Ballet at the Madinat Jumeirah

Award-winning dancer Hugo Marchand at the Opera de Paris Ballet Grand Gala

The Opera de Paris, or Paris Opera Ballet, is the oldest national ballet company in the world and also one of the most prestigious. And you can see them right here in Dubai on Friday January 6 and Saturday 7, when the Madinat Theatre hosts the Ballet Grand Gala with appearances from Opera de Paris dancers for the fourth year running.

Taking part in the dance show will be one of the ballet company’s first soloists, Hugo Marchand. The French performer has been dancing since he was nine years old. “After my first class, I decided to be a dancer,” says Marchand. “I think dancing was inside me when I was born.”

At age 13, he won a ballet competition and got a place in the Paris Opera Ballet School. Four years later, he started dancing with the Paris Opera National Ballet Company, and has been part of it ever since.

Some ballets can be very physically demanding, and involve dancing for two or three hours at a time. “It’s like being an athlete,” Marchand says. “You have to be in shape, very strong and have good stamina. And it’s very tiring emotionally, as you live as another character for hours.”

Despite that, Marchand couldn’t think of doing anything else. The best thing for Marchand about being a dancer is being on stage, and everything else pales into insignificance. “When we have a show, it’s magical. It’s so intense emotionally to perform on stage,” he says.

In 2014, Marchand took part in the prestigious Varna International Ballet Competition, which he says is like the Olympic Games of the ballet world. It’s one of the most renowned dancing competitions in existence and over the years has seen some of the greatest dancers take part, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov. “It was so hard,” says Marchand. “It’s an open-air theatre, and it’s in the summer, so it can get very hot. And sometimes you have to dance at night.” Marchand won bronze in that competition. “I was so tired, but so thrilled and happy. It was a great achievement.”

When he comes to the UAE next month, Marchand will perform two pieces, one from La Belle au Bois Dormant and the other from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. “The music from Romeo and Juliet is so beautiful,” he says. “It’s very inspiring.” As well as performing in Dubai, the dancers will also perform in Abu Dhabi for the first time, at Emirates Palace on Thursday January 5, which Marchand is looking forward to – though as he admits, “It’s going to very intense.” You’ll also see a performance of The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, as part of this show, which has been described as the most technically difficult ballet ever performed. One not to be missed.
From Dhs280. Fri Jan 6, 2pm, 8pm; Sat Jan 7, 6pm. Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6546).

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