It’s not every day that a 13-year-old boy from Normandy France gets accepted into the National Dance School of the Paris Opera. But it is a day that was destined for our inspirational and super accomplished M8 of November, Benji Poirier.
What ensued was years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication that took young Benji to the world's greatest dance schools and built himself an enviable career in the elite world of Ballet.
Benji has literally danced his way around the globe and has been living out his dream as soloist and lead in the Compañía Nacional de Danza in Madrid, Spain since 2014. His passion for his craft is palpable, his love for travel and people just as exuberant. Benji’s talent, undeniable.
Plié, chassé, jeté!
- Benjamin, you have been dancing since you were 6 years old. How did you realise it was more than a hobby for you?
When I got accepted in Paris Opera Ballet school. The audition was so strict and lasted 2 days. When I got selected among all those little boys, who’s dream it was to join one of the best ballet schools in the world, that’s when I realised that it was a big deal.
- What kind of challenges did you face as a young boy in a dance school?
Before I joined the Paris Opera, I got teased a lot, especially by boys in my school. I was very proud to be known as the little dancer and to have such a passion for dance, but I guess people didn’t understand it and tend to be jealous.
When I got accepted in Paris, I was 13 years old, and I had to join a boarding school. I would leave my family on the Sunday afternoon, take the train to Paris, the metro to school and I would go back to Normandy the Friday afternoon. Every Sunday, my heart would break to leave my parents on the platform. It was very hard, but it matured me very early on.
- You have been travelling the world for your art, from Leipzig to Mexico, and now Madrid. Do you think about a career in your homeland France?
I left France when I was 15, when I went to English National Ballet School. Once I had experienced travelling the world, I just wanted to keep travelling. I tried to audition for the ballet company in Bordeaux, but I didn’t get accepted. That’s when I joined Compañía Nacional de danza, in Madrid and I have made my life here for the past 9 years. I love to go back to France to visit my family, but I don’t see myself working there.
- Which experience or show was a turning point for you and why?
I danced several solos from Uwe Scholz, William Forsythe, Nacho Duato or Jiri Kylian who are great choreographers, but my biggest challenge was dancing Apollo by Balanchine, which is a role only danced by first dancers. I was quite proud of that one.
- Do you think it is easier for a young boy to join a dance school these days?
Yes, definitely. I think people are less judgmental about boys wanting to become a ballet dancer. Billy Elliot was a key movie for most. What a great movie! But let us not forget that it is hard work, especially for a boy to work on his body and go through puberty at the same time.
- What would the grown-up Benjamin Poirier have to say to “petit Benji”?
I would tell him that being different from the other kids and having feelings for other boys is not a bad thing, don’t be hard on yourself. You will meet the right people that will become the man and the artist you are today. Trust that everything you will go through will be worth it!
- The list of your achievements and repertoire is jaw-dropping. Congrats on a beautiful career! What’s your next dream?
My next dream is to find something I was as passionate about as I was about dance, after I stop dancing. When your whole life has only been plié, tendu, grand jeté, it’s a little scary and intimidating to find out what comes next.
Photography by Erick Monterossa.