Maggie Foyer talks to the former Paris Opera Ballet étoile, now director of the Vienna State Ballet…
Manuel Legris was waxing lyrical about his new job as director in Vienna, “It was always my wish to be a director. It was something I planned and really wanted.” His long and illustrious career at the Paris Opera left him content to stop dancing and leave the stage. “I danced almost everything.” He also had the privilege of working with most of the world’s top choreographers and now wants to pass his knowledge on to the younger generation.
He was in Houston for the Dance Salad Festival dancing in Prejocaj’s “Le Parc” and as Aminta in John Neumeier’s “Sylvia”, a role he created a staggering 15 years ago. He said, “I danced with John Neumeier for many years. It is different coming back to the role, it changes with the age. Now I am a director but I am still in shape, still dancing and it is very interesting for me to dance it again – but really for pleasure.”
Legris admitted that directing was not without its problems. In Vienna the repertory chosen runs throughout the season. The traditional works need to be performed. “For me this is right for a big company, but I am also taking some risks and bringing in new choreographers: Alexander Ekman, Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon,” he said.
He enthused about the amount of talented dancers around, and in his company the rich mix of very good and very interesting dancers. But it is the transmission of tradition, the passing on of his knowledge that is his chief passion, saying, “I received so much from Nureyev who was my mentor and director.” It was Nureyev who appointed Legris to the rank of étoile, on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
He admitted he had enjoyed performing again: “You argue that the stage is not for you anymore – but then you are on stage and in the light. You are still there and it is very nice!”