I can't decide what's more impressive in this 1996 clip of Roland Petit's Notre Dame de Paris. Is it the Frenchman's choreography, which evokes the complex relationship between the gypsy-turned-damsel and her unlikely hero? Or is it the two former Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles' interpretations of the characters? Nicolas Le Riche plays a convincing hunchback Quasimodo, maintaining the role's difficult physical demands while flawlessly executing the partnering. But, honestly, it's hard for me to take my eyes off of Isabelle Guérin as Esmeralda. In the pas de deux's playful moments, she's the strong, sensual gypsy, evoked by her pristine yet free dancing. In the slow, controlled partnering moments, however, she exhibits Esmeralda's vulnerability at the hands of both her rescuer and captor.
Both Guérin and Le Riche joined POB after training in the company's school. They enjoyed a steady rise to étoile before retiring, she in 2001 and he in 2014. While Le Riche has dabbled in dance-making himself, Guérin has focused on private coaching. She serves on the advisory board of En Avant, a foundation dedicated to nurturing the next generation of dancers—which I'd say is in good hands. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!