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  • Writer's pictureJulia Sumzina

Mathieu Ganio: ...being curious can be a real help sometimes!

I’m happy to announce the series of interviews with the best ballet dancers of the world special for LA NOTTE Magazine. It is an honour for us not only to admire the best performances of the ballet world but to have an opportunity to know the people who make ballet history from their own point of view.

Mathieu Ganio, the Principal dancer in Paris Opera Ballet (Étoile), is one of the La Notte Top-5 International Dancers of the Year. He supported the idea and talked with us about professional and personal things important for him.

You can discover not only one of the leading dancers of XXI century but an outstanding personality dedicated to art.

Sketch: Julia Sumzina

Hello, Mathieu. I’m happy to have an interview with you and firstly I would like to ask you about your very first appearance on the stage… You are from the ballet family and there is the video of you with your mother Dominique Khalfouni in the choreography by Roland Petit, was it the first one?

Yes totally, I was around 3 years old and that was my first time on stage and first recording. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of memories about this time but it’s always a very special feeling when I see the video.

Who were your ballet idols when you were growing up?

Fernando Bujones, Manuel Legris, Mikhaïl Baryshnikov... I am still very inspired by a lot of dancers but never one above all, each personality has his own originality.

Photo: Michel Lidvac

You’re on the highest level, is it difficult to stay so passionate about your art during such a long period of time?

It’s not difficult to stay passionate about Dance, I will love this Art all my life. But to keep in shape and stay interesting for the audience that’s a real challenge. Also I’m adapting myself with my body condition and the new repertory. I question myself on my legitimacy to still be on stage and I try to find the appropriate repertory.

Photo: Julien Benhamou, Kiyonori Hasegawa

How do you get inspired for developing in your ballet career? Because you’re improving your technique and the feeling of characters all the time and you’re one of the world leaders in classical and contemporary repertoire.

I like Arts History and Cultures in general so I try to stay tuned about them. I love museums and libraries and I have my own internal world... being curious can be a real help sometimes!

You know that in Russia the dancers have their personal coaches in the theatre, you don’t have this in Paris Opera, it’s Russian ballet practice. What do you think about this?

It is a real luck to have somebody who follow you on your everyday practice, somebody who know perfectly who you are, how you work and who can adapt your training in function of your schedule. It is a relationship based on trust and transmission, I have always admired that and felt interesting. But I don’t know exactly how it works and sometimes I also think it’s good to have an external eye to discover or point something you never thought about...

You have danced many of the main roles, but do you have any dream roles?

I would love to dance En Sol from Robbins, Marguerite and Armand from Ashton and dance in a Mats Ek, Jiri Kylian and Pina Bausch piece..

This season was very hard for Paris Opera Ballet but you had a chance to perform Giselle for the audience around the world when it was broadcasted. Albrecht is one is your most famous roles from classical repertoire, what other classical characters do you like do dance?

Onegin, Romeo, Des Grieux and Armand are my favorites.

I would love to try Archiduke Rodolphe from Mayerling ...

Photo: Laurent Philippe, Svetlana Loboff

Do you like to work with young choreographers? What are your favourite new ballets?

Yes of course it’s very interesting to work with young choreographers!! As for an artist it’s always a pleasure to feel that you inspire somebody and to create something together. I loved to work with Juliano Nunes, Thiago Bordin, Liam Scarlett.

Lately I watched on YouTube the 2 pieces by Sol Leon (“She remembers”) and Paul Lightfoot (“Standby”) did for NDT and I was deeply moved and inspired. Energy and Emotion, two very important things for me in dance.

Is there any character you can associate yourself with?

I don’t want to be associated with one character in particular... before people always saw me in the noble prince, it is very nice but at some point I hope that I can have many more different faces.

In Le Rappel des oiseaux you expressed your great dramatical talent. Was it difficult and would you like to act more in the drama theatre?

Acting was an extraordinary experience!!! I work a lot on it and if Orianne Moretti (metteur en scène) and my friends didn’t believe in me I would never went on stage. I don’t like my voice and I was terrified to speak on stage, forgetting my text most of all... but I learnt so much from this project! I would love to go deeper and have other opportunities.

Photo: Stéphane Audran

Do you play any musical instruments?

Unfortunately I don’t play any instruments; sadly for my mother who would like us to be musicians with my sister…

What music do you like to listen to?

Music is very important in my life and I listen to a large repertoire from classical masterpieces to independent rock and pop music.

You live and work in one of the most romantic cities in the world, what places in Paris would you call the special ones?

I love strolling on the “quais de Seine”; Louvre/Palais Royal area; I live in the 9th arrondissement which was called before Nouvelle Athènes (XIX century) by the artists and now SoPi (south of Pigalle), I feel at home in this area but Paris has many faces and it’s interesting to discover the different ones.

You’re interested in art and architecture, it’s a part of your education. What periods or styles are the most inspiring for you?

I love mainly the XVIII and XIX centuries for the music, fashion, architecture, painting etc... I discover slowly also the different European artistic movements from beginning of the XX (art nouveau, jugendstil).

With the environmental questions we also have a real challenge and I am very curious and interested in how the new creation will deal and be inspired by that!

Photo: Yonathan Kellerman


Your favourite food: Love cheese.

Favourite drink: Tea hot or cold.

Film(s): Drama or historical movies.

Book(s): Novel or polar (historical ones even better). Even if o don’t know so much about it, I love Russian literature, Tolstoï in particular. And Boris Akunin.

Your favourite colour: Blue and Purple cause it’s the colour of my family..

Your main positive treat: Curious.

And negative: Too anxious.

The best quality of a person in your opinion: Generosity and Empathy.

Do you feel happy? I can’t complain.

Text and sketch: Julia Sumzina

Photos: Michel Lidvac, Julien Benhamou, Kiyonori Hasegawa, Laurent Philippe, Svetlana Loboff, Stéphane Audran, Yonathan Kellerman.

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