Ballerina in Sabbatical

Interview with Eléonore Guérineau – a temporary member at Ballet Zurich.

After 13 years of being a sujet in the Ballet of the Paris Opéra, Eléonore Guérineau has taken a year off to further develop her expertise.  Now, Ballet Zurich has offered her a contract as a soloist, with her first performance, “WINTERREISE” premiering 13th October 2018.

What are your reasons for taking a sabbatical and coming to Zurich?
I wanted to choose the best possible moment to take a sabbatical in order to develop myself further. Now I am 30 years old and have been dancing at the Paris Opera for 13 years. It’s now or never to experience and discover a new company, new challenges and another country.

© Sébastien Mathé

Why did you choose the Ballet Zurich?
When I worked with William Forsythe, a well-known choreographer, I asked him what company would be the best for me, and take me for who I am. He recommended the Boston or Zurich Ballet. As both my husband and 4 year-old daughter are in Paris, Boston was too difficult to organize. So I looked at the repertoire of the Ballet Zurich, which was a very good mix of classical, neoclassical and contemporary ballets. When I first met Christian Spuck, the artistic director and a choreographer at Ballet Zurich, we immediately clicked, and he offered me a position as a soloist.

I was looking for a smaller company with a good ambience and a good relationship between the dancers. In comparison to Paris Opera, who has 154 dancers, the Zurich company is very intimate. With only 36 dancers, it’s almost like a family. There is more time to rehearse and get into character, which is very important to me. 

Zurich is a lovely small city, which is not too far away from Paris so I can go and visit my family.

What do you want to learn or experience here?
I want to work hard, practice and learn new solo roles, both classical ballets and contemporary pieces. I want to push myself beyond my comfort zone. I really want to improve my acting skills by developing my confidence to show off my style and personality on stage.  I need time and experience to dig deeper into a role. I don’t want to just be a beautiful dancer, I want to find out what I can contribute through my life and dance experiences. My goal is to transform myself into the role on stage.

IMG_0015.JPG© Isabelle Aubert

Tell us of your experience dancing the GISELLE at Paris Opéra.
When I danced Giselle the most difficult part was the second act. It is really romantic and Giselle is supposed to be a spectral but graceful Willis (which means ghostly spirits of dead girls) without force. I had to contain my natural energy and use this to have a real presence on stage. It is important to me to know all about the ballet I dance: the history, the context, the characters and the action between the dancers. I can feel the energy of my partner which helps me position myself into the mindset of the character.

I worked with Monique Loudières, a teacher and former principal dancer at Paris Opera Ballet who is a role model for me. She encouraged me to let go of my self-control and totally become the character of Giselle. I was very lucky to get this opportunity. I wanted to be a good dancer and show my version on stage. I discovered that I am totally different on stage than in the studio. I did the best I could and was very happy afterwards.

IMG_0056.JPG© Iconica

Now you started rehearsing for 6 weeks. Can you see differences in the daily class and training at Zurich Ballet compared to the Paris?
It is a great experience to work with Christian Spuck and The Ballet Zurich. We have had more time to rehearse Christian’s new piece “WINTERREISE”. He shows us exactly what expressions he is looking for. So I have the opportunity to learn how to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I am having a good time with the company.

What would you like to dance in the future? What are your dream roles?
For example, for this season I would love to dance again the “GISELLE” and to discover “ROMEO AND JULIET”. And the challenge of dancing more contemporary pieces will feed my motivation to grow further. I am seeking artistic growth for real experience, exchange and discovery.


Eléonore Guérineau is a French ballerina. Following her education at the ballet school of the Paris Opera, she danced in the ballet of the Opéra de Paris from 2005 to 2018, and from 2013 as a ‘sujet’ (semi-soloist). Her main roles in Paris were Gourouli in “Les Deux Pigeons” by Albert Aveline, Lise in “La Fille Times Gardée” by Frederick Ashton and the main role in “Giselle “by Perrot / Coralli. She also undertook other important roles in “Bergamasques” by Jean-Guillaume Bart, “Donizetti” by Manuel Legris, “Seasons Canon” by Crystal Pite and “Faun” by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. She has also starred in “Artifact”, “In the Middle”, “Of any If” and “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” by William Forsythe. In Bangkok, she performed in “Don Quixote” as Kitry. In 2009, she was awarded the AROP Award of the Ballet of the Opéra de Paris. In addition, she earned her diploma as a ballet teacher. From the beginning of this season, Eléonore Guérineau is a member of the Ballet Zürich.

Portrait Photo ©Jos Schmid

Photo on Top © Isabelle Aubert

Autor: ballettlovers

I danced ballet as child, albeit with little success. Despite this, my passion for ballet and dance has carried into adulthood. I still love to watch ballet performances and would love to share my passion with you.

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