In Australia for its third visit, the Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, with its origins in the court of Louis XIV.
By
Michelle Hanna

30 Jan 2013 - 8:19 PM  UPDATED 3 Sep 2013 - 6:04 PM

Celebrating three hundred years, the company is considered to be a pillar of French culture, but as it continues to make and attract new stars, not all of them are, strictly speaking, French.

It's in Sydney with one of the world's most popular Romantic ballets, by the company who first performed it in 1841.
Preparing for her debut in the title role of Giselle, Argentinian Ludmila Pagliero is the first non-European dancer to make it to the company's highest rank of Étoile.
“It's a big responsibility for me to represent Latin America and to represent the Opera,” says Ludmila Pagliero.
“Because now I feel like a French dancer too. The most important thing to me is the art of the ballet. I learn the French style, the way to do the steps or the interpretations.”
“You never stop to learn things,” Pagliero says. “Now it's my first year as Étoile and I think I have a lot of things to learn.”
French dancing is a distinct art, she says.
“They have their own particular method of bearing, the shoulders have a lot, the neck, the height, it's a very French style,” says tour Producer Leo Schofield AM. “It has to do with elegance, subtlety of detail, positioning of hands and beautiful pointe work.”
It's a style upheld by the company that is the birthplace of classical dance.
“There is a kind of way to dance and I think it makes a real identity for the company,” says Ballet Master Laurent Hilaire.
“The styles are very important actually, especially at this moment, because the world is open and everybody is traveling, but to keep the particularity of a style, I think its really, really important”.

While the Paris Opera Ballet is steeped in tradition, it is not stuck in history, and continues to innovate.
Reason perhaps for a shock announcement - the company's Ballet Master was overlooked for the top job - in favour of thirty-five year old French-born American Benjamin Millepied.
Known for choreographing the film Black Swan, Millepied will move to Paris with his wife, actress Natalie Portman, to take up the post in 2014.
“What I hope - he will bring what he knows, what he learns differently, but he has to take care and I am sure - this is my feeling and I talk with him – he will take care. You can not change everything because it's not the way,” says Laurent of the new appointment. “He has to preserve this period with the company, and I think it is going to be in a good way.”
Hopefully not a demise, but a bold new chapter in the continuum of this quintessential French company.
“As everyone says 'we'll see'!,” says Schofield.
“Every company has its ups and downs, its great splendours, but this is a remarkable survival this one, to have survived for three hundred years and still remain as fresh as they do today, is extraordinary.”