Paris Opera appoints Guillaume Diop as its first Black ‘Etoile’ dancer
The Paris Opera House named 23-year-old dancer Guillaume Diop its star award on Saturday, the first time a black person has won the coveted ballet’s highest class.
Diop announced his promotion on stage at the end of his performance of “Giselle” in Seoul, propelling him to the ballet’s highest rank without having to go through the usual years of the “premiere” category.
The “Danseur Etoile” (“Star Dancer”) ranking is awarded for rare excellence and only a handful of dancers have been directly awarded this title in the past 50 years.
Diop, born in Paris to a Senegalese father and a French mother, is one of five black or mixed-race writers to publish a manifesto in 2020 “on the question of race in opera”.
Moment Paris Opera Tells Diop He’s Now an ‘Etoile’ Dancer
Since 2018, when she began performing at the Paris Opera, Diop has appeared in several star dance roles and played the leading roles in Showgirls, Don Quixote, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” Diop told Le Figaro on Saturday.
“I hope this reassures parents of kids like me who want to go down this career path, but I’m not sure I want to talk about it. I basically work like everyone else.”
Jose Martinez, choreographer of the Paris Opera Ballet, told the paper that Diop’s “artistic quality, charisma and potential” were the reasons for his choice.
“It never occurred to me to appoint him because of the color of his skin,” Martinez said, adding: “It happened, and it’s a very good thing.”