Danseuse Étoile, “star dancer” is the highest rank a dancer can reach at the Paris Ballet Opera.
– as told to The Silver Women
Women who inspired you as a young girl?
I grew up in a suburb outside of Paris, and my childhood was super simple and normal. I can’t think of a woman that inspired me when I was very young. I became inspired by my mother later in life when I could understand and appreciate what she did for the family. At 22 years old she had 3 children who she raised and made sure had a good education. My mother was strict; however, she had a huge heart, so, was also very loving. Sadly, she passed away when she was only 48 years old. Fortunately, she was able to see her children become successful in their different ways and most importantly happy. I think this is something that has inspired me with my own daughter, it doesn’t matter what my daughter accomplishes, all I really want is for her to be happy.
I studied ballet as a child, and at 15 years old I was accepted to the Conservatoire de Paris. Around 18 years old, the woman who greatly inspired me was Yvette Chauviré, a beautiful Étoile from the Paris Opéra. When I joined the company, she was retired but teaching master classes. Only a few ballerinas could join. One day in the corridor she asked me to come to her class. I will never forget it. To this day she is one of the women I admire the most. She was with me throughout my career. Working with her on certain roles was unforgettable. She gave so much, and with such passion. Coincidence or not after she left the Paris Opéra and when I became an Étoile myself, I was given her dressing room. At the Paris Opéra, all the Étoile have their own dressing rooms until they retire. My name was under hers on the dressing room door which I opened every day.
Ballet is an art form where you receive so much inspiration from other dancers, ballerinas, and choreographers. So, even though this question asks in regards to which women have inspired, I have to mention the great Rudolph Nureyev. He was the one who promoted me to Danseuse Étoile, he was my boss, dance partner, and coach.
Women, who inspire you now?
Simone Veil, a survivor of the Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp who had a successful political career and Oprah Winfrey who experienced a tough childhood. They are examples of despite where you come from, you can have a successful life. Courage, determination, and hard work can lead you to success. They have both transformed the suffering of their youth into becoming very powerful women.
The most valuable lesson taught by your Mother?
Respect, politeness, honesty, hard work, discipline and to be happy with what you have.
Through the decades!
20’s: At 18 years old I was accepted into the corps de ballet at the Paris Opera Ballet.
I was promoted to ” Danseuse Étoile” by Nureyev when I was 24 years old. From then on, until I was 40 years old, I was with the company and performed all around the world.
30’s & 40’s: I became a mother at 39 years old and 3 months after giving birth was back at work dancing. I officially retired from the Paris Opera at 40 and then I was a guest dancer for an additional 2 years. At the age of 42, I became a full-time mother. I loved this change and having this precious time with my daughter.
50’s: At the age of 53, I returned to dance and was back on stage in China, Japan, Vienna, Lincoln Center, and the Bolshoi. I never expected this would happen. I view this as a great bonus in my life.
“I never thought I would be back on pointe at 53 years old.
Life is full of surprises!”
What are you most grateful for?
To live my passion and to still be doing it. Being a mother to a wonderful girl.
Has there been a significant circumstance good or bad that changed your outlook on life?
The very sudden death of my mother at 48 and my brother in law at 52.
One day you are here and in one moment you can be gone. This is why I say enjoy life, your family and tell the people you love…“I Love You.” And not to put things off and say “One day I will” because maybe this day will never arrive.
As an artist, challenges are part of the process especially when you are working hard to reach perfection. Dancers work in front of a mirror daily not because they are vain, but so they can study what’s not working and make corrections. Challenges push you and make you grow as an artist. You fix your own goal and strive hard to reach it. Every day you compete with yourself and work at becoming better. As a mother, my biggest challenge is to be sure that my daughter is happy and guide her in finding her own path.
Thoughts on aging?
Well, do we have a choice? Ha! Ha! Ha! I cannot say I enjoy the body falling apart, but so far I am healthy and I think this is more important than my skin becoming different. Being happy and healthy is so much more important than wrinkles.
“Aging doesn’t mean becoming less beautiful.
Beauty is who you are, your personality,
and feeling good about yourself.”
The upside: Having experience. More and more you don’t care what people think about you (well, I still have moments, but I know I should not ) Despite my age, I am lucky to have a profession where you never stop learning and around younger people. In my head, I never feel old.
The downside: Getting closer to the end. I don’t like this idea.
Your advice to young women of today?
Be yourself. There will be people who will like you and people who won’t. Surround yourself with people who lift you higher. Follow your dreams and do not give up on them. Struggle and doubts are part of success. If you fall, get back on your feet.
-Isabelle Guérin xoxo
Images courtesy Isabelle Guérin unless credited otherwise.
FEW OF MY FAVORITES
It’s so hard for me to pick just one. As an artist, I find inspiration everywhere, and my taste is diverse. I will say, that I am drawn to creative people … and in all domains.-IG x
The book I am reading now “Tu T’appelais Maria Schneider” by Vanessa Schneider.
Michele Obama will be next.
The English Patient, Sophie’s Choice, Green book,
Bohemian Rhapsody, Dangerous Liaisons, The Piano.
Peonies. Camélias. Pierre de Ronsard Rose.
Guerlain : L’heure Bleue. Shalimar . Après l’ondée
Chanel : Eau Première
Serge Lutens makes beautiful scents.
City/place: Paris ♥
Cheese for sure!
French food or Italian.And breakfast in Paris with French baguette and butter and all the other Viennoiseries.
I go through phases.
I am really into listening to Opera but since I watched Bohemian Rhapsody,
I am listening to Queen!
The Impressionists: Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, etc
I love Modigliani, Egon Schiele, Edward Hopper &Basquiat.
Inès de la Fressange.
Chic élégance, very naturel, very Parisienne.
I am always open to trying new products. I change them up frequently. I like the routine of a little scrub, mask and hydration, the feeling of very clean skin. Currently, I am using Emma Hardie skincare. Eau de lait from Collosol (smells so good ) I love it. I am addicted to the French Parapharmacy, where you can find all you need for your skin and body.
Makeup: My daily routine is mascara and lipstick on clean skin.
My favorite Lipsticks: Dior and Chanel. If I go out, I will put on a very light foundation from Dior. But never too much.
On the weekend if I stay home I don’t wear makeup (so don’t knock at my door ?)
May 24, 2019 @ 09:43
I love this interview with the gorgeous Isabelle. So impressive and inspiring. Also, lucky to have great mentors that she appreciated. La belle Isabelle!
May 31, 2019 @ 01:18
You are such a breath of fresh air what a beautiful story
June 1, 2019 @ 12:57
Such an inspirational woman, and I love reading about strong, athletic women and how that shapes their lives – and the invaluable role mentors can play in who we become!! Great interview.
June 11, 2019 @ 18:22
Wonderful article, such an inspiring woman. Love her.