Reverence: Très Belle

Elegant and charming, Paris Opéra étoile Dorothée Gilbert brings a special allure to her roles.
Published in the August/September 2013 issue.

Beyond technique: Gilbert reigns in "Raymonda." Photo by Julien Benhamou.

To what do you attribute your success?
To my work. I had to make a real effort to get to where I am because I didn’t have the qualities that the Opéra required. Technique came easily to me, but it took me a while to realize that the company doesn’t care if we can do three turns; they want two clean, beautiful ones.

What’s your best memory on stage?
My promotion to étoile, because the circumstances were pretty unusual. There was a strike that day, so we danced Nutcracker without sets or costumes. I really didn’t expect it to happen then, so it was very special.

Is there anything about your body you would change?
I’d love to have really nice feet. Mine are strong and allow me to do a lot technically, but I’d like to keep that strength and also have high arches. They finish the movement so beautifully.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I eat pasta, and I take a nap! I love to sleep. It helps me relax. I wake up two hours before the show and don’t have time to stress out, so I just get ready.

What skill would you most like to have?

I’d love to be more knowledgeable, to have more of a general education. I joined the company young, so I didn’t graduate from high school, and I don’t have a great memory, so even when I read a book, I forget it. I wish I had studied philosophy.

What’s the least glamorous part of being a dancer?

The strict lifestyle we have to adhere to. We can’t just go out or drink until 3 am if we’re rehearsing the next day. You need to know when you can have fun and when you have to be serious. It’s still pretty glamorous, though!

What would you bring with you to a desert island?

Sunscreen. And chocolate—I always have some in my dressing room.