“My mother was absent from this birthday. She was saving my brother”

“My mother was absent from this birthday.  She was saving my brother”
Marie-Agnès Gillot is celebrating her seventh birthday in Houlgate (Calvados).

I am celebrating my seventh birthday in this photo. We were in the living room with my maternal grandparents, in Houlgate, in Normandy, in the house where I learned to walk, to ride a bike in the small inner courtyard, and where I live today, from the lockdowns. You can see me next to Yvonne, my grandmother, a tough, funny, cheeky, red-haired woman with a thin nose and big green eyes. In the background, my grandfather, Paul, calm, silent, respected by all. And, near me, Christophe, my only cousin, to whom, as a teenager, I would bring back presents after my rounds, in Moscow or elsewhere.

My mother was absent from this birthday. She saved my brother, Sébastien, who had just been born in Caen with a malformation – a hole will have to be made later in his trachea so that he can breathe without difficulty. The first time I saw him was in the hospital, first behind glass windows, then dressed in a sterile suit which, from the height of my 7 years, seemed to me to be a disguise of an cosmonaut.

The hospital didn’t seem scary or creepy to me. A doctor was fooling around in the hallway. The staff didn’t communicate stress to me, created a quiet atmosphere and I observed how all of them paid kind attention to my brother, the rockstar of the place.

“I took classical lessons, during which there was then neither jealousy nor baseness between dancers. »

My mother, monopolized, had set up a system of taxis to accompany me and pick me up, so that I would be independent. I was very often alone, but without suffering: in the apartment, I was delirious with his discs, I stole his make-up, I tried on his clothes. I didn’t take the opportunity to do anything silly, but one day I passed out on my own. I had a baby tooth ready to fall and a morning to kill. I polished my tooth in front of the mirror in my mother’s closet, tock, tock, tock, tock, without success. Until the moment when I made a sudden gesture and clack! I dropped it and passed out from the pain – dancing hadn’t made me resistant to it yet, at that time…

Read the picture: Article reserved for our subscribers Star dancer Marie-Agnès Gillot bows out

This photo, precisely, was taken when I realized that I wanted to become a dancer. Perhaps to extricate myself from the weight of the drama… I took classical lessons, during which there was then neither jealousy nor baseness between dancers. My teacher, Chantal Ruault, calm, benevolent, enveloping, gave me sweet nothings – which never happened to me afterwards! Even today, recognizing by chance the classical music that she broadcast from cassettes gives me shivers.

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Later, when I left for the Opera dance school in Nanterre and Paris, my family sometimes came to the Opera. My brother, a teenager, liked to follow me backstage and enjoyed the atmosphere. My mother and my grandmother came to attend certain performances. The day I danced Genus, by Wayne McGregor, inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolutionmy mother came out annoyed: “If you move me for that McGregor shit…” My grandmother, she, much more punk, was delighted!

I had photos of them and my loved ones everywhere, pasted on the plywood of my office space, in the bedroom I shared with two other apprentice dancers, and later I would line my dressing room with them, until the mirror where I was tired of always seeing my face. These images from family albums, I don’t surround myself with them today in my adult life. But, in my career, they have undoubtedly helped me to hold on.

out of the box, by Marie-Agnès Gillot, Gründ, 240 pages, €29.95. In bookstores September 15.

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