If you don’t know what an étoile is, the direct translation means star, but it is a position at the Paris Opera that surpasses all others. A position that surpasses the American equivalent of principal dancer, this position and recognition is something very few dancers will ever achieve, or even come close to, especially those who are not French. These “stars” are the Crown Jewels of the Paris Opera Ballet. Throughout the history of ballet, these stars have left their mark on roles, had roles created for them, and assumed some of the most influential and powerful directorships around the world. The Paris Opera, the first ballet theatre, has never been shy about putting women in power, whether that was the school director or the director of dance. This year the Paris Opera sparkles even brighter as it is led by former étoile Aurélie Dupont. This season at the Paris Opera, the ranks are being filled with diversity, something that was probably not even imaginable 20 years ago; an Asian Étoile (Sae Eun Park) and multiple dancers of color being promoted through the ranks (Osiris Onambele Ngono, Isaac Lopes Gomes, Jack Gasztwott, Guillaume Diop, Hohyun Kang, Chun Wing Lam, Letizia Galloni, just to name a few)
Here is a history of the étoile status provided by the Paris Opera.