The Paris Opera appoints Guillaume Diop as Etoile’s first black dancer

Paris: The Paris Opera on Saturday named 23-year-old dancer Guillaume Diop to the Etoile category, the first time a black person has won ballet’s highest rank.

Diop’s on-stage advertisement at the end of Giselle in Seoul elevates it to the ballet’s highest rank without ever passing the “Premiere” category for several years.

The title “Danseur Etoile” (“Star Dancer”) is awarded for rare achievements and has only been achieved by a handful of dancers over the past 50 years.

Born in Paris to a Senegalese father and a French mother, Diop was one of five black or mixed-race authors who published a manifesto in 2020 on the issue of race in opera.

Since starting at the Paris Opera in 2018, Diop has danced several Etoile roles, with leading performances in La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Diop told Le Figaro on Saturday.

“Hopefully this will reassure parents of kids like me who want to follow this career path, but I’m not sure I want to talk about it. I basically worked like everyone else.”

Paris Opera Ballet dance director José Martínez told the newspaper that Diop’s “artistic qualities, charisma and potential” were the reasons behind his selection.

“It didn’t occur to me to assign him because of the color of his skin,” Martinez said, adding, “It’s a very good thing that happened.” (AFP)

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