prima ballerina letizia galloni has paris dancing at her feet

The 24-year-old prima ballerina Letizia Galloni has enchanted the National Opera of Paris speaks with a refreshing candidness about her self-taught youth and her sensations on stage.

当你初见 Letizia Galloni 时,很难不去注意她天然且无需修饰的美貌。Letizia 知道, 当在她刚学会走路时,她就开始跳舞之路了。在她还是个孩子时,电视里重播的一场《Swan Lake》(天鹅湖)让她决定要将芭蕾作为一生挚爱。虽然无论是她的朋友还是家人都未曾踏入过巴黎歌剧院(Opera Garnier)一步,但这无关紧要,她凭借着自己的努力跳上了那栋古老建筑的漂亮台阶,并且坚信自己将在不久将来骄傲地成为第一位有色舞者主演现代舞教母 Pina Bausch 的芭蕾舞剧《The Rite of Spring》(春之祭)。

Letizia! When did you first realise you wanted to be a dancer?

I was watching TV – I was pretty young,  maybe five. I saw some beautiful girls with tutus on the TV screen. I heard it was a Swan Lake re-run. It was kind of magical for a young girl like me to see those girls on stage. I was fascinated by the incredible harmony of bodies, sceneries and costumes. From that moment, I knew I would be part of this world. I started to dance at the age of six. At that time, I was in a very little academy in the Parisian suburbs. At nine, I got into the national school of Opera in Paris. We were training at Nanterre, but every year we would perform our final show at the Opera Garnier. As a little girl, this was a dream come true: the architecture, the gold decorations on the walls, the dressing rooms, the history. Dancing in such a place was an incredible opportunity.

What are your first memories of being there?

The first thing I remember from my early years at the Opera is the smell of hair spray, powder and make-up in the dressing room. Even today, those scents remind me of my first steps and moments of excitement as a dancer.  

Do you come from an artistic family?

Not at all. I was born in a large family, with three brothers and sisters. My mother used to look after us while my father was working as an electrician. I don't come from an intellectual or cultural environment but it never bothered me. In fact, I’m pretty happy not to have a dancer mum – a lot of them, whose daughters are also dancing, are strict or intrusive. I’m proud to be doing what I do on my own. It was my choice to become a dancer and to dedicate my life to dance. That said, my parents have always respected that choice and have always been supportive.

You recently danced the lead role in Rite of Spring by Pina Bausch. How did you feel on stage?

I was literally blown away! It was only my second year of ballet training and I could not believe they chose me to play the main role. I was torn by conflicting emotions on stage. There was mud on the ground and I felt surrounded by nature, as though I was an animal, imprisoned by the gaze of dancers and the audience. I fell into a trance on stage during my solo and forgot about everything. It is in that moment that the symbolic violence of the ballet takes place: Rite of Spring is the story of a human sacrifice committed by a whole community – and I was playing the Chosen. It was a great opportunity as since Pina Bausch died, no other girl had had the chance to play that complex and beautiful part.

I’m a really shy person and dance is the only way for me to express myself, to free my body from social and everyday pressures.

Did the show make you grow emotionally and spiritually?

Yes, of course. As a woman and as an artist, Rite of Spring is part of my life. Sometimes, when I’m alone at home, I love to play and listen to some Stravinsky, who composed the music it is set to. As soon as I hear the first notes, I can’t help myself thinking that music changed my life forever. I just have to think about that concert to get chills. It makes me feel feelings I’ve never felt before. I’m a really shy person and dance is the only way for me to express myself, to free my body from social and everyday pressures.

You’re part Congolese – and the first mixed race Prima Ballerina to take the lead role in a show at the Opera.

Yes. I was the first mixed race woman to star Frederick Ashton’s show, La Fille Mal Gardée, at the Opera. I’m proud of my origins and no matter if I’m at home or on stage, I never forget who I am or where I come from. Yet I don’t feel like I truly need to claim my background in order to exist. I only wish I can serve as an example in a way so that girls of all backgrounds can relate to, despite of all the stereotypes or prejudices they have to face.

Who have been your role models as a ballerina?

One particular Prima Ballerina has inspired me since I was a kid. Her name is Aurélie Dupont. She now directs the National Opera, since Benjamin Millepied left. Everything about her attitude, the way she moves and teaches, is full of humanism and sensuality. She embodies a certain kind of femininity: she is proud and completely free when she dances. I always thought femininity was not about body or appearance – it is about spirituality and senses. Femininity is the energy you bring about and pass on to the world.

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