Yvette Chauviré, Paris Opéra Ballet Star, Dies at 99

October 19, 2016

Yesterday, the Paris Opéra announced the death of Yvette Chauviré, a dazzling star of its ballet company in the 1940s through the 1960s. She was 99. Throughout her long career at the Paris Opéra Ballet, she was heralded as a muse of then director Serge Lifar, and his neoclassical Suite en Blanc was one of several works created on her.

Yvette Chauviré in 1937. Photo via Le Monde/AFP.

But Chauviré’s fame wasn’t limited to Europe. American audiences got to know her through an acting stint: At just 20 years old, she appeared in the movie La Mort du Cygne about the backstage life of ballet dancers. (The filmed was renamed Ballerina for its 1938 U.S. distribution.)

Even the great Rudolf Nureyev adored Chauviré, and the two danced together frequently in Paris and London. Though she formally retired from the Paris Opéra in 1956, she wasn’t ready to hang up her pointe shoes. The venerable dancer appeared as a guest artist in France and other countries until 1972, when she gave her farewell at the Paris Opéra. When Nureyev became director in 1983, she returned for mime roles. Chauviré was also an esteemed coach for the likes of Sylvie Guillem. (Glimpse into one of their rehearsals here.)

Chauviré’s style was described by critics as “velvet and steel” in this obituary from The New York Times. Thanks to YouTube, today’s dancers are able to watch her in excerpts from her most well known role: Giselle.




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