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Foreigners in the POB?


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#1 Alter Ego

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 10:33 PM

Hello BT's,

what do you generally think about foreigners at the Paris Opera?
I know through the other topic, that "[foreigners] have to make more efforts than the others to stay at the Opera", but do they get a steady contract after all? How long do they stay normally in the Corps before entering?
In the end I know, that quite a few of them who were not trained at the POB School made it high in the companys hierarchy (Jose Martinez (though he spent one year in the school), Eleonora Abbagnato and in the past Michael Denard)
In your opinion do they lack of the specific french style?


Mike

#2 sylphide

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 03:39 AM

How would you define foreigners: non POB School trained dancers or non-French ?

#3 Estelle

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 10:08 AM

what do you generally think about foreigners at the Paris Opera?
I know through the other topic, that "[foreigners] have to make more efforts than the others to stay at the Opera", but do they get a steady contract after all? How long do they stay normally in the Corps before entering?
In the end I know, that quite a few of them who were not trained at the POB School made it high in the companys hierarchy (Jose Martinez (though he spent one year in the school), Eleonora Abbagnato and in the past Michael Denard)
In your opinion do they lack of the specific french style?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Alter Ego, I too, like sylphide, find your question a bit confusing

There are two different topics indeed: foreigners (i.e. people with non-French citizenship) and people who weren't trained at the POB school. And among the examples you mentioned, Michael Denard is French (he was born in Germany from a German mother and a French father, and was raised in France). Also, Eleonora Abbagnato was trained at the POB school for 3 or 4 years.

Also I don't understand your question "How long do they stay normally in the Corps before entering?" as it doesn't really make much sense: the Corps de ballet is part of the company (actually, officially, the corps de ballet is all the company except the premiers danseurs and étoiles) and so when some dancers are in the corps de ballet they are part of the company (and many dancers do spend all their careers in the corps de ballet, whatever their citizenship...)

About foreign dancers: I'm not sure, but I think that for many years, there were some administrative things preventing the company from hiring foreign dancers- however, I'm not sure, as there were some examples of foreign étoiles (e.g. Peter Van Dijk- German, Marjorie Tallchief- American...) so perhaps the rules were different for the étoiles... I hope that someone with more experience than me about the POB history can reply more precisely about that.

Anyway, now, as far as I know, citizens from all the European Union countries must be treated with the same status as French citizens on the job market (except for a few special jobs like in the army, secret services, etc) so it's probably true for POB dancers too. I don't know how it works for people from other countries: for example, I know that Kim Young Geol and Miho Fujii, who now are part of the POB, are respectively from Korea and Japan, and but I don't know if they had to get the French citizenship to get into the company...

As far as I know, the list of dancers of foreign origin (the dancers' citizenships isn't easy to know) includes at least, besides Kim Young Geol and Miho Fujii, Eleonora Abbagnato (Italian, première danseuse) and José Martinez (Spanish, premier danseur), also Simone Valastro (Italian, sujet), Francesco Vantaggio (Italian) and
Sofia Parcen (Hungary, quadrille). Ludmilla Pagliero, who was hired last year, might be from Italy, but I'm not sure.

About the dancers who weren't trained at the POB school: for many years, it was extremely difficult for the people who weren't trained at the POB school to get into the company, as there almost never were some auditions... One of the only ways to get into the company was to get a gold medal at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, which gave one an opportunity to get into the POB school for one year and then to take the competition with the other "normal" POB students. As far as I know, it was the case for several famous POB dancers, like Elisabeth Platel, Jean-Yves Lormeau, Isabelle Guérin, and more recently Clairemarie Osta and Isabelle Ciaravola. But in fact, their training probably wasn't very different from that of POB dancers, as many of the Conservatoire teachers were former POB dancers (for example Elisabeth Platel's main teacher was Christiane Vaussard, former POB dancer who also taught at the POB school for many years) and so the training style probably was quite similar. Now that way to get into the company doesn't exist any longer, as the Conservatoire system has changed and they don't give gold medals any longer
(also the year at the POB school enabled them to get some more "polishing").

Another way to get into the company was to get a prize at the Lausanne competition, which offered a one-year scholarship at the POB school (I think it doesn't exist any longer). It was how José Martinez (originally trained in Cannes at Rosella Hightower's
school) and Laetitia Pujol (originally trained in Toulouse) got into the POB school for one year, and then into the company.

And the last way to get into the company was to get a temporary contract at an audition open to "exterior" dancers. Those used to be very rare (and for example it was at such an audition that Michael Denard and Jean Guizerix were hired) but now there seems to be some about every year, generally in June or July, just after the special audition for POB students. It seems to be very competitive, especially as some POB students who weren't hired at the "special" audition also compete, and only a few positions are available. Such dancers sometimes get permanent contracts with the company, but I don't know how it works (the "surnuméraires" are listed in the cast list of the performances they participate in, but they are not listed among the company members...), perhaps someone more familiar than me with the company could explain it. I guess such auditions probably are easier for the people who already know well the company... The former POB school director criticized much those auditions, as she said the company should try to hire as many POB school trained students as possible, but I guess that it wasn't really a question of rejecting other students but rather a defence of her own students, as they generally are very focused on getting in the company (and there are fewer and fewer other ballet companies in France for them to join) so she considered it was her duty to fight to get them some jobs...


