After shining for over 10 years at the San Francisco Ballet, Mathilde Froustey embarks on new adventures. This Principal dancer, trained in part at the Paris Opera, leaves San Francisco to return to the Bordeaux Opera and get closer to her native Southwest. She opens up candidly about the life of a dancer and mother
Hello Matilde. You are a prima ballerina and you also have a 20-month-old baby boy. How do you literally bridge the gap between the demands of dancing and being a parent?
San Francisco Ballet has never stopped its dancers from being moms. More than 20 years ago, 3-star dancers already had children and there was even a biography published on these three women (Balancing Acts, by Lucy Grey). Of course, this does not mean that it is easy to combine these two roles. Right now, I don’t feel comfortable anywhere and guilty everywhere: if I’m dancing, I want to be with my son, if I’m with him, I feel like I should train more. I bring him to the studio trying to combine the two but it’s complicated. Also after he was born, I got back to work very quickly (I was still breastfeeding) when I probably needed a little more psychological support. But he is growing and it will gradually improve, I think.
On this subject, the public is very eager for information on dancers’ lives, in particular their personal life, once the curtain falls. It’s a job that appears a bit magical from the outside.
For several years now, dancers have been posting a lot of information on social networks. It’s a way to connect with the public and show them the other side of the mirror: the less glamorous one but also all the efforts and emotions. Or simply how a day is developing.
A new career now awaits you across the Atlantic. What are you hoping for?
It’s a new challenge, another style…I’m going back to Europe. I would like to improve my skills again and again as a dancer, develop new characters, and other ballets, then gradually prepare for my reconversion. Maybe a leadership position?
You spent ten years at San Francisco Ballet (SFB). What is your big takeaway?
SFB was a great experience. I have studied and then worked since I was 15 at the Paris Opera, a venerable institution. There, the tradition is to assimilate the style of already accomplished dancers: we want to become like “Dorothée Gilbert” or like “Aurélie Dupont”. At SFB, it’s a different process: you create your own style. Helgi Tomasson hired me and immediately told me: “Here you are now going to develop Mathilde Froustey”. It was a real freedom that he gave me. I could decide what style to give my characters. I could even vary them from day to day. The public resonates with this process.
What were your favorite roles?
I will say “Giselle, Don Quixote, and Romeo and Juliet”. These roles taught me not only to polish my technique but also to refine my character. The technique develops faster at the beginning, then when the body begins to suffer more, it is the characters who take the lead. Gisele’s tears don’t have the same acrimony when one dances it at 20 or at 40. The emotional baggage of life accumulates and is very useful. We draw from it what we seek to convey to the public.
Are you talking about the body that suffers? How do we deal with this pain?
Pain is the dancer’s barometer. Without pain, it means that you don’t push yourself enough. Too much pain and we can’t dance anymore. It is a standard of daily value. Every morning in class, all the dancers are a little rusty and sore from the day before. But we do not panic: we relax little by little, then the energy returns.
How are you leaving San Francisco Ballet?
It saddens me to leave all my friends behind but I go with a light heart and an immense feeling of gratitude. Helgi (Tomasson) taught me a lot. In Paris, I learned to become a dancer. At SFB, I became myself.
Merci Mathilde Froustey