Rebel ballet dancer and TV judge suddenly quits Paris Opera

One of the best-known male dancers at the Paris Opera, who has won a big following outside ballet for working as a judge on the French equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing, on Wednesday quit the company after months of tension.

Rebel ballet dancer and TV judge suddenly quits Paris Opera
Ballet dance and TV judge Francois Alu. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Francois Alu, 28, known for his rugged physique and virtuoso leaps, will leave the Paris Opera so he has “complete professional freedom”, both parties said in a joint statement published by the opera.

The news was unexpected, coming just seven months after the Paris Opera named Alu an etoile (star), its highest-ranking title, after intense pressure from ballet fans for the promotion.

But there has also been tension over his highly publicised role as a judge on Danse avec les stars (Dance with the Stars), the French equivalent of the smash hit BBC show in Britain Strictly Come Dancing.

“I have decided to regain my complete professional freedom in order to be able to fully realise my artistic aspirations,” Alu said in the statement.

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

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

Alu has also been touring France with a solo show. But to the chagrin of his fans he never danced at the Paris Opera since being named “etoile”, which is unprecedented.

His departure comes at a turbulent time for the Paris Opera ballet, with former dancer Jose Martinez in December set to take over from Aurelie Dupont as head of the company.

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

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Ballroom dancing gender row puts Paris university in a spin

One of France's best-known universities found itself at the centre of a gender identity row Friday after reprimanding its ballroom dancing teacher over her insistence on male and female dance roles.

Ballroom dancing gender row puts Paris university in a spin

Sciences Po Paris said it had summoned the instructor, who has taught for eight years at the university, after complaints from students about her “discriminatory” language.

The 53-year-old teacher decided to quit, blasting the prestigious institution for wanting her to replace the words “men” and “women” with “leader” and “follower”.

“I say women on one side and men on the other because in dance there is a role for the man and a role for the woman,” Valerie, the teacher, told AFP, asking to be identified by her first name only.

“That’s the reason that we separated,” she said. 

The incident has quickly become a debate-show topic and the latest incident in a bitter inter-generational culture war in France over questions of gender and racial identity.

Critics slammed Sciences Po for being “woke”, but the university defended its policy in the name of being inclusive for people who do not conform to binary male-female gender roles.

“We received a complaint from a student… backed up by several of them, according to which this teacher made remarks during her class that were discriminatory in nature in terms of the role of men in dance,” a spokesperson for the university told AFP.

“We asked her to desist from doing so and she did not wish to and decided not to continue with her classes.”

Speaking to the Parisien newspaper, a student who had taken Valerie’s classes said she was seen as “old school” and had made the class “feel uneasy.”

Valerie told the same paper that “there was a notion of seduction” in ballroom dancing between a couple and “honestly two women dancing together, I find it ugly.”

“They’re censoring me. I won’t bow down to the dictatorship. Forget about being politically correct. What’s next? Swan Lake with a hairy swan?”