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C-M. Osta appointed étoile

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On Sunday December 29th following the "Paquita" matinée, Claire-Marie Osta, the spouse of Nicolas LeRiche, was appointed étoile by Hugues Gall, on the recommendation of the AD Brigitte Lefevre.

What should one make of this promotion to the firmament of the world's dancers ?

Although the appointment of Laetitia Pujol six months ago, on intervention by Hugues Gall personally, was deemed controversial by many, one could see M. Gall's point, clearly. The girl has something, there is a strong emotion underlying the strong technique, something of the do-or-die about her, that forces one respect.

As for Mlle. Osta, she is the tiniest dancer in the Theatre, smaller even than Mlle. Pujol, and very slight, almost to emaciation. Just over five foot tall, her proportions are nonetheless ideal, and her height, or rather lack of it, is not, for that reason, an issue. She has improved technically over the last three years - better balances, more centred pirouettes, more back strength - although one would not perhaps care to go further than that.

By personality, she is a soubrette, of the lightest possible variety, charming, friendly, and - I must say - quite unadventurous.

Now, there is room for soubrettes among the leading artists of this world - even the great Margot Lander was probably more of a soubrette than anything else - and Ninette de Valois, despite her deep and dangerous appearance, excelled in such roles. But those two ladies knocked yer socks off as soubrettes.

Whether Claire-Marie Osta has anything like the presence and authority of the aforesaid - the jury is still out.

A great deal of political to-ing and fro-ing would appear to lie behind these appointments, as in France ( or in Denmark, for that matter) an étoile, even a premier danseur, enjoys the prestige of a high-ranking civil servant. He is in a way, a full-time member of the diplomatic corps.

Mavericks are thus greatly discouraged (OFF WITH THEIR HEAD !), as the case of the unfortunate E. Thibault, who is a far better dancer, would tend to shew. Although M. LeRiche has told the press in the past, that his wife has been "kept down the ranks" owing to her small stature, artistically, one would be hard put to define Mlle. Osta as a maverick !

There may also be administrative reasons: I do not think Elisabeth Maurin can continue beyond this season, as her technique, to one's sorrow, has been slipping badly. The lovely Aurélie Dupont, who is but thirty, and every inch an étoile - I'm not very partial to her dancing, but that's a purely subjective matter - has been seriously injured and out now for over six months. Whether she will dance again, is not known. One very much hopes so, because she is a future leader.

Why the AD has chosen to pass over Marie-Agnès Gillot for promotion time and again, I cannot say. The magnificent redhead is an athlete, bursting with raw energy. A style I am not at all partial to, but again, that's purely subjective. Whether Management feels that she is unclassical (unlikely, coming from Brigitte Lefevre !)....?

At the end of the day, I am sorry to say that this appointment appears to reflect a serious dearth of talent amongst the ladies in the troupe, although the men are probably the most skilful on the planet. Neither the AD, nor M. Gall, had an embarrassment of riches to choose from. How ever have we got to this sorry state ?

We have got there, as I never tire of saying, by allowing the School to choose girls on the basis of what Mlle. Bessy believes to be an ideal physique, certainly one she was never possessed of herself. Etiolated. And then by allowing the stuffing to be kicked out of them. So bland, so boring, so tensed-up about what the teacher thinks - ten years after graduating from the school.

Where is the pizzazz ? Where is the razzamataz ? Where is the showbiz ? Where are the little devils like Violette Verdy, or Solvig Oestergaard ? The strange, the mysterious, the Lynn Seymours of this world ? There must have been some poets amongst the hundreds of girls who have gone through the School over the last two decades - but they were likely kicked out.

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Well, it was a big surprise for me to learn about Clairemarie Osta's promotion, not because I thought she didn't deserve it (I'm very happy that she got promoted), but because I thought she was now considered as too old to me promoted (she's 32). I'm happy to be proven wrong, and hope that her last 8 years with the company will be great. She's already danced quite a lot of big roles (Gamzatti, Kitri, Paquita last year- saving the premiere after Aurélie Dupong and Agnès Letestu were injured), created Petit's "Clavigo" two seasons ago, and

I especially like her in the Balanchine and Robbins repertory (for example I have fond memories of her performance in the first pas de deux of "In the Night" two or three seasons ago).

