A Moment with... Dorothée Gilbert

Starry outlooks with Dorothée Gilbert

With a video bio on the Paris Opera website that shows her dancing on the roof of the iconic Paris Opera House, it’s hardly surprising to hear that Parisienne ballerina Dorothée Gilbert is on the rise. We catch up backstage before she embarks upon a vigorous day of classes.

Profession: Dancer with the Opéra de Paris

Neighborhood: 18th arrondissement

You’ve lived in Paris since you started at the Paris Opera’s dance school at age 12, what Parisian habits have you adopted?
Mostly Sunday brunch. It has been a great way to discover new restaurants around my home in the Montmartre area. Recently we tried Les Affranchis. Then there’s the huge variety of museums that you don’t find anywhere else. They make for a wonderfully Parisian place to stroll.
Les Affranchis, 5 Rue Henri Monnier, 75009 Paris. Tel: + 33 01 45 26 26 30.

Where do you go to de-stress?
My terrace that looks out across the Parisian rooftops. I love seeing the city from up high, it really recharges me to look down at everything and it helps give me a little distance from everything. Plus, it’s marvelous to look down and see all the famous monuments peeking out from in between all the typical Parisian Haussmann era buildings.

Which Parisian spots bring you happiness?
Without a doubt it’s the Palais Royal garden right in the historic centre of Paris. It’s hardly a secret spot but, I love it.
Jardin du Palais-Royal, 142 Galerie de Valois, 75001 Paris.

How would describe the typical Parisienne?
For me Parisian women are liberated women who manage to balance work and home life with elegance and always without going over the top. Parisians also know how to stay stylish by mixing old and new pieces.

Do you have any feel-good mottos?
A choreographer told me this once: “Nothing is irreversible apart from death.” Even if one day something bad happens, something positive can come from it. Thinking that really changes things.

When are you in your element?

When I’m dancing on stage there can be moments when I feel so good that I think time has started to stand still and that it doesn’t have the same hold over me. It’s then that I get the sense that spirituality can take hold. It’s definitely a special moment and I don’t get one at every show. Sometimes a special kind of magic seems to take hold though, especially when I’m playing a strong character and I feel like I have become someone else. In a sense it’s just wonderful to feel liberated from everything.

What is inspiring you right now?
Right now I’m working on Manon, so I’ve plunged into reading the book (Manon Lescaut by L’Abbé Prévost). I’m trying to enrich myself by learning about everything surrounding the character as if I was rehearsing for a movie role.

Do you have a good luck charm?
I’m not really a good luck charm person, but I do have a little cuddly white rabbit toy. My best friend gave it to me when I was six and it has followed me around ever since. The friend was my “little mother” at dance school in Toulouse. That’s what we call our mentors in the French dance world. I named the rabbit Olivia after her.

Do you have any techniques for relaxing and getting focused before heading on stage?
We all have our own little rituals and habits that allow us to get into the mood and feel of the show. Taking morning class, having a nap, eating, doing hair and makeup can be the first steps for getting into character. Next we run in to warm up. And then there’s a short period of time that seems to simply float there just before taking to the stage. You’re just alone with yourself. Usually I am very calm because it’s important to stay very clear-minded. I always tell myself that the worst thing that could happen is a fall and that is really not that bad. It’s happened to me before on stage. I’ll admit though that I’m not as calm when I am taking on a lead role because I’m always asking myself if the audience will like me. In any case, I’m lucky because getting on stage is a big motivator for me and training gets me there.

How do you beat the blues?
With a bar of praline chocolate. As an award-winning dancer, elegance and grace play a big part in your life.

How would you define French beauty?
French women know how to be sophisticated without it showing too much. French women are great at natural beauty and are good at giving the impression that they woke up looking naturally beautiful.

Which female roles fascinate you?
My husband says I’m an obsessive, so it’s Manon Lescaut. I had a great opportunity to be able to play L’Histoire de Manon (in May 2015) from choreographer Kenneth MacMillan for the first time.

Do you have any typically French beauty habits?
For me it’s wearing lots of red lipstick, especially when I go out. And I don’t wear any foundation because I sweat a lot when I’m dancing. I’ll admit that I don’t wear a face cream, but I do have a special makeup remover product that I’ve used for years. Taking off makeup every evening is very important for dancers who wear heavy stage makeup.

How do you take care of your body?
It is after all the tool of your trade.I swear by massages at the UMA Centre, especially Shiatsu sessions with Sylvie. I’m lucky enough to have a sauna at home, so once a week I alternate between cold baths and the sauna to pump up my circulation and get rid of toxins.
Le Centre UMA, 6 Rue Saulnier, 75009 Paris. Tel: + 33 1 44 53 61 13.

How do you manage to get up and dance every day?
I sleep. Unfortunately there’s no other way around it. Sometimes I want to make the most of an evening and go to bed late, but the day afterwards it can get too hard. The only reason I manage to go to bed so early is because I’m often so tired from dance practice.

How do you get your energy levels going in the morning?
I’m never very hungry in the morning, I just have a milky coffee with sugar or a takeaway skinny latte. I have to start early and I have to feel light to be able to start moving.

Other than dance, do you do any other sports that make you feel good?
I do yoga, pilates and gyrotonics.

Photos: James Bort