L’École de Danse de l'Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Ballet School)

Paris, France

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In 1661, Louis XIV appointed thirteen of the best instructors to train professionals and codify the art of dance. He founded the Conservatory of Dance in 1713.

In 1784, the Opera Ballet School was given official status by royal decree. Among other things, the decree called for the creation of special class for children under the age of 12, following a desire to recruit young pupils who were untainted by prior training.

From 1805 onwards, the pupils were expected to give a performance inside the School in the presence of administrators, orchestra directors and premiers sujets. But it was on the stage of the Opera, in the midst of their elders that they made their debuts in children’s roles or as extras. The work was seen as a reward for the free tuition.

The quality of the school, started to falter during the 1830s. In 1860, Marie Taglioni, dance inspector since 1858, was appointed to head the master class. The end of the century proved to be a difficult time. With dance reduced to entertaining additions to operas, the school lost its direction and did not see a gradual renaissance until the 20th century.

In 1930 Serge Lifar was instrumental in restoring the Opera’s confidence in its ballet school. He made a point of giving the artists who graduated from it a chance to perform instead of systematically inviting foreign soloists. Until 1977, the pupils of the Ballet School only appeared occasionally on stage, in small roles that were part of the Paris Opera Ballet’s productions. Today they have the chance to present an entire performance – taken from the traditional repertoire or created especially for the pupils – and to test their progress in this way.

The Paris Opera Ballet School is an exceptional institution and thanks to a succession of remarkable teachers – most of them made careers within the Opera Ballet Company. The Ballet School continues the mission it has been entrusted with for three hundred years: passing the French tradition on to future artists.

Elisabeth Platel, Director

Elisabeth Platel entered the Paris Opera Ballet School in 1975 after winning the first prize at the Paris Conservatoire and joined the Corps de Ballet the following year, aged 17.

Ranked “Sujet” in 1978, she won the silver medal at the Varna Competition and was promoted to “Première danseuse” in 1979, dancing soloist roles in The Rite of Spring, Serait-ce la mort? (Maurice Béjart), La Sylphide (Pierre Lacotte), Don Quixote (Rudolf Nureyev), Swan Lake (Bourmeister version), and Paquita.

At the end of her first performance in the title role in Giselle on December 23, 1981, she was named “Étoile”.

Platel performed in many ballets created at the Opera: Life (Béjart - 1979), Manfred (Nureyev - 1979), Schéma (Alwin Nikolaïs - 1980), Vaslaw (Neumeier - 1980), Raymonda (Nureyev - 1983), Premier Orage (Lucinda Childs - 1984), Swan Lake (Nureyev - 1984), Before Nightfall (Nils Christe - 1985), Sans armes citoyens! (Rudi van Dantzig - 1987), Les Anges Ternis (Karole Armitage - 1987), Magnificat (Neumeier - 1987), In the Night (Robbins – 1989), La Bayadère (Nureyev - 1992), Sylvia (Neumeier – 1997).

In 1983, she received the West End Theaters Award (London), the Massine prize in 1998 and 1999, the Prix Benois de la danse in 1999. She was appointed by the French government Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and Officer of National Order of Merit.

Her major guest appearances included the Royal Ballet in London, the Berlin Ballet, the Hamburg Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Finnish National Ballet, the New Zealand Ballet, the Vienna Opera Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Rio de Janeiro Theater Ballet, on tour in Japan with Nina Ananiashvili's group of soloists, and in the United States with soloists from the Paris Opera.

She worked with Claude Bessy to restage Suite en Blanc (Lifar) in 1996 and Daphnis et Chloé (Skibine) in 1998 for the theater of Rio de Janeiro. She also worked with Pierre Lacotte on La Sylphide for the same theater in 1997, then in Hamburg and Vienna, and on Paquita for the Paris Opera Ballet in 2001.

She became Director of the Paris Opera Ballet School in September 2004.

Since then, Elisabeth Platel is regularly invited as distinguished member to symposiums and training programs and to be a jury member for international competitions. She contributed to the conservation of the Paris Opera Ballet School’s repertoire which she also enhanced with works such as the Pas-de-six in Napoli by August Bournonville and Piège de Lumière by John Taras.

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