François was 9 and sitting in his family’s living room when he saw Patrick Dupont perform on TV. As if struck by lightning, the boy found his calling.
“It was all jumps and turns everywhere.To me, it wasn’t “ballet”. What I saw was… something like gymnastics. »
Now 22, and First Dancer of the Opéra de Paris, Alu cultivates precision, hard work and rigor as key notions in a life dedicated to his craft. Whether he’s on the Opéra stage (since 2004), improvising a hip-hop routine – or maybe just mixing up the two genres in a single impetus, Alu’s entire existence is linked to dance in every shape and form.
On stage, the athletic dancer inspires choreographers and audiences alike. His interpretations never fail to set the imagination on fire. His astonishing physical strength and charismatic interpretation have made him a leading figure in the dance world.
François Alu, when it comes to dancing, you’re not so classical…
Like a lot of kids my age, I started learning hip-hop watching videos on YouTube. I wasn’t just into the dancing itself, or the moves. The whole universe appealed to me: the music, the clothes and, above all, the hip-hop culture, a culture of ingenuity. I’ve taken some classes, though not as many as I would’ve liked to, so I keep practicing in my free time.
While working on my choreography for “La Sylphide”, my first piece, the phrasing found in hip-hop was a big inspiration, in terms of quality and feel, especially the slow-motion moves. Ballet can benefit from many influences. I really try to balance the way moves are connected to one another, and the very different body languages which ballet and hip hop respectively call for. It’s an ideal base to enrich the body’s vocabulary – both visually and artistically.
You’ve worked on several projects with Julien Benhamou.
Julien has a unique ability: he can capture magical momentums in a matter of seconds. We’re a dynamic duo: we think the picture together, putting our ideas in common. He’s in charge of the technical side while I focus on the physical side, but we both take each other’s vision into account. We learn constantly from each other’s eye. Our collaboration revolves around creativity, exchange and, above all, trust.
Like most dancers, your life is all work and self-discipline, training and rehearsals…
Training is a big part of it. To be in shape, you need to stay healthy. Constantly. When I’m « off work », I’m still creating, rehearsing for galas, cycling or swimming to make sure I can keep up. I also read, which helps me dig deeper into my characters’ minds, or into the mood of a piece. It also allows me to understand the way a story is constructed. Which will soon come in handy, since I’m thinking about directing a danced short-film.
Rigor is what gets things done, it’s one the main values I’ve injected into my life. And it’s something I do have to work on daily, because it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have a lot of ideas, and my mind tends to escape in every possible direction instead of putting all those ideas into shape. I think a performer has to be inventive and artistically independent, in order to develop a personal vision of things at the same time. And that part comes much more naturally to me!
The type of dance, per se, is not my primary concern at this point. Today, as an artist, it’s about stories being told and messages getting delivered. I don’t want to move just for the sake of it. Movement is what got me started before I understood that the creative, theatrical aspect of dancing, more than the athletic one, was what pushed me forward.
Clothing: style or function?
Working with LECLAIREUR on this photoshoot was truly incredible. Those kind of textures and fabrics were completely new for me, and I loved the loose, urban mood. It was a pleasure wearing clothes with such refined and uncommon fabrics.
Musical non-classic encounter with François Alu
Eminem : Lose Yourself
Tchaikovsky : Le lac des cygnes, Acte VI
Eliott Moss : Slip
Dropkillers : Batman
Stravinksky: Sacre du printemps
Desiigner : Panda
Max Richter recomposed: L’été
Dooz Kawa: Soirée Noire
Prokofiev: Roméo et Juliette
Alt J: Bloodflood
Schubert: Ave Maria
David Lang: André Auria last part