I hope that Maris-Agnès Gillot will finally be promoted someday too (from what I've heard, the reason why she hasn't been yet might be her very tall height, which makes it difficult to find suitable partners for her- well, perhaps the direction is happy to have her as a première danseuse and make her dance three different roles in the same ballet, as in "Don Quixote" last season :)) but nonetheless think that Osta's promotion was deserved, and should have happened earlier. In my opinion, she might not be a "great" principal like Platel, Loudières or Guérin, but she's a very valuable dancer, elegant and delicate.

By the way, Katharine, while I agree with some of the criticism about the school's policy, Osta herself doesn't come from the POB school: she was trained at the Conservatoire, and got into the school only for one year (and I remember some interviews of her in which she said that it had not been easy for her to get accepted by the other students, who had known each other for years).

But I wonder if it is a coincidence that three of the four last promoted principals weren't trained originally at the POB school: Osta from the Conservatoire, Pujol from the Besso Ballet Académie in Toulouse (by the way, in several interviews, she was very, very negative about that school, talking about "brainwashing" and accusing her former teachers to make money at their students' health's expense) and José Martinez from the Hightower school in Cannes. It makes one regret that the POB school doesn't accept any longer Lausanne medalists (as Osta and Martinez) and Conservatoire students. Some might still get into the company first as "surnuméraires", and then being fully hired by the company, but it's really difficult.

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Hello everyone,

I'm new here.

Well, what I can say is that I was very happy when I learned that Claire-Marie finally got the title she deserves fully to my mind. As Estelle said , it was a real surprise, but a very nice one !

Yeah, it's right she will never be a Platel, a Guerin, or a Loudières but she's a very delicate and romantic ballerina. Elisabeth Maurin's retirement, I think, is scheduled for the end of this season and we are in need of that sort of ballerina.

Thus Claire-Marie is a very intelligent women and she has a lot of sensibility. I can't wait to see her in some new roles, and I hope she will dance Giselle with her husband Nicolas Leriche. That should be a very interesting moment !

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Welcome, cyngeblanc! Thank you for your post. I hope you'll write about performances you're seeing -- there are many people here who are interested in the Paris Opera Ballet but do not have a chance to see it often.

I hadn't thouoght of Osta being a replacement for Maurin -- but she does seem to be in the same "line" -- small, delicate -- if she doesn't yet have the star power (it seems from these posts; I've only seen her in photographs and a few videos and can't comment on her stage presence.)

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I know our Alexandra's particularly keen on the concept of "emploi".

Well, seen from that standpoint, there are ladies who are small, adorable, and feather-light, from an interpretive standpoint (Mlle. Osta),

and ladies who are small, adorable, and heavy-weight, from an interpretive standpoint (Mlle. Maurin).

The latter, who has been carrying aloft, more or less alone, the banner of DANCE AS THEATRE, amongst the ladies in this particular Opera House,

has excelled in the lyric-dramatic register (Giselle, Sylphide, Juliet, Nikiya, Odette-Odile) the dramatic (Gamzatti), and the severely classical (Aurora).

The one register on which Mlle. Osta and Mlle. Maurin would tend to meet, is that of "Coppelia".

Definitely not interchangeable personalities. In this respect, I would venture to suggest that the new étoile Laetitia Pujol - also very small in physical stature - will tend, as she gains more experience and stagecraft, rather to resemble Mlle. Maurin in intensity.

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Interesting, Katharine. My memories of Mlle. Maurin are from the company's last appearance in DC, which is quite some time ago. At that age, she was very light and neither her dancing nor her acting had much impact -- she did Gamzatti at a matinee -- and we were all puzzled at what the company saw in her. :) Yet it seemed as though she was the dancer who most interested the balletmasters (from conversations after class). From what I've seen on film and in photos -- we had some lovely ones in a recent issue of DanceView to go with an interview that Marc did with Maurin -- she did indeed gain weight (not in the sense of pounds :) ) and authority. Maturity, or perhaps being an etoile? There are times when naming a dancer "etoile" brings out the "etoile" in her (Ryom in Copenhagen is one example of that, I think.) So I hope that is true in this case.

