-loving youngster in your life (or just want to channel your inner dance-happy tween), Leap! might be for you. Released in France in 2016 under the title Ballerina, this animated film tells the story of Félicie (Elle Fanning), an 11-year-old French orphan who arrives in Paris with her best friend, fellow orphan and aspiring inventor Victor, during the height of the Belle Époque. Félicie dreams of becoming a ballerina at the Paris Opéra Ballet. Penniless and with nothing to lose, Félicie finds guidance in POB theater caretaker Odette (played by pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen) and "borrows" the identity of a spoiled brat in order to enter the Opera Ballet School.

While training at the school, Félicie comes up against mean girl Camille, voiced by "Dance Moms" star Maddie Ziegler. In a classic Center Stage-style plot, Camille is pushed by her mother to dance without truly loving it, whereas Félicie dances from a true sense of passion. In order to make the film's dancing look realistic, directors Eric Summer and Éric Warin used keyframe animation of POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont and étoile Jérémie Bélingard's dancing. It's always nice to see real dancers consulted when dance is represented in the realm of pop-culture, and from what we've seen the animated characters' technique looks spot-on (er, with some flying feats thrown in.)

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Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles have to be more than exquisite dancers: They must have all the poise, authority and elegance it takes to command the Palais Garnier stage. As Aurora in this excerpt from a 2000 taping of The Sleeping Beauty, Aurélie Dupont radiates with quintessentially French classicism. Even before she starts dancing, she enthralls with the regal tilt of her chin and arch of an eyebrow while greeting the courtiers. She floats through the variation with delicacy and precision, luxuriating in the classical port de bras but also sustaining each piqué and pirouette.

 

A world-renowned artist during her career, Dupont will now be tested on an even grander level when she succeeds Benjamin Millepied as the artistic director of POB in July. Dupont joins the likes of Brigitte Lefèvre, Rosella Hightower and Violette Verdy, who recently passed away, as a ballerina-turned director at the world’s oldest ballet company. If we could, we’d ask each: Which is more challenging, winning hearts as an étoile commanding the spotlight or as the director guiding it? Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Dupont gracing the halls of the Palais Garnier. Photo by Mathieu Cesar via Aurélie Dupont.

What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen onstage?
The Stevie Wonder concert a few months ago in Paris! Also, James Thiérrée’s performance piece, Au Revoir Parapluie.

What do you enjoy most about your career as a dancer?
I enjoy having a career that I’m passionate about, to be able to achieve as an artist, to meet talented people, but most of all, to be onstage to tell a story.
 

What do you enjoy least?
Sometimes I get tired of always questioning…and then there is the pain that is a part of daily life.

What qualities do you admire in other dancers?
Musicality, generosity and honesty. I have a profound respect for the dancers who are always in the back row but remain passionate.

What qualities do you dislike?
I don’t like dancers who do tricks. That doesn’t touch me. I also don’t like dancers who don’t respect those who are older than they.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes for performance?
I choose my shoes two days before dancing. I try them a thousand times to be sure, and I question even this!


What were your first impressions of the POB when you were a student?
When I was little, I thought that the Opéra was a museum, and I really didn’t understand what I could do there!

To whom or to what do you attribute your success?
To my willpower, my perseverance and to my partner, POB étoile Manuel Legris.

What do you think you will be doing 20 years from now?
My son will be 20 years old. I will probably be having a serious talk with his girlfriend!

What talent do you have that few people know about?
I create jewelry in my little atelier.

How would you like to be remembered?
I don’t have the desire to please at any price. I dance because I love it and to put myself on the line. I want to discover myself, extend my range as an artist. In the end—it’s selfish!

What is your advice for students wanting to be professional dancers?
Never forget who you are while doing this magnificent profession. Dancers are artisans; it requires enormous amounts of work. You must be interested in other forms of art to enrich and inspire you. Respect your partners and those who work with you. Stay humble because you know there is always someone who can be better than you!

What inspires you?
Music, the human species and very good red wine!

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