Der danseur Étoile: MATHIEU GANIO


To him, ballet is like doing extreme sports: the same adrenaline and desire to experience it again. ALESSANDRO BIZZOTTO meets the Paris Opera Ballet étoile for a (good) conversation about his life, his expectations and becoming an étoile at 20. To find out he likes to talk and he used to feel stress sometimes. Yet today something has changed. 


Mathieu Ganio in 'Agon' © Sébastien Mathé

As we enter an acceptably crowded bistrot, we choose a table in the farthest corner. Less than twenty-four hours before, Mathieu Ganio was surrounded by applauses at the end of a show of Nureyev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, in which the Paris Opera Ballet étoile danced Shakespeare's unfortunate lover. He looks ready to talk now, while we sit down to finish an interview we have started several weeks earlier and we order something. Paris Arrondissement 9, a few steps from the Palais Garnier. A couple of hours before a ballet performance we both will see. It kind of looks like the two of us wish to relax. And to have a real conversation.

Today, Ganio is one of the most beloved étoiles of the French company, a dancer able to convincingly inhabit his characters without getting swallowed up in them and their technique.
He likes to talk. And likes good conversation too. At times, it even seems to me he wants to not speak about Mathieu Ganio for a second. «I could talk for hours, when it comes to ballet» he tells me.

Mathieu Ganio in 'Don Quixote' © Icare

You were appointed étoile at 20, bypassing the rank of premier danseur only three years after joining the company. Did you feel overjoyed or panicked?

Both. It was wonderful to have the chance to perform as an étoile while still being so young: I danced terrific roles in my early twenties and I had several chances to dance them over the years exploring them deeper, understanding them better. But at the same time I didn’t feel prepared to be an étoile at 20, in a way: I had never danced leading roles, I had had only experiences in the corps de ballet, and I jumped from being a part of the corps to the rank of étoile after my debut in my first big role, Basile. Without having ever danced even a pas de trois or a supporting role in any production. It was not easy at all to feel comfortable in that new position. In those years there were less étoiles than today, many first soloists were waiting to be promoted and I was by far the youngest étoile. All the étoiles with whom I started sharing the stage had more experience than me and I had been admiring them for years. Aurélie Dupont, Agnès Letestu, Clairemarie Osta... we were not on the same level, I felt somehow shy and, sometimes, not ready to interact on a partnership level with such big stars of the company.

Mathieu Ganio in 'The Firebird' © Laurent Philippe

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