Regarding Osta, we have a new poster who admires her. Cyngeblanc, what roles have you seen her dance that you especially admire? You wrote that you hoped to see her in "Giselle," but I wondered what you had seen her in that you liked.

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Thank you for welcoming me Estelle and Alexandra :)

Estelle, have you already seen a piece danced by Leriche and Osta called Rodin ? I don't remember the name of the choregrapher but the music was one of my favorite pieces, Mahler's Fifth Symphony. I liked their interpretation a lot.

Well, they might not be a very aestheticcaly pleasing match but I think that could have some very interesting consequences on their interpretations ! And I really would like to see them in Giselle or in Romeo and Juliette !

And to etablish them as a pair on stage could be very beneficial for the two of theirs : Claire-Marie would show more drama and Nicholas, whose I think right now he's extinguished (and I appreciate him) would be more passionate !:)

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Well Alexandra, I was writing the precedent message when you posted yours ! I think the issue is that Claire-Marie is maybe to reserved on stage, I don't really know how to put that into words and don't wish to speak about her "off stage" personality but what I can say is she's a very well rounded and interesting person, and she is to my mind (or was) to "schoolish" in some of her interpretations, she tried too much to suit the etablished patterns, and was too afraid to shock, if I can say. She also suffered from the fact of being the wife of the one you know!

I read somewhere (I won't tell where) that Marie- Agnes Gillot (and I like her a lot, and wish she will get what she deserves, to be an "Etoile") didn't get to be promoted because "she isn't the spouse of one very influencial etoile"

Now she's an Etoile I hope she'll fell free, and let people know what she's. And I think Giselle will allow her to do that !

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cyngeblanc, I think there's always gossip when someone is married to someone in the company -- it's an assumption people will make, especially if they don't like, or are jealous of, the person involved. (And thank you very much for not mentioning names -- we don't do gossip here :) We want to concentrate on what's going on on stage or, occaisionally, in the studio.)

I do think there's a problem, with lack of stage presence -- not just in Paris, but other companies as well. Part of it, I think, is a lack of models -- how does one dance like a ballerina if there are no ballerinas to watch? (Although this is not as much of a problem yet in Paris as it is elsewhere.) And partly what I think you're getting at in your post -- they're too "schoolish," too concentrating on technique, on not making a mistake.

I was told in an interview I did recently with an American dancer that one company was casting the dancers they could count on -- meaning those who would never miss a pirouette, or have trouble with partnering. Other directors might sent out a promising dancer before they were quite ready, on the theory that they need stage experience.

I think trying to guess who gets promoted and who wins competitions can be fun, perhaps, but we'll never know :)

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Because of personnal reasons, I know very well the inside of the POB and I'm very aware of gossip and of every problem linked to that :) .

In Paris, trying to guess who gets promoted isn't fun at all, :) , and you're going to think I'm mad but for certains cases it shouln't be so inappropriate to speak of a war:mad:

I mean Estelle is understanding what I have in mind, and maybe the others, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea to discuss these issues:confused:

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Cygneblanc, the rule on gossip has some room for interpretation, as do all good rules, I think. What is definitely NOT appropriate is to say "so and so only got that role because she's sleeping with the choreographer." Or "so and so got fired because she's on drugs." That's gossip. There's a good chance that neither statement is true. If everyone is speculating that Osta got promoted because she's married to another etoile, their marriage is public record, I think that's allowable.

But one caution -- it's very difficult to know what's going on backstage. If you speak to one or two dancers, you know their viewpoint, but often it's just that -- their point of view. And as someone who spent ten years writing a book and trying to sort through backstage gossip (not at POB, but at the Royal Danish Ballet) I can tell you that some of it is true, and some of it is false -- deliberately so -- and some of it is because the dancer only knows what happened in one studio, and not the others, or overhears something and misinterpets it. So we do have a rule about reporting what someone says backstage that's off the record.

Does that makes sense? If not, and you have other questions, please don't hesitate to email me. We want to encourage free and open discussion, but we have to remember that these aren't private conversations, and what it's OK to say over dinner to a friend is not OK to say in what is, for all practical purposes, print. So we use journalism rules here.


