When did you start dancing?
I started at the age of 10 in my hometown Dax, near Bordeaux in southwest France.
I was hyperactive so my mother had me do as many activities as I possibly could (tennis, swimming, violin, theatre, gymnastics, horse riding, skiing…) I started ballet because I had a bad back and my mother wanted me to stand straight. I hated it when I first started.
Which dancer inspired you most as a child?
Which dancer do you most admire?
Gelsey Kirkland because beyond her amazing talent, her courage and her honesty impressed me as well.
What’s your favourite role?
When I danced Don Quixote for the first time I thought it was Kitri, when I danced Giselle for the first time I thought it was Giselle and now that I just danced Juliet she is my new favourite. In fact I think I’m a mix of those three women: hot-headed, kind of crazy and romantic !
What’s your favourite ballet to watch?
Rite of Spring by Pina Bausch because even if I’ve seen this ballet many times I’m still stunned by its strength.
Who is your favourite choreographer?
Nureyev for the depth of his demanding choreographies. Robbins for the intuitive way of moving he created.
Who is your favourite writer?
I’d rather tell you my three favourite books: Longtemps by Erik Orsenna, Le rouge et Le Noir by Stendhal and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
Who is your favourite theatre or cinema director?
Pedro Almodovar… Lars Van Trier.
Who is your favourite singer?
Jacques Brel. One of his most famous songs is called Mathilde; Scott Walker adapted it in English. Oh yes, and the Rolling Stones!
What is your favourite book?
Already answered that (see above!)
What is your favourite film?
In California, the first feature film by Charles Redon… it’s about him and me.
Which is your favourite city?
I have some parts of my heart in three cities: Paris, San Francisco, and Vieux-Boucau, the ocean village I grew up and where my father is mayor.
What do you like most about yourself?
I’m very curious in general especially about travelling, meeting new people and about every kind of art. I’m always eager to live new adventures.
What do you dislike about yourself?
I have a hard time to keep in contact with the people I like… family, friends… I’m in my own world. Also, I have a complicated relationship with my body but I think it’s a ballerina thing!
What was your proudest moment?
When I took the plane two years ago to move to San Francisco. It was very difficult to leave my family and friends, to leave Paris and to leave my comfort zone within Paris Opera Ballet. I cried a lot at the airport and on the plane too. It was difficult to arrive in a new city, to join a new company and to build everything again but I’m very proud of myself that I did it.
When and where were you happiest?
My first year of boarding school in Ballet National de Marseille. I was 14 years old and I felt very free and adult for the first time.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing the people I love. Having an accident and not being able to dance any more. The extreme right party (Nationalist Party) winning an election in France or in Europe.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would change the way I used to consider my body and how to work with it in the studio at the beginning of my career. I would have been nicer to myself.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A few years ago, when I organized a performance of Don Quixote in the village my father is the mayor of. My father wasn’t very much involved in my practice of dance when I was a kid and I was very moved when we shared this dance project.
What is your most treasured possession?
The unconditional love of my family and friends. The support of the French audience during twelve years I spent at the Paris Opera, the welcome of the San Francisco audience… and the Hasselblad film camera I just bought.
What is your greatest extravagance?
It’s not considered as an extravagance in France but it seems to be here the US: I’m always topless at the beach – I hate tan lines!!!
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Sometimes etiquette can stop you from being yourself, make you fearful and prevent you from moving forward.
On what occasion do you lie?
I can lie in the exact same way everybody does: to protect someone I love or to protect myself. Most of the time it turned out to be a bad idea.
If you hadn’t been a dancer what would you have liked to be?
Photographer, and that one of the things I intend to do when I stop dancing!
What quality do you most value in a friend?
I think it’s not easy to be my friend, so I’ll say indulgence. I’m very lucky that my friends are understanding. I also like them to be outside the ballet world, which is very enriching for me.
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
I like my partners to be passionate and devoted to dance. I also need to work in a peaceful and pleasant environment.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Jean Moulin and all the women and men who resisted Nazism in France during WW2.
Which living person do you most admire?
Doctor Denis Mukwege who reconstructs women’s bodies (mostly genitals totally tortured) of thousands of women savagely raped during the conflict in Central Africa. He has been awarded many international prizes. You should check his Wikipedia page and his hospital website.
What do you most dislike?
People who always complain.
What talent would you most like to have?
I would have liked to be a creator and not only an interpreter. I would also have liked to be gifted in learning languages.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Paris in California!
How would you like to die?
I don’t intend to.
What is your motto?
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
Mathilde Froustey – a biography
Mathilde Froustey was born in Bordeaux, France, and received her training at the Marseille National School of Ballet and Paris Opéra Ballet School. At age 17, she joined Paris Opéra Ballet, where she was a soloist. She joined San Francisco Ballet as a principal dancer in 2013.
At San Francisco Ballet, Froustey has danced principal roles in Tomasson’s Giselle (Giselle), Nutcracker (Grand Pas de Deux Ballerina and Sugar Plum Fairy), Caprice, The Fifth Season, and Trio; Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet; Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique; Lifar’s Suite en Blanc; Makarova’s (after Petipa) Kingdom of the Shades, Act II from La Bayadère; and Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands and Shostakovich Trilogy (Symphony #9 and Chamber Symphony).
In addition, she has danced lead roles in Cranko’s Onegin, Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias, Nureyev’s La Bayadère, Don Quixote (Kitri), Nutcracker, Raymonda, and Swan Lake; Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, Balanchine’s Serenade, Lacotte’s Paquita and La Sylphide; McGregor’s L’Anatomie de la Sensation and Genus; and works by Serge Lifar and Roland Petit, among others.
She was honoured with a Paris Ballet Donation Foundation dance prize and a gold medal at the Varna International Competition, both in 2004; the Ballet2000 dance prize in 2007; and Danza & Danza’s best foreign dancer award in 2013.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.