New Zealand dancer among two new “stars” of the Paris Opera Ballet

O’Neill is one of the few foreigners who have received the highest status of “etoile” – Copyright AFP/File JOEL SAGET

The Paris Opera Ballet named New Zealand’s Hannah O’Neill and France’s Marc Moreau on Thursday as two new star dancers, the former being a rare non-French dancer in the world’s oldest ballet company.

O’Neill, 30, is one of the few foreigners to have achieved the highest status of “etoile” in an elite and world-famous troupe that has only opened its ranks to non-French dancers in recent years.

Unlike the Royal Ballet in London or the American Ballet Theater in New York, the vast majority of the 354-year-old Paris Opera Ballet’s 154 dancers are locals.

It was only in 2012 that a dancer from Latin America, Argentinean Ludmila Pagliero, became an etoile, and only in 2021, Sae Eun Pak from South Korea became the first Asian woman to receive this honor.

As usual, O’Neill’s and Moreau’s promotions were announced without warning at the end of a performance—in this case, George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial at the Opéra Garnier.

O’Neill is the daughter of a New Zealand rugby player and a Japanese mother who loves ballet. Her teacher was Marilyn Rowe, who worked with Rudolf Nureyev, former director of the Paris Opera Ballet.

She won some of the biggest international dance prizes, including the Prix de Lausanne and the Americas Youth Grand Prix, before joining the Paris Opera at 18.

Moro, 36, joined us at 17 and became a “premier dancer” in 2019.

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