Meet American Ballet Theatre’s Léa Fleytoux

September 22, 2022

When Léa Fleytoux, a corps dancer at American Ballet Theatre, performed Amour in Don Quixote in June, a jolt of electricity ran through the Metropolitan Opera House. The quick-moving, playful, high-jumping character is always a charmer, but Fleytoux took Amour to another level, dancing with a remarkable ease. In a diagonal of jetés, she hovered in the air as if riding on a cloud. Fleytoux came alive onstage, engaging the audience with her eyes, bringing them into the story. She radiated a sense of total command, but also that rare thing in classical ballet, a sense of fun—all in her first featured role.

Company: American Ballet Theatre

Age: 23

Hometown: Paris

Training: Private training with Nicole Chouret, Conservatoire Municipal Camille Saint-Saëns, École Nationale de Danse de Marseille, Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, ABT’s Jacqueline
Kennedy Onassis School

Alternate route: Fleytoux, who was born in Vietnam and adopted and raised in Paris, had hoped to attend the Paris Opéra Ballet School, but she didn’t satisfy its height requirement. So she went to Marseille’s École Nationale de Danse instead. “I went with my mom, and we stayed for three years, until I was 14,” she says, before moving back to Paris to continue her training.

Swift rise: In 2016, Fleytoux competed at the Prix de Lausanne, where Cynthia Harvey, then director of the JKO School, was the classical coach. “She offered me a spot in the top level at the school,” says Fleytoux, who spent three months there before being promoted to ABT Studio Company, then to apprentice in December 2018, and to the corps in June 2019. “Then the pandemic happened.”

Storyteller: “I love being a character in the story, actually interacting with the other characters and with the audience,” she says of Amour. “And of course there’s all the makeup, hair, costume, glitter.” ABT’s stable of classics is what first attracted her to the company.

What her mentor is saying: “Léa is tremendously gifted,” says ABT régisseur Susan Jones. “She absorbs everything you say to her. Every rehearsal shows improvement and progress. And onstage, she lights up!”

Living for the stage: “I love to try different things in rehearsal,” says Fleytoux. “But onstage I do things that I wouldn’t even think of in the studio. And I don’t get stressed, either.”

Taking initiative: Behind that spontaneity lies a lot of preparation. “When I was learning Amour, I watched a lot of videos. I looked into the lore of the character and tried to get all the information I could before making it my own,” says Fleytoux, who ran into Sarah Lane—“She was an amazing Amour at ABT”—at Steps on Broadway and asked if she’d work with her on the role, in addition to Jones and Harvey.

At home: Fleytoux shares two cats, Cleo and Thor, with her partner and fellow ABT corps dancer Jarod Curley.

On being petite: At 5′ 2 1/2″, Fleytoux­ is aware how shorter-than-average dancers risk being typecast into quick, brilliant roles. “I’m also an adagio dancer, and I love to do pas de deux,” she says, “and those often go to the taller dancers. I try to do things so that people don’t notice my height too much. If I have my arms in fifth position, I try to get my fingers higher and not let them drop, so that I match the others. I have to dance bigger.”