Manuel Legris: “All ballet companies have their own history and identity”

by Angie Voicu

Manuel Legris is a French ballet dancer who was born in Paris on October 19, 1964. He was the star of the Paris Opera Ballet for 23 years. Since September 1, 2010, he has been the director of the Vienna State Ballet. The famous dancer will assume the position of artistic director of the ballet of La Scala Theater in December 2020. Ballet Magazine Romania had the opportunity to talk to Manuel Legris, in an exclusive interview that you can read in full in the autumn edition of our magazine .

Manuel Legris is facing a new professional challenge. After 10 years as the director of Vienna State Ballet, he will lead the ballet company  of La Scala in Milan. About the future plans and what expectations he has for the next year, find out in the interview below.

La Scala, another chapter in his story

Ballet Magazine: How do you feel about leaving the Vienna State Ballet for Milan?

Manuel Legris: It is a great pleasure to work with a ballet company like La Scala. After 10 years in Vienna, it was time for me to take on a new challenge.

You said in other interviews that you have always dreamed of becoming a director. Probably many are curious, how hard or how satisfying (or both) is the life of a ballet director?

Although many dream of it, you have to be very prepared. The responsibility is enormous and the work is endless. You need to make all the right choices for your schedule and budget. You are responsible for a lot of people you have to motivate, to push them from behind to succeed. It’s exciting, but you have to dedicate yourself to this career. It doesn’t have to be just another title for your biography.

You were director of the Vienna State Ballet for 10 years. Recently, our magazine also talked to Simona Noja. She told us that the school has undergone positive, even revolutionary, changes. What are the achievements you have been most proud of?

Simona Noja did an exceptional job. In collaboration with her, all these years, we have trained a new generation of dancers who have reached the top of the hierarchy. Two Austrian dancers, Natascha Mair and Jakob Feyferlik are now first soloists. We had a competent team of teachers and we worked in a beautiful, respectful environment. For those who did not have the opportunity to be part of this company at the end of their studies, we also found contracts with other international companies.

Manuel Legris: “I was very lucky!”

The Paris Opera is your home of origin. What differences did you discover between the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Ballet?

All companies have their own history and identity. In essence, each of them is different. Regarding Paris, the biggest difference is that 95% of the dancers are French, while in Vienna there are a multitude of nationalities. On the other hand, coming from the Paris Opera, my repertoire choices are, of course, influenced by my experience in this theater. But in Vienna, we managed to have a special identity, and the dancers excelled in different repertoires.

What are the biggest challenges you faced after officially leaving the scene in 2009? Did you make plans for the future or did it all come naturally?

Honestly, it all happened naturally. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to study the Vienna State Ballet at the end of my career. I always had the chance to meet the right people at the right time. It was the same with the choreographers who helped me have this career.

The best dancer in the world – an absurd title for Manuel Legris

You received the award for the best dancer in the world in 2000. How did you feel and did this award change, in the sense of a possible pressure that you felt or was like any other award?

I may surprise you, but for me this award makes no sense and did not flatter my ego. It is impossible to consider yourself the best dancer in the world. We are never the best, but we can be among those who have a brilliant career and are respected.

Can you tell us about one of the most memorable events of your ballet career?

Hard to tell a single story, maybe I should write my memoirs! What I can say is that I had the chance to work with some of the most brilliant choreographers. I was lucky that some of them created ballet performances especially for me. I also had the opportunity to meet spectators from all over the world and to dance in the most beautiful theaters, with dream partners. A beautiful story, isn’t it?

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