Tribute: Patrick Dupond, ex artistic director and principle dancer of Ballet Opéra de Paris, dies at 61 years old
The former Paris Opera principal dancer and artistic director Patrick Dupond died on Friday at the age of 61 from a “devastating illness”, according to his life and work partner and Leïla Da Rocha.
Patrick Dupond started dancing from very early age, as his mother wanted to channel the energy of this mischievous and turbulent boy after the death of his father. Ballet became the solution and then his passion, devotion, vocation.
Max Bozzoni, former dancer at the Paris Opera took this exceptionally gifted boy under his wing and became his “teacher for life” until Bozzoni's death in 2003.
With the help of his mentor and his own god given talent and hard work, Patrick Dupond was destined to be a star.
In 1970, he entered the dance school of the Paris Opera, 10 years later in 1980, he became the star dancer of Paris Opera Ballet, and another 10 years later in 1990 he became dance director of the Paris Opera Ballet, succeeding Rudolph Nureyev, after the later died of aids, a post which he held for 5 years.
During his brilliant dancing career, he has danced in all classic repertoire from Swan Lake to Don Quixote, and after becoming the star dancer of Paris Opera Ballet, he has worked with the greatest choreographers, including Maurice Béjart, Roland Petit, John Neumeier, Alvin Ailey as well as Nureyev himself.
Patrick Dupond not only fulfilled the ultimate dream of a ballet dancer, but also became one of the most adored stars to his public, in France as well as internationally.
In 1990, he also became an actor, playing in the thriller film Dancing machine, opposite Alain Delon and American actress Tonya Kinzinger.
But just when everything looked rosy in this star's life, it started to change color, the color of blue.
In 1997, Patrick Dupond was dismissed from Ballet Opéra de Paris as he had different vision of its future than that of the management. Although he accepted this decision with grace and was finally compensated, this incident left a profound wound in him.
But the worse had yet to come. In 2000, he was the victim of a serious car accident, after 134 stitches, all doctors announced to him: he can never dance again.
For Patrick Dupond, dancing is everything. When he was 17 years old, he told the journalist who interview him that he wanted to live for dance.
Life became completely black for him.
He sank into depression and made friends with alcool. But the dance in him did not die. Again with the help of Max Bozzoni, his eternal mentor, Patrick Dupont started daily training and was able to dance again in a few month and even went back to stage shortly.
But it was not until he met Leïla Da Rocha, a professional basket ball player converted into an oriental dancer who founded her own dancing school, that Patrick recovered his joie de vivre. He noved to Soissons, near Paris to be with Leïla and they run the dancing school together ever since.
For the general public in France, Patric Dupont became well known after he became a member of the jury for the reality show Danse avec les stars in 2018 and 2019.
Leïla Da Rocha has described the departure of her love poetically: “Patrick Dupond s’est envolé ce matin pour danser avec les étoiles”. (Patrick Dupond has taken off to dance with the stars.)