By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 26 JUNE 2010 After a run of fifteen performances of
Rudolph Nureyevs poignant, much-loved version of La Bayadère,
with different casts each giving their own interpretation of the story,
the series ended with the nomination of Stéphane Bullion to the rank of
étoile. If pyrotechnics were to be had with Dorothée Gilbert
partnered by Mathias Heymann, tears elicited by the moving presence of
Agnès Letestu partnered by José Martinez with a convincing Emilie Cozette
in the role of Gamzatti and featuring a powerful, expressive performance
from Yann Saiz as the jealous but doomed Grand Braham, excitement rose to
its height on the last evening, June 2nd, which was crowned by the much
merited nomination of thirty year-old Stéphane Bullion, dancing Solor for
the first time at the Palais Garnier, to the highest rank in the
Stéphane Bullion as Solor in La
Photo: Sebastien Mathé
"It came as a great surprise to say the least", the dancer told me over
an informal conversation in his dressing-room soon after his nomination.
"I was leaving the stage with Delphine Moussin, who had interpreted
Nikiya, and as Ive been dancing main roles for the last three years now
and there had always been unfounded rumours and speculation, a nomination
to the rank of étoile simply wasnt on my mind. But this time,
not even Clothilde Vayer, our ballet mistress, was aware of it and
moreover, all the dressers who normally love to share in the excitement
had rushed off home!"
" I had already interpreted Solor on tour in Australia last year, but
it isnt even one of my favourite roles, as is Armand in John Neumeiers La Dame
aux Camélias, the ballet which marked the turning point in my
career", he commented with a smile. "It was all most unexpected."
I first saw Stéphane Bullion dance at the age of fifteen or sixteen,
when he was one of the most outstanding pupils in the Opera School, and
since he joined the Paris company I have enjoyed watching his progress
over the years. He was chosen by Iouri Grigorovitch and Brigitte Lefèvre
to interpret Ivan the Terrible in Grigorovitchs ballet of the same name
while still a member of the corps de ballet, after which his
career was poised to take off. However, matters were disrupted when only
days after a magnificent performance, where he showed great dramatic
sensitivity in portraying the frenzied, but deeply romantic Tsar Ivan IV, he was
taken into hospital, and subsequently lost almost three years due to
illness, injury and a resulting lack of confidence. On his return to the
company, he was invariably cast in sombre character roles, portraying
Hilarion in Giselle, Rothbart in Swan Lake, and Tybalt
in Romeo and Juliet, roles which all too often are considered as
"And then all of a sudden", he told me, "I seemed to go from the dark
roles to the light when I found myself replacing Hervé Moreau in the filmed
version of La Dame aux Camelias, partnering Agnès Letestu
with whom Id never danced before. She and John Neumeier changed my life,
although it was unfortunate that my chance came at the expense of Hervé,
injured at the time."
Stéphane Bullion in La Dame aux Camelias
"Agnès herself is both an extraordinary partner as well as an
outstanding artist. She combines grace and poetry with gentle authority,
and she reaches out to take you with her. Shes not there just for
herself. I have learned so much from her. Since the film was
made, when I was unfamiliar with the role and felt enormous pressure, we
have had time to work together and I was so happy with the second
programming of the ballet."
"I also love working with Nicolas Le Riche for he, too, gives so much
to his partner. He brings out the best in everyone. It was a joy to
work with him in Siddharta. Both he and Agnès are very special
To the question as to what changed when one was became an étoile, the
highest accolade within the company, Bullion shrugged and said that he
still had a long way to go. He was immensely happy about it, but said that
it was an honour he would have to work at to deserve. It meant that his
work had been recognized, that he would be able, he hoped, to dance the
roles he longed to dance, and to have even more opportunity to work at
creations than in the past.
Stéphane Bullion in Siddharta
Photo: Anne Deniaud
Bullion has always seized the chance to work with young choreographers,
and has interpreted the ballets of colleagues Samuel Murez and Nicolas
Paul with whom he hopes to continue working. But he has also created works
by Edouard Lock, Preljocaj, Roland Petit and Mats Ek as well as John
Neumeier at the Paris Opera.
"Creations interest me, he said, "It was fascinating to interpret
Pauls, Repliques earlier this year, and should Mats Ek bring a
new work to the Opera, Ill be first in line!"
"But next season I hope very much to be able to dance Roland Petits,
Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, as well as Le Loup. It would
also be wonderful to dance another work of Grigorovitch. I saw Ivan
Vassiliev in Spartacus recently, and it was amazing."
Next season also sees both Romeo and Juliet and Swan
Lake, two more of Rudolph Nureyevs great classical works programmed.
Stéphane Bullion, a most attractive young man with tall, romantic good
looks seems custom made for the role of Nureyevs prince, while being also
young and boyish enough to become the Romeo that Shakespeare dreamed
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has
contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance
consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro
is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com and last wrote Ten Years After, Robbins Still Going Strong in
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