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From a dancer’s memory box
May 15, 2019

First soloist at Les Grands Ballets, Hervé Courtain is retiring after 27 years on stage. He started dancing at the age of 12, and his career took him from the Paris Opera Ballet to the Boston Ballet, before spending the last 15 years in Montreal. Hervé will nevertheless not be leaving Les Grands Ballets, since beginning in the fall of 2019 he’ll be filling the highly coveted position of ballet master! He looks back on the ballets and moments that have marked his career as a dancer.

Photo 1 : “This shot means a lot to me because it’s my first principal role at the Paris Opera Ballet, at the age of 25, in Georges Balanchine’s piece Rubies.”

Photo 2 : “In this picture I’m dancing the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve worked a number of times with choreographer John Neumeier, and each time it’s been an incredible experience. He’s unbelievably human and generous in his work.”

Dancer Hervé Courtain in In the Middle

Photo 3 : “In the Middle, a ballet of William Forsythe’s that I saw often when I was younger: when I finally got the chance to dance it at the Paris Opera Ballet, years later, it was like getting a wonderful gift!”

Dancer Hervé Courtain in the Miraculous Mandarin

Photo 4 : “This photo represents a role that was an exciting challenge for me as a dancer. I was dancing the role of the Girl in Maurice Béjart’s The Miraculous Mandarin. This was the first time I found myself costumed as a woman on stage, at the Paris Opera Ballet. It’s a very difficult role. Béjart told us that the character is a bandit who dresses as a woman in order to attract his prey. However, as soon as he leaves his character, he rediscovers his masculine energy. The challenge was to be able – with the makeup and the wig – to go from a feminine energy to a masculine one very quickly, and while avoiding clichés.”

Dancer Hervé Courtain with dancers from Legris Loudières et leurs Étoiles

Photo 5 : “This shot dates from when I was part of the group formed by two star dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet, Legris Loudières et leurs Étoiles. We had the chance to travel around the world with a highly varied repertoire: it was the first time I got to dance choreographies by Jiří Kylián. Manuel Legris is the person who taught me the most in my career. He coached us and gave us fabulous opportunities. This photo was taken at the end of a three-week tour in Japan, where we presented three different programs!”

Dancer Hervé Courtain in Sleeping Beauty

Photo 6 : “From the repertoire that I’ve danced with Les Grands Ballets, I have several happy memories! In Mats Ek’s Sleeping Beauty I danced Carabosse. I loved that disturbed, drug-addicted role; it’s one of the characters I’ve danced the most over the years, along with Romeo.”

Dancers Joëlle Henry and Hervé Courtain in Roméo & Juliette

Photo 7 : “Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo & Juliet has a special place in my heart since it was the first ballet and also the first principal role I danced when I arrived at Les Grands Ballets. Afterwards I danced it in three seasons with three different partners.”

Photo 8 : “The last time the company staged Romeo & Juliet, in 2016, I performed the role of Friar Lawrence: it was wonderful to move on to a mature character, corresponding to my age.”

Dancer Hervé Courtain in Pierrot Lunaire

Photo 9 : “Another lovely memory is of Marco Goecke’s ballet Pierrot Lunaire. It was a shock and an incredible gift to dance this piece. It’s the most complex choreography I’ve ever had to learn, but also the most touching character I’ve had the chance to perform.”

Les Grands Ballets' dancers in Bella Figura

Photo 10 : “The first time I saw Jiří Kylián’s Bella Figura was at the Paris Opera Ballet. It was also the first time I shed tears for a ballet. When I danced it with Les Grands Ballets, I had the opportunity to perform two roles in two different casts –a true delight!”

Production Team
April 29, 2019