There are many parallels that you can draw between fashion and dance (at least, this writer often does). They're both a means of self expression, there are more styles than one can possibly count, and like a perfectly executed ensemble or an epic ballet, the most beautiful are those that look effortless. Of course, those who can master both these arts earn high marks in our book. Which is why we were thrilled to host Dorothée Gilbert, principal dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet and current face of Repetto, at R29 HQ.
The French ballerina was in town to perform at the gala for the Youth America Grand Prix (which, if you're not familiar with the dance competition, we recommend you rent the documentary First Position stat), and we were lucky enough to get to know Gilbert away from the stage makeup and spotlights. Dressed in an ensemble as elegant as pointe shoes and a classic tutu, but much more comfortable, the Hermès-loving dancer divulged info on her favorite fashion labels, beauty fixes, guilty pleasures, and what it's been like to add "model" to her repertoire. After meeting the ballerina, we had no doubts that this more recent on-camera role probably nestled in quite naturally next to Juliet, Giselle, and Cinderella. Read on for more.
"I started when I was 7 years old. When I was young, my mother played the piano, and I was always dancing, so my parents put me into classes in Toulouse, and I liked it so I started dancing more. I entered the Toulouse conservatory of dance, and at 10 years old, I saw a performance of Giselle, and it was there that I understood that [dancing] could be a job. I said to my mother after the performance, 'That is what I want to do.'
[My parents] are not dancers at all. So, they tried to find out which school was the best in France and they took me to the Paris Opera. I auditioned to get in at 11 years old but I didn’t enter..."
You didn’t make it the first time?
"No. But at 12 years old I made it. From 12 to almost 17 years old."
Giselle seems to be a special role for you, but what are other favorite parts that you've performed?
"I liked Romeo and Juliet. A lot. Onegin from Cranko. It’s from a book by Pushkin: Eugene Onegin. Manon, also, from MacMillan, the choreographer. I like when there is a story to tell to the audience. Not only technique."
Many women may say that a dancer's body is "ideal." What are your thoughts on this? Is it all it's cracked up to be?
"I don’t know, it depends. There is a beautiful way for ballet to build the muscle, because it’s not like bodybuilding where the muscles are really round. It’s more in the extension. For me, the perfect body? I don’t know. The perfect bodies belong to girls who are doing the high jumps. They are a bit similar to ballerinas because their muscles are very long and there is not just one part of the body that’s strong but everywhere."
How do you keep fit (besides dancing, obviously)?
"Sometimes I do gyrotonics. Similar to Pilates but it’s on a machine. It’s more for the upper body. The movement is more rounded than Pilates."
You mentioned dancers’ long, lean bodies...do you think that kind of body is attainable for every woman? Is there something that we can do to create long, lean dancer muscles?
"If they take dance lessons and classes, why not?! I think we are also like that because we are doing hours of dance a day. One class a day is not enough. We are really doing at least four hours of rehearsals. But it gives you good posture. Dance is always good for the posture of the body. And it’s better to do it one time a week than not at all."
As far as your diet, what do you eat on a daily basis to stay strong?
[Laughs] "I don’t do diets. I’m very lucky; I’m naturally skinny, and we do lots of hours of rehearsals, so I get to eat cheeseburgers...we were at Burger King just before. I don’t really have a diet. My mother, she didn’t do any sports and she was not really skinny but naturally thin."
Do you have a favorite guilty pleasure that you can’t give up? Besides Burger King...
"I like sweets. For me, I always love Nutella. I eat what I want, but in a good quantity. It’s reasonable."
"I love being elegant and chic. Yeah, that’s all. I like Yves Saint Laurent women. A little bit street but elegant. Not very eccentric. For some days it’s okay, but for a party or something like that, I like being elegant."
Other than dance clothes, what's your day-to-day uniform?
"Something like what I’m wearing today. I like Zadig et Voltaire for the top and Repetto shoes. I was always wearing Repetto because they're very comfortable, and when you’re wearing pointe shoes all day, it’s so nice to be very comfortable at home. And for pants, I have a skinny jean or like slouchy pants.
Who are your favorite designers that you usually go to?
"I like Chanel. Yves Saint Laurent. I like things from different brands. I don’t like only one. I like the jacket of Chanel and the suits from Yves Saint Laurent that are for men but on women."
What's the one item in your closet that you wear the most?
"My bag. My Hermès. I love Hermès and Chanel."
Good choices, for sure! Tell us about your involvement with Repetto. How did you get involved with the brand?
"They contacted me about two years ago now and they asked me to come to their office in Paris. I met the director, and he told me that he wanted to work with me. [They had worked with] Marie Agnès Gillot before me, and I never thought that they would call me. I was surprised and happy. And now we have a very good relationship because they are very kind to me and we’ve spoken together a lot for the collection of dancewear. I tried to help them with a bit of the designs and to think about what dancers would like to wear to warm up."
Being a model is quite different from being a dancer. What did you find to be the biggest difference?
"They took me because I’m a dancer. So, I’m also dancing in the commercial. But, I like modeling. It’s nice because you enter studios and they take hours to make you beautiful. I meet some photographers [Laughs]...(Ed note: Gilbert's boyfriend is photographer James Bort. We know — cute!) When you’re a little girl you dream about being a model and doing publicity or things like that, and this dream has come true for me with this brand."
Also, dancers' stage-makeup routines are quite intense. What do you do to take care of your skin?
"I love Shu Uemura oil to take off the makeup. For me, it’s the best. After, I like Avène products for cream and lotion. I have also Shu Uemura things for the hair."
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be doing now?
"Ah! I don’t know! I love acting. Because when we dance, we are acting with our bodies to music. Perhaps I would like to act in movies or in theater."
Photographed by Bek Andersen