Estelle, when you have a chance, if you'd like to clarify?

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I'm very sorry Alexandra and please accept my apologies. I was speaking of promotions in general and the way of people are discussing them in general. On some french parts of the Web that I think Estelle know (but you may know them if you're able to understand french) the promotions are discussed in an excessive way (or with too much passion :rolleyes:confused: ) to my mind. I have noticed that nowhere on the English speaking parts people are discussing in a such drastic way. I was reffering to that when I said that Estelle would understand. Once again, please accept my apologies

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Oh, no apology is necessary! I was just responding to the part of your post that said "I'm not sure if it's a good idea to discuss these issues." We agree. Each forum and web site has its own personality, and it's not my intention to criticize anyone, but our way is to avoid gossip and what you so politelly call "excessive discussion" :) I thought it wouldn't hurt to set out our rules.

So I think we are in agreement -- and I'm very glad of that :)

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cygneblanc, I know what you mean about the discussions about promotions- well, it seems that here eveybody agrees that it's better not to start such heated discussions about it!

About Osta: Katharine, I agree that Osta's repertory probably isn't as large as Maurin's now. On the other hand, she also is very good in the Balanchine and Robbins repertory (but I know you don't care for it...) And, as cygneblanc wrote, perhaps being at last an etoile will give her more self-confidence. In a recent interview, Aurélie Dupont said that being a premiere danseuse was not easy, because she generally had at most only one performance of the "big roles" (well, now, due to the lack of etoiles, the premieres danseuses get more opportunities), she knew that the direction would be watching her, and so any mistake could have been fatal to her career. That might lead some to dance in a rather "restrained" way...

Still about Osta: an article by Paul Ben-Itzak mentioning her performance in "Paquita" and her promotion:



"In the "Paquita" performance I saw, Osta made this statement, in her airiness as well as her lack of airs. This doesn't always serve her well; her entrance as Paquita into the gypsy lair was unspectacular. One didn't get that "the ballerina has just entered the room" buzz. But the naturalism with which she approached the role made the story believable, from her first understated glances at Bart's Lucien to her clean and earnest pantomime in the following scene, where she communicates to Lucien that her gypsy cohort Inigo (Yann Saiz) intends to give him drugged wine and then murder him. Her earnestness also had the effect of elevating her partner, with Bart, often wooden in his acting, getting swept up in the intrigue.

Osta's own elevation made the dancing and the ballet. It was a throwback to the floating peris we only read about, and thus the money moment of the evening, a welcome reminder of why and how ballet is magical."

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Sorry I have to jump in to say a couple of things! From a couple of performances that I saw of Mlle Osta this past season, I think she's proven to be a very capable dancer, but I really can't say that she has the "etoile" quality. She's certainly secure technically, but as Bart said in one of his interviews, I believe it was with the BalletAlert magazine, there has to be that extra "a little more"...and to me, Mlle. Osta didn't have that. But I want to remain optimistic. I think dancers can change, and I hope that during the course of the next 8yrs, Mlle Osta will be able to attain that "etoile" quality.

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I'm a bit late, but I like Clairemarie Osta quite a bit myself and I just wanted to add, especially for those who think she still needs progress, she said that she was very happy to be Etoile, but she now had to work. So, she might be able to satisfy more people in a bit of time. I'm not trying to convince you that she is good, or saying you are wrong, I'm only making a point which might give you hope.

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I didn't know she was so small... I saw a documentary while I was in France over the Christmas period, and someone in this (was it Brigitte Lefevre? Can't remember :D ) said that she was really feminine and used this in her dancing, and I think that's the quality I like most in Claire-Marie: she is a woman and it shows! I don't mean to say that it doesn't show in others, but with her, it's like she oozes sensuality and sexyness (and I'm a woman myself! wonder what my boyfriend would say when he'd see her dance?) :rolleyes:

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It was Ghislaine Thesmar who said in the documentary "from school to etoile" she was a woman, she compared all the merits of the differents premiere danseuse : She said that Pujol was a technical dancer but not again an artist, Abbagnato was an artist but with some technical default, the more complete for her was Marie-Agnès Gillot who was a true and complete artist.

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