Isabelle Guerin-Frohlich, former Danseuse Étoile with Paris Opera Ballet. Dancing with Lloyd Knight, Principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Why did you pick Lloyd Knight as your partner for this shoot? IG: Why did I pick Lloyd..... well, just look at him!!!! More seriously, I picked him because I like him as a dancer, as a friend, his sense of humour, and I like the idea of him being a dancer from a different school and company. Paris Opera/Martha Graham...... we are two people, speaking the same language, expressing our feelings in a different way, in a different style. We are two dancers. We all came from different backgrounds, but we are bringing pleasure and a dream to an audience. No voice, but a body to express ourselves. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in dance? IG: I grew up in the suburbs of Paris. I started taking ballet because it was the only activity for girls in the town that I lived in. My sister was dancing, so I followed in her footsteps. I believe that if there hadn't been a ballet class in my town, I never would have begun. I never dreamed of being a professional ballerina. How did your background and your family's background; affect your passion for dance? IG: No one is an artist in my family. I am the only one. When I decided to become a ballerina, my family was always supportive. How old were you when you started to dance? What do you think of the training now? IG: I was six when I started ballet, but I started dancing seriously at fourteen years old. I think that the generation now doesn't have time to have a private coach to work with them. I remember having a private class each week with a coach from the Paris Opera Ballet, until I became an Etoile.
What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer? IG: I was fourteen years old when I decided to be a ballerina. I don't remember thinking of doing anything else. When I think about it now, I may have become a child psychiatrist or a humanitarian. Something related to people. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started at the Paris Opera Ballet? IG: Nothing. Life has to always be full of surprises. I discovered my life was a ballerina inside of this big theatre through happiness, disappointment.... but always moved forward in a positive manner. I was very innocent and didn't know anything about the ballet world. I joined Paris Opera Ballet when I was sixteen. I was always fascinated by this theatre. When I decided to become a ballerina, I knew that nothing was going to stop me. How has social media effected a dancer's status and what is required of them? IG: Young dancers believe that they are "famous" before actually starting their career. You build your career on stage, not on Facebook or any social media site. You get an audience by who you are on stage. Young dancers all want to become well known fast, but being a good dancer is a long process. Do you have one moment in your career that you remember most fondly? Or one moment that you feel really defined your career or the trajectory of it? IG: I will never forget the day that Rudolph Nureyev came on stage after my performance in Swan Lake and promoted me to Danseur Étoile in front of the audience. I was twenty-four years old
Why did you stop dancing? What motivated you to start dancing again? IG: At the Opera, you have to stop dancing when you turn 40. I was an old ballerina, but a young mother (confusing... I know, but that is how I felt!). After my retirement, I was a guest artist with them for two years and I attended some galas. I then decided to move to NY with my husband and daughter. When I moved to NY, I stopped dancing completely. It was important for me to be with my daughter and to see her grow. I wanted to be a part of her life 200%! Occasionally I coached a few companies in Europe and the United States when it was possible to take my daughter with me. After not dancing for 10 years there was a part of me that was missing the theatrical part of ballet. I had a bad back and I decided to take ballet class again and I felt better! Soon after that, I started to dream about going back on stage. I wasn’t dreaming about the ballets that I had danced in the past or fouettes or grand jetes, but something with emotion. This happened last summer in Shanghai with Manuel Legris. We danced a piece created for us by Patrick de Bana and “Le Parc” from Angelin Preljoçaj. Who were some of the people who influenced you the most in your career? IG: All the teachers and coaches that have helped me to get to where I am today. As well as all of the choreographers I worked with and all of my partners. Where are you performing now? Is the experience of being on stage and performing different for you now? IG: Right now, I am coaching more than dancing. I just came back from Vienna where I coached “Swan Lake” and “Études”. In September, I worked with Pennsylvania Ballet where I coached “Other Dances” by Jerome Robbins. Next week I am going to San Francisco for the organization, En Avant Foundation. The following weekend I will be in New York for the same program and at the end of May I am going to Moscow, Russia to coach “Other Dances”. In June, I will be dancing in Vienna for Nureyev’s gala with Manuel Legris. Then in July, I will be dancing in Beijing and in August I will be dancing in Tokyo for the big World Ballet Festival. Being able to dance now is different. The pieces that I want to dance are based on emotion. There is nothing about performance or technique. It is living the story with my maturity. I am not coming back to dance “Swan Lake” or “Don Quixote”. I have already done that. I am coming back now motivated for new ballets or pas de deux based on emotion. Being on stage again feels right for me. I believe that ballet is not just about the number of pirouettes you can do or how high you can kick your leg. Ballet is an art and there is no age limit to express yourself. Just accept who you are and who you have become. Your age and your limits. Use your life experiences to bring something new to your art. Who would you most like to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)? IG: My mom. Sadly she passed away brutally when I was twenty-five and I would like to continue my conversation I had with her at that time. She was only forty-eight years old. What do you most value in your friends? IG: Sense of humor and honesty.
What do you love most about living in NYC? IG: I love all of the energy and how people are not afraid to be themselves. Everything seems possible in NYC. Do you think audiences are any different in New York than they are in Paris? Are they more or less reserved? IG: No comment! I don't want to be in trouble.... What is your idea of perfect happiness? IG: Good health, to enjoy my time with my family and to see my daughter grow up.
Hair and makeup by Juliet Jane