Stéphane Bullion © James Bort
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STÉPHANE BULLION: BE PROUD OF ME

That’s what the star of the Paris Opera Ballet wishes when he is on stage – to be in shape to deserve the roles he is given. Yet he likes taking responsibilities on his shoulders and, while being considered a dream partner, he expects the ballerina dancing with him to be helpful – «her work is essential», after all. Alessandro Bizzotto meets the French Principal dancer for a straightforward chat about good and bad memories, invitations abroad, ballet shoes and impossible wishes, such as having more time.
I am quite punctual. While lead through the hallways of the Opera Garnier, I found them unnaturally quiet. Maybe it is only because it is early January, the run of performances of “The Lady of the Camellias” is about to end – Stéphane Bullion will dance the last one as Armand tomorrow. I turn left and reach the end of a long passage. As he opens the door of his dressing room, he looks at me almost sheepishly, but with no embarrassment. «Stéphane» he only says as we shake hands. «Bonjour. Please come in».

Stéphane Bullion in ‚Le Jeune Homme et la Mort‘ © Ann Ray

He is an authentic star of ballet. I even think he is one of the male dancers that today can most honestly put something of himself in the characters he dances. Yet Stéphane Bullion does not speak much at the outset – I stand till he invites me to sit on the dark sofa and he takes a seat on the low, thick radiator under the window. I can easily guess it won’t be a difficult conversation, though. The stage misleads – I expected an imposing Rothbart, a sharp-gazed Onegin, an unconcerned Albrecht. It is only now that I realize I was wrong, while Bullion looks at me with an almost curious gaze and patiently waits for me to ask my first question or say anything.

Stéphane Bullion as Lescaut in ‚Manon‘ © Julien Benhamou

After joining the Paris Opéra Ballet at 17, he was promoted to the title of étoile, the highest grade of the company, in June 2010 after his performance as Solor in “La Bayadère”. Often chosen by choreographers when their ballets enter the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire, he is Chevalier of Arts and Letters and has even been the star of a book and a film, “24 hours in a man’s life”, in which he featured moving on a beach twenty-four hours in a row.

Stéphane Bullion in ‚The Lady of the Camellias‘ © Sébastien Mathé-ONP

What is your first memory when you joined the Paris Opera Ballet after finishing the school?

It is about arriving in a place that I didn’t properly know. While attending the ballet school, I had come to the Palais Garnier just a few times for the défilé. When I joined the company, so, the theatre was not familiar at all to me. And at that time the company was not as well organized as today to welcome its new members – I didn’t know where the dressing rooms were, just as an example… though I was astonished by finding myself here, dancing every day, taking class with Principals and First soloists who had such a huge experience. Everything was to be discovered.

Stéphane Bullion in ‚Onegin‘ © Julien Benhamou

Had you had any ballet training before coming to Paris? I joined the Paris Opera Ballet School at 14 and I attended only the latest three years here. I had attended a private ballet school in Lyon before… I still remember very well going to school in the morning and then …

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