You’re one of the few dancers at the Paris Opéra
Ballet not trained in France.
Ever since I was a little girl, to me, ballet was the
Paris Opéra. I knew the company from videos in
Japan, where I was born. I went to The Australian Ballet School and, mentally, I was preparing
myself to be in The Australian Ballet, but I didn’t
want to let go of my dream. And it didn’t hurt to
try. I auditioned in Paris, thinking I wasn’t going to
get anything from it. Luckily, I placed fourth and
was awarded a seasonal contract.
Was company life a shock at first?
It took me a while to settle in. At first I wanted to
hide: My French was minimal. It took me maybe
two months to know what was going on in the
studio. There were a handful of foreigners, like
Ludmila Pagliero and Sae Eun Park, but that was it.
How did you take to the French style?
I started to appreciate the style a lot more once I
arrived. There is the aura of all the dancers here,
the classical look and the elegance of this company.
I learned the technical things in everyday class: I
was really intrigued by all of the different accents,
the footwork, the picturesque épaulement.
Your career has skyrocketed during Benjamin
Millepied’s short tenure.
He is very open to all solutions, all ideas, all
You won first prize at the Youth America Grand
dancers, and I’m so grateful for the many oppor-
tunities he has given me. Last year, Swan Lake was
the first ballet I ever had a soloist role in, the pas
de trois, and I couldn’t believe it when I found out
I was also going to do Odette/Odile. Paquita was
also very special—I don’t think I could have done
it without [ballet restorer] Pierre Lacotte’s help.
Prix in 2010, and also won the Prix de Lausanne.
What did competitions do for you?
Since New Zealand is so isolated, it was my
opportunity to have a little bit of recognition, to
see what I was capable of doing. It was a mind-opener. If you want to be seen, you have to seize
the moment, to learn not to be scared.
What is it like to return to YAGP?
I am very much looking forward to performing in New
York, this time as a professional! I will be dancing
Esmeralda with [fellow POB first soloist] Hugo
Marchand. I dance with Hugo a lot in galas, and it’s a
pas de deux we have a lot of fun doing together.
What are your goals for the future?
For the time being, I’m happy to be doing clas-
sical roles. But I’m interested in contemporary
works, too. Giselle is also a dream role—I have
the chance of a 20-year career ahead of me, so
hopefully one of these days! ■ L i t
news | 10 MINUTES WITH...
At 23, Hannah O’Neill is thriving at the Paris
Opéra Ballet. Born to a Japanese mother and a
New Zealander father, she is among a handful of
foreigners in the company, joining in 2011 on a
temporary contract. Under Benjamin Millepied,
she was promoted last fall to the position of
première danseuse (first soloist) after successful
debuts in Swan Lake and Paquita. Americans can
catch this rising star when she performs at the
Youth America Grand Prix Gala, April 28–29, at
the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City.
The Paris Opéra Ballet’s
BY LAURA CAPPELLE
and O’Neill in