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Patrick Dupond danced in No Man's Land (5 March 2021)

Male ballet dancers have heroes. Ever since ballet training. A few of them are timeless, such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. After that, tastes vary, depending on which period you danced in and which style particularly suits you: Anthony Dowell, Peter Martins, Carlos Acosta, or more recently Sergei Polunin and Daniil Simkin.

Last week, one of my dance heroes passed away: Patrick Dupond. A beau garçon with great flair, technique, and the requisite magic. He made it to Étoile (star) at the Paris Opera ballet and was later even appointed its youngest ever director.

The times when, as a teenager, I saw Patrick in classes with the equally legendary dancer Sylvie Guillem at Béjart's XXth-century ballet company in Brussels were a fairytale experience. Times when, thanks to a lot of bluff, luck and help from Dutch dancer Jozef Tari, I simply competed in the studio with stars like Shonach Mirk, Jorge Donn, and John Neumeier during a gala. Patrick, however, was a category higher than the rest. Because of his jumps, dizzying turns, and a young princely look. Plus the gold medal he won at the dreaded ballet competition in Varna on the Black Sea.

A flap jeté he did have (a big jump where he swung his legs apart to an angle of at least 180 degrees) and so he liked to do jazzy dance with a flirtation towards show. You could call him the Patrick Swayze of ballet, the swinging actor (and ex-ballet dancer) who died at the age of 57. By the way, he could clown around too; the fact that he came dressed in a sheet to cheer up our company during early hours in the lobby of a grand hotel in Reggio Emilia showed that heroes are people too.

Funny that I now discover a video of him and Sylvie Guillem in a pas de deux of Rudi van Dantzig's ballet No Man's Land, the same piece I once danced with Anna Seidl. It took a while for me to realise that I recognised the un-ballet-like, awkwardly almost touching choreography as that of Rudi. It was striking that the quirky Dutch choreographer and Sytze Smit's schizophrenic music managed to restrain the two ballet stars, turning frills into serious art.

Patrick got there after a disease suddenly no longer. He was 61 years old. He leaves his partner Leila Da Rocha behind, a female basketball player turned belly dancer for whom he left a life as a homosexual. Feature of a person who went his own way in everything.

Ruben Brugman

writing ex-dancerView Author posts

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