On Saturday, the Paris Opera appointed 23-year-old French dancer Guillaume Diop to its Star category, making him the first Black artist to achieve this top rank in this company.
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The promotion, which was announced as a surprise on stage at the end of Diop's performance of "Giselle" in Seoul, propels him to this ballet's highest rank without going through the "Premiere" category for several years, as it is usually the case.
"I did not expect this at all," Diop told the Le Figaro newspaper. Jose Martinez, the Paris Opera Ballet's dance director, stressed that Diop’s artistic qualities, charism, and potential had been the reasons for his choice.
"I like that the star nominations are a surprise. Diop has returned today from Korea super happy. His parents even went to wait for him at the airport," Martinez pointed out, adding that Diop’s talent dazzles despite his young age.
The tweet reads: "For you tonight, thanks to Opera books, a Mazurka dance to share the amazing talent of Guillaume Diop. And a few seconds of the impeccable Valentine Colasante and Paul Marque, whose name speaks for himself."
Born in Paris to a Senegalese father and a French mother, Diop began studying ballet at four years old. In 2008, he entered the Municipal Conservatory Gustave Charpentier in Paris.
Ten years later, he started in the Paris Opera, where he has danced in several Star roles, including lead performances in La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, and Romeo and Juliet ballets.
When the Black Lives Matter movement started in 2020, he co-authored the manifesto "On the Racial Question in Opera,” which criticized some implicit discriminatory practices in the institution, concerning terminology and props, for example.
"I hope Diop’s appointment will inspire young black dancers who dream of entering the Paris Opera but think they do not place in the company," Martinez said, stressing that the future of the Paris Opera depends on young talents like Diop.