Paris Opera drama as rebel dancer ends in pursuit of ‘professional freedom’

One of the most famous male dancers at the Paris Opera, who has won a large following outside of ballet for serving as a judge on the French equivalent of “Strictly Come Dancing,” left the company on Wednesday after months of tension.

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François Alu, 28, known for his robust physique and virtuosic leaps, will leave the Paris Opera so that he has “complete professional freedom,” both parties said in a joint statement released by the opera.

The news was unexpected and came just seven months after the Paris Opera named Alu an “étoile” (“star”), its highest-ranking title, following intense pressure from ballet fans for the promotion.

But there has also been tension surrounding his much-hyped role as a judge on “Danse avec les stars” (“Dance with the Stars”), the French equivalent of Britain’s BBC hit “Strictly Come Dancing”.

“I have decided to regain my full professional freedom in order to fully realize my artistic ambitions,” Alu said in the statement.

The Paris Opera emphasized that the decision came after a “dialogue” between the two sides and would allow “new forms of collaboration” by Alu with the company.

Not exactly a surprise: François Alu is leaving @BalletOParis. So his last appearance was also the night he was promoted to Etoile earlier this year. He has chosen freedom, although the door seems to be open for future collaborations as a guest.

— Laura Cappelle (@LauraCappelle) November 23, 2022

“This decision is the culmination of the close dialogue we have had with François in recent months,” said Paris Opera director Alexander Neef.

Alu has also toured France with a solo show. But to the chagrin of the fans, he never danced at the Paris Opera since he was given the name “étoile”, which is unprecedented.

His departure comes at a turbulent time for the Paris Opera Ballet, with former dancer Jose Martinez due in December to take over from Aurélie Dupont as director of the company.

Such high-profile departures are relatively rare with the last example in 1989 when superstar ballerina Sylvie Guillem exited to focus on an international career.


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