A star adored beyond the ballet world, Patrick Dupond, who died on Friday at the age of 61, was a gifted and whimsical French dancer, clinging to the stage despite a fate broken several times. “To please, to seduce, to entertain, to enchant, I have the impression of having never lived except for that”, confided this hypersensitive in 2000 to the newspaper Release.
Patrick Dupond was born on March 14, 1959 in Paris. His father left home very early and his mother is trying to channel the energy of this mischievous and turbulent son by enrolling him in football and judo. Without success. It is in classical dance that he finds his way. Max Bozzoni, former dancer at the Paris Opera and ballet teacher, takes him under his wing. He will be her “teacher for life” until his death in 2003.
In 1970, Patrick Dupond entered the dance school of the Paris Opera. The young boy, who tires his teachers with his indiscipline, will climb all the levels of the venerable institution.
At 16, he entered the ballet as a trainee quadrille. A year later, he asserted his character by entering alone in the prestigious international ballet competition in Varna (Bulgaria). He won the gold medal there. In 1980, it was the consecration: he was named star at the Paris Opera.
His appearance as a young premier with a cat’s gaze, his technical gifts – when he regularly does his bar -, his acting qualities seduce the greatest choreographers: John Neumeier, Roland Petit, Alvin Ailey, Maurice Béjart create for him.
The latter offers him one of his most masterful interpretations, that of the dancer disguised as a capricious prima ballerina in “Salomé” in 1986. His flamboyant, spontaneous and generous personality contributes to making Patrick Dupond a dance star.
Popular outside the circle of ballet enthusiasts in France, he drains crowds during his tours abroad, especially in the United States and Japan, fallen under his spell as a “Parisian titi”.
At 31, after a stint in Nancy at the head of the French Ballet, he took over from Rudolf Nureyev as the dance director of the Paris Opera. From 1990 to 1995, he combined the functions of boss and dancer, before becoming a simple star again.
But in 1997, against a background of dissension with the new direction of the Opera, he was dismissed for “his insubordination and his indiscipline”, in his words. The dancer accepted, without the agreement of his employer, to sit on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival.
30 years of life at the Palais Garnier
After legal action, Patrick Dupond will finally be compensated for his dismissal, but the injury will remain deep. Ending thirty years of life at the Palais Garnier, the episode opens a dark period for the star, in the grip of doubt and loneliness.
In 2000, he was the victim of a serious car accident. His body is broken by 134 fractures and the doctors tell him that he will no longer dance.
On morphine for two years – it will take him a year to detoxify himself – yet he gets up at the cost of daily training with his mentor Max Bozzoni.
A few months later, he is back on the stage, in a musical, “Un air de Paris”. A success, however, without a future.
After having dabbled in cinema (“Dancing Machine” with Alain Delon in 1990), danced with the horses of the elite riders of the Cadre Noir de Saumur, he dabbled in reality TV and notably became a juror in the program “Danse avec the stars ”on TF1 in 2018.
He who constantly oscillates between “all very positive or all very negative”, is hit by another hard blow in 2007 when his house in Dreux, 80 km west of Paris, is destroyed by fire.
In recent years, he had settled in Soissons (north-west of Paris), where he joined the school of choreographer Leïla Da Rocha, with whom he put on shows combining classical and oriental dance.