Ah, the French. They really do have a flair for drama. In most ballet companies, even the biggest promotions happen quietly, offstage. At Paris Opéra Ballet, when someone is made an étoile ("star" in French—the equivalent of principal), the announcement happens onstage, usually following a breakthrough performance by the dancer in question. The audience gets to celebrate with him or her. It's always a wonderful—and often an extremely moving—moment.
Last night, Ludmila Pagliero (haven't seen her? she's gorgeous, and here's evidence) was made an étoile after she danced Gamzatti in La Bayadère—and the drama factor was even higher than usual. First: Pagliero wasn't supposed to be dancing Gamzatti. Four (seriously, four!) other dancers were to have alternated in the part, but all were felled by injuries before the broadcast. Pagliero, who last danced the role in 2010, had just hours to rehearse before hitting the stage. Second: The performance was broadcast live to cinemas worldwide. Talk about pressure! Third: Unlike the vast majority of POB dancers, Pagliero isn't French, and she didn't study at the POB School. So the fact that she became an étoile—overcoming the company's well-known French bias—is an extra-big deal.
What a crazy, exciting, marvelous way for this very, very talented dancer to begin her "star" turn. How is she celebrating? By dancing Gamzatti again, of course—at both of tomorrow's Bayadère performances. Congrats, Ludmila—and merde!