Aurélie Dupont entered the school of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1983 at age ten. In 1989 when she was sixteen the company hired her as a corps member, or coryphée. After two years came the promotion to sujet. At the end of three more years, about 35 dancers were eligible to compete for the further promotion that only one or two would achieve. Dupont emerged successfully with the new rank of première danseuse. (Image immediately above from the cover of a 2010 documentary, both worshipful and illuminating.)
She received the Opera Ballet's ultimate promotion to étoile at the relatively early age of 25 in 1998. Dupont later explained that visiting choreographer Pina Bausch had shown her the path from technical mastery to emotional expressiveness, which was also the path from première danseuse to étoile.
Above, with Manuel Legris appearing last year in Jiří Kylián's Le Verrou (The Bolt) – based on the 1778 painting by Fragonard below.
In 2015 Aurélie Dupont will be 42 – mandatory retirement age for all dancers at the rigid, ancient, glamorous institution she belongs to, no exceptions.