© Svetlana Loboff
People

PABLO LEGASA LOVES WHAT HE DOES

Sylvie Guillem taught him that at a cocktail party some years ago, and he continues to do so. Now, the Paris Opera Ballet First soloist opens up about his expectations, his love for villain roles and his political commitment, and he reveals why he detests promotional competitions. An Interview by Alessandro Bizzotto.

Compared to Milan, this year Paris is cooler and less humid in early July. Being used to the hotter Milanese temperatures, it is almost a pleasure to reach the Opera Garnier on foot without sweating on a sunny afternoon. When I meet Pablo Legasa, he is dressed very informally and in dark colours. His eyes have a vaguely curious look while he gives me a slightly shy smile, as if he didn’t know what to expect from the interview that is about to begin. Legasa joined the Paris Opera Ballet nine years ago. He won his latest promotional competitions in November 2019, when he got promoted to First soloist, one rank away from the title of Principal dancer (Étoile, as the French say, a position that doesn’t depend on success in the annual competition). We start out slow while sitting next to an open window, through which the Parisian traffic sounds reach us.

‘The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude’ © Julien Benhamou

Your name doesn’t sound French.

It is not, you are right. My father is Spanish. He was born in France to Spanish parents, who had migrated to France during the Spanish war to flee from fascism. My mother instead was born in Belgium to Italian parents.

 

So, how many languages do you speak?

I don’t speak Spanish, nor Italian! I wish my parents taught me! At home, they spoke to me and my sister in French. So, I speak only French and English, even though Pablo is a Spanish name, and my surname is from the Basque Country.

As Basilio in ‘Don Quichotte’ © Svetlana Loboff

Wow! I can’t wait to be there next September to cover the San Sebastian International Film Festival…

Oh, I still have relatives in San Sebastian! It is a beautiful city!

The face of the Festival this year is French – Juliette Binoche! She features on the official poster and will receive the honorary award.

I made a movie with Juliette! I served as a dance double for one of the actors in “Polina, Danser Sa Vie” directed by Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj. She is super nice!

Let me ask you, how old were you when you first took a dance class?

I was six years old.

Where did you start?

At the Studio Harmonic in Paris, it is quite famous. I still go there to take class from time to time.

When did you join the Paris Opera Ballet School?

Four years later, when I was ten. I remember I used to watch ballet videos and to dance variations in my living room. I kept asking questions about the steps I had seen to my first teachers, so I felt very well prepared when I entered the school of the Paris Opera Ballet. At the beginning I found it pretty boring though – it was all about positions and discipline, and I wasn’t a very disciplined child. I laughed and joked all the time! Yet I was considered a good student as I had physical qualities…

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