Léonore Baulac’s 2015 The principal dancer of the Opéra national de Paris
2015 ended beautifully … promotion to the post of principal dancer, what a meteoric rise! What is your main feeling about it?
Mainly disbelief! Everything changed for me very quickly and at the moment I am having difficulty realising that I am a principal dancer. With this title comes enormous responsibility with regard to the Opéra and the public, which means a certain amount of pressure. I will try to turn this pressure into a stimulus to surpass myself rather than into stress, but that’s not going to be easy!
Was this promotion a surprise?
Yes, because the competition was tough; there is no shortage of talented dancers in the class of Sujets! I knew that I was one of the favourites but that did not mean that I would get it as anything can happen on D-day!
How do you feel about no longer having to take part in the competition?
It’s a huge relief to no longer have to take part in this competition which I found really tough to deal with. It takes a great deal of physical and mental energy, and now I’m thrilled to be able to invest this energy instead in the roles I will be tackling.
Look back over the past emotion-filled year! Tell us a bit about it…
3ème étage, François Alu à Bourges: Working with 3ème étage interested me greatly as it is a breeding ground of artists who are extremely rigorous and yet insanely creative and they inspire me in all sorts of ways. Samuel Murez has also personally coached me a lot, and he has and still does play a key role in the development of my dancing. The Spectacle de Bourges was the first undertaken by François and this meant a really immense workload for him. In it, we danced three pieces together: an excerpt from “Don Quixote”, an excerpt from “The Temple Dancer” and the pas de deux which François choreographed for us, “La Sylphide”. I particularly enjoyed dancing this final, very personal piece with him. The room was packed and gave the spectacle a standing ovation, and François is thus once again working very hard for a second edition, with a different programme, which will take place on 28 February 2016.
Paquita: This was my first main role in a 3-act ballet and I have to say that it was a real challenge, especially as it is one of the hardest roles and, as I was not initially planned to dance it, I didn’t have very much time to prepare. This was a very valuable experience, instructive and wonderful on a personal level as Pierre Lacotte was extremely kind to me and very generous in his work. He is very passionate in what he does and very open too.
Mariinsky Ballet Festival: In March I attended the closing gala of the Mariinsky Ballet Festival. I was very honoured to dance on this legendary stage alongside artists who I admire enormously such as Uliana Lopatkina.
The Cannes Festival: In May, just before Paquita (two days before, actually), at the opening of the 68th Cannes Festival I danced a creation of Benjamin Millepied on the theme of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”. It was intimidating on the one hand as I was dancing for a public which was unusual to say the least, and on the other because it was broadcast live on Canal+ with a TV audience of around 1 million. I would never have imagined that I would dance at an event such as this! It was also an opportunity for me to meet the dancers of the LA Dance Project who are really lovely and Janie Taylor (principal at the New York City Ballet) who, in addition to being a magnificent dancer, is also a very beautiful person.
La Fille Mal Gardée: After Paquita, I suffered a stress fracture in my foot which prevented me from tackling the role of Lise in “La Fille Mal Gardée”. It was really tough because I really wanted to dance this role, especially as my partner was planned to be Mathias Heymann! This injury lasted for two months, a good part of which fortunately fell in the summer holidays.
Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward: This was very enjoyable, in the studio and on stage, and I discovered a true artistic complicity with my partner Hugo Marchand.
Polyphonia (Wheeldon) and Alea Sands (McGregor): Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor are two major contemporary choreographers with whom I hadn’t yet worked. The two experiences were very different but both very interesting, and I would be delighted to work with them again.
One of your best memories (from 2015)?
It’s difficult to pick one as it was an eventful year! I would say that dancing at the Mariinsky was particularly exciting and moving.
One of your not-so-good memories?
Without hesitation, the fracture!
For a year now you have been the face of Merlet; what do you gain from this?
It teaches me and opens me up to different aspects and crafts which gravitate around a common passion. It is also good to work in a real team with skilled, motivated and attentive people.
As Juliette (replacement) in the ballet Romeo & Juliette, there is a good chance that you will embody this role which it seems to me, you dream of dancing … Are you close to living your dream?
Yes, this is one of my biggest dreams and I hope with all my heart that I will be able to count it among my “best memories of 2016”!
Do you have other wishes for the forthcoming new year?
Yes, lots of wishes! The role of Giselle would be marvellous, the creation of William Forsythe too! We don’t yet know the programme for next season but I would absolutely love to dance Kylian’s work.
What do you do outside of dancing?
I must say that I don’t have much free time outside of dancing. I like the simple pleasures, such as spending time with my family, reading, cooking, going to the theatre…
What can I wish you for 2016?
Not to get injured!
Thank you Léonore ☺