Personnally, I don't care at all about the citizenship of the dancers that I see on stage... On the other hand, I think that having too many dancers trained in a very different style from the POB school could be a problem, as it could threaten the unity of the corps de ballet, but having a few of them wouldn't be such a problem (and I'm not an expert enough to be able to distinguish the training of the corps de ballet of swans, Wilis or Shades I see on stage...)

#4 Helene

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 10:44 AM

I can't find my copy of Lynn Seymour's autobiography, and someone please tell me if I'm hallucinating, but I seem to remember that she felt like an outsider at the Royal Ballet School and that she became friends with another outsider, and if I remember correctly, that was Marcia Haydee of Brazil. At the time, non-Commonwealth dancers at the school couldn't be hired into the Royal Ballet from the school, because of the Royal Ballet's charter.

With the creation of the European Union, those employment impediments became illegal to impose on the original EU citizens, and over time, to citizens of the ten countries who joined the EU in 2004. (Some countries, like Sweden, extended employment voluntarily to the citizens of the new Baltic members, years before they had to.) It's possible that the major companies changed their policies and charters before EU membership imposed this, but it would be against EU law for the Paris Opera Ballet to refuse a corps contract to an EU member citizen purely on the basis of citizenship.

#5 cygneblanc

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 12:22 PM

Ludmilla Pagliero is from Argentina, and she 's a full time member of the compagny but I guess she can't be a civil servant due to the fact her country doesn't belong to the European Union. She may have an unlimited contract..

Estelle, the POB could hire some foreign etoiles, because the rules for the etoiles are different in the sense that the etoiles aren't considered as civil servants while being in the etoile position. Just a matter of law..

And for the surnuméraires: some of them have a one year contract and some others have some shorter contracts.. it's just a financial matter..

Personnaly, I think it would be great for the french audience to have more foreign guests, especially some etoiles. Maybe a foreign director of dance would be a good idea.. Nureev was a foreigner, and we all know what the POB owns from him. His legacy is priceless...

#6 canbelto

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 01:32 PM

In Nureyev's biography by Diane Solway, I remember reading that he tried to get Kenneth Greve to dance frequently at the POB, much to the etoiles' chagrin. Elisabeth Platel flat-out refused to dance with Greve, and this enraged Nureyev. Solway says Platel was so upset with the blow-up that she "cried her way through a Swan Lake." I certainly sensed that back then any "foreigners" were not welcome at the POB. Today guest artists are much more common in every ballet company, so it's hard to imagine the hostility Greve might have created.

#7 Estelle

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Posted 01 March 2006 - 03:28 AM

cygneblanc, thanks for the explanation. Do you know what the exact status of the POB
dancers is now ? Are they full civil servants, or do they have some other sort of public status (as the status of the Paris Opera itself has changed over the years: from Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris to Opéra de Paris in 1990 to Opéra National de Paris in 1994, from administration to établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial...)

In Nureyev's biography by Diane Solway, I remember reading that he tried to get Kenneth Greve to dance frequently at the POB, much to the etoiles' chagrin.



If I remember correctly what was written in Mario Bois's book about Nureyev (Bois
is the widower of the former étoile and ballet master Claire Motte, and both were quite
close to Nureyev- unfortunately, the tone of his book often was quite gossipy...),
Nureyev didn't just want Greve to "dance frequently", but wanted him to be hired
directly as an étoile (permanent job). That's very different from guest artists...

Elisabeth Platel flat-out refused to dance with Greve, and this enraged Nureyev. Solway says Platel was so upset with the blow-up that she "cried her way through a Swan Lake."


From Bois' book, if I remember correctly, actually Nureyev had been extremely unpolite with Platel, throwing something (a glass of wine, I think) on her tutu...

I certainly sensed that back then any "foreigners" were not welcome at the POB. Today guest artists are much more common in every ballet company, so it's hard to imagine the hostility Greve might have created.


I suspect that the hostility would have been much lesser if it had simply been an offer as a guest artist... But hiring a new étoile woud have meant that one position wouldn't have been available any longer for the "home" dancers, and also it seems to me that Kenneth Greve was quite young then, and so perhaps not as well known as now ? (Actually it seems to be such a complicated affair that there probably are many different versions, and it happened when I was a teen and was not interested yet in ballet...)
Actually Ghislaine Thesmar had been hired directly as a principal in 1972, and it was the last case of dancer directly hired as a principal (I don't know how well it was perceived by the company dancers then, but she probably was "closer" to the company than Greve, not only because she was French, but because she had been trained at the Paris Conservatoire, and her husband, choreographer Pierre Lacotte, was a former POB premier danseur, and before being hired she had performed with the company in a video of Lacotte's reconstruction of "La Sylphide"...)

There was indeed a sort of scandal about guest performers around 1980 (I think it had already been mentioned in some old discussions here), if I remember correctly the direction of the company (the director of dance was then Violette Verdy) wanted to hire Nureyev and Schaufuss for guest dancers for an US tour, but the dancers were upset as for them it meant that the direction considered its own dancers as "not good enough", and there was a big strike, which lead to Verdy's resignation shortly after. Well, of course it's hard to know if there were in fact some other reasons of inner politics in all that...


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