Part of our new “Five Minutes With…” interview series — let us know who else you’d love to see us interview in the comments!
SF Ballet Principal Dancer Mathilde Froustey was born in Bordeaux, France, and joined the Paris Opéra Ballet at 17. She joined San Francisco Ballet in 2013, and has just danced the lead role in Tomasson’s Giselle. We stole five minutes of her time in between rehearsals to hear what makes her tick…
When did you realize you were serious about ballet?
“Very late, around the age of 12. That’s late in ballet! I actually didn’t enjoy it when I first started; I found it too girly, and the bun hurt my head, but I was kind of hyperactive as a child so I was doing tennis, golf, horseback riding, skiing, violin, theater, gymnastics… I basically did everything. Then there was an incident where I got suspended from my ballet class for waving to a friend, and I was so afraid what my mom would say if she found out that I thought “OK, I’ll focus hard on this for a few weeks to see where it goes”… and here I am. But it wasn’t like I saw ballet on the TV and just fell in love, not at all!”
Your favorite performance you’ve ever seen onstage?
“Being in Paris Opéra Ballet, I basically got to see some of the best ballet in Europe. I saw Manon with Sylvie Guillem, and that was amazing. Manuel Legris has always inspired me with his energy. And I loved watching Maria Kochetkova dance Giselle last month!”
Your favorite role to dance?
“Kitri in Don Quixote, because it’s so joyful yet technical. The character is so fun; she’s quite close to me, so it’s not difficult to interpret! However, since I danced Giselle my heart is broken because I just don’t know which one to choose now.”
Your guilty pleasure?
“Chocolate. Actually, I share that with Maria! Also, cheese and foie gras–that’s my French side. After a good performance, I’ll reward myself with cheese and red wine.”
Your dream job, if you weren’t a dancer?
“Photographer! Specifically, a portrait photographer. I actually used to do that in Paris on days off. Photography can bring such movement.”
Your favorite place in San Francisco?
“SF Ballet of course! It’s where I spend most of my time. I really like the War Memorial Opera House, where we perform–I felt comfortable there from the first time I visited it. Sometimes you can feel lost in theaters. but not this one. I also spend a lot of time outside San Francisco on my days off–places like Big Sur, where I saw the most beautiful sunset of my life.”
Your favorite place in the world?
“I went to India a couple of years ago, and really liked it. I visited Varanasi–the city that’s like Mecca for Hindus– and I fell in love with it, even though I’m not religious. Hanoi in Vietnam is also a great city.”
The one song you can’t stop listening to right now?
“I actually had a whole “Giselle playlist” of these songs while I was performing! “Life On Mars” by David Bowie is particularly special for me. Also, I went to New Orleans last November, where I discovered jazz music–now I want to play trumpet!”
Your favorite movie?
“I really liked Magnolia by P.T Anderson.”
Your favorite book?
“I have a special relationship with Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I love books about powerful, dramatic women.”
Your idea of a perfect day off?
“Well on my last day off, I had brunch on Valencia Street (I live in the Mission district), then went to Oddball Film + Video to do some personal research on ballet. After that, I went climbing at Mission Cliffs. I’m not a natural climber, and the first time I tried it, I had such vertigo–but going back is a good way to beat it!”