Clémentine Deluy

  • A tall tale


In ballet, a top-model physique is a distinct handicap. But not for Clémentine Deluy, dancer with the prestigious Pina Bausch company.

A fascination for Sylvie Guillem 
She's a tall, slender brunette. In fact very tall: 1.80m! She has a lovely Mediterranean face with dark eyes and an irresistible smile. A splendid young woman. Despite eight hours of dance daily and numerous rehearsals, Clémentine Deluy found time to give us a long interview between flights when she went back to her home town of Marseille for Christmas. Is the lovely Clémentine a rebel? Stubborn, anyway. She had many obstacles to overcome before she could live her passion for dance, and live it, moreover, in Pina Bausch's legendary troupe. She found her vocation at the age of two, pirouetting around her parents' sitting room in a white tutu even before she started classes with Titus and Elena Pomsar. Next came the Marseille Opéra ballet school, where she worked under Roland Petit. In 1993 she joined the new École Nationale de Danse in Marseille, also under Petit. But Clémentine was already a head taller than her classmates, as was all too visible in the corps de ballet. Already a lofty 1.72m, she suffered badly for her height. She was almost excluded from Roland Petit's piece performed on the Vieux Port, though in the end her teacher let her stay. She was forever being told she would never be a dancer. That classical ballet was out of the question.

From oversized duckling to beautiful swan 
Carolyn Carlson's dance partner Larrio Ekson, actor and dancer of the New York avant-garde scene, advised her to try contemporary dance. Clémentine applied to the Conservatoire in Lyon and there discovered the Merce Cunningham repertory and technique. She spent two years immersed in that. But once again she was faced with a refusal by one of her teachers. She thought of giving up, but her parents' support helped her to persevere. She passed her baccalauréat and at the age of 19, after so many setbacks in France, left for Germany where she applied to the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen. There Clémentine studied under Dominique Mercy, renowned for his work with Pina Bausch at the Tanztheater Wuppertal. Clémentine's hangups evaporated, she learned to relax in her movements and was able to take a step back from her painful experiences. For three years at the Folkwang Hochschule she absorbed the Pina Bausch approach. She danced. She danced in the legendary Rite of Spring. Her studies completed, she met Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola and Luc Dunberry. Juan introduced her to choreographer Sasha Waltz, who recruited her to her company Sasha Waltz and Guests. Clémentine discovered lifts, duets and live improvisation. She danced Dido in the magnificent Dido e Enæ. A splendid start to her career.

Pina Bausch, as ever 
But Clémentine had a dream. One day she took the train to Berlin-Wuppertal and set off to meet Pina, without appointment, to tell her she wanted to work with her. Pina tested her for three weeks in The Rite of Spring, then invited her to join the company. In September 2006 Clémentine was part of the group, working under her idol. She danced in two works with Pina and still dances for the company. Pina's abundant repertory, known as "the treasure", is managed by Robert Sturm and Dominique Mercy. 2013, which marks the Company's 40th anniversary, will be an especially rich year. The archives are ready, there are videos tracking several generations of past dancers in certain roles and several of the ballets are to be staged anew. At the same time, and in the same spirit, Clémentine is part of the CDT trio initiated by choreographer Malou, with Diamano Biggi and Thusnelda Mercy. A lighter format that will travel more easily and which we hope will come to Paris some time.