was born in Paris and trained at the ballet school of the Paris Opéra. He joined the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1980. In 1986 he was appointed Danseur Étoile by then ballet director of the Paris Opéra, Rudolf Nureyev. He performed the great roles of the classic and modern repertoire and appeared in numerous world premières. He was a guest performer with renowned ballet companies around the world and also appeared with his own ensemble, “Manuel Legris et ses Étoiles”. In May 2009, he gave his farewell performance as Danseur Étoile of the Paris Opéra; since then he has given guest performances both at the Paris Opéra and at other theatres in Europe, Asia and America.
Since September 2010 Manuel Legris is Director of the Wiener Staatsballett and Artistic Director of the Ballet Academy of the Vienna State Opera.
Manuel Legris’ repertoire at the Paris Opéra Ballet included the lead roles in works by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Patrice Bart, Maurice Béjart, Trisha Brown, August Bournonville, Vladimir Burmeister, John Cranko, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Mikhail Fokin, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Pierre Lacotte, Harald Lander, Serge Lifar, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Rudolf Nureyev, Roland Petit, Angelin Preljocaj, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, and Rudi van Dantzig. In the course of his career as a dancer, Manuel Legris often appeared in Vienna. He made his debut at the Wiener Staatsoper on 27 January 1985 as Béranger in Rudolf Nureyev’s Raymonda; in 1989 he was seen as Jean de Brienne in Raymonda and as Prince Florimund in Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty. In 1999 he returned to the Wiener Staatsoper to dance in the Saisonschluss-Gala. Other appearances at Wiener Staatsoper include Des Grieux in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon in 1999, the Saisonschluss-Gala in 2001, and the Nureyev Gala in 2003. The solo Angel created for Manuel Legris by Renato Zanella was premiered at the Wiener Staatsoper in 1999. He also performed in Manon with the Wiener Staatsopernballett during a guest appearance in Madrid in 2000. Manuel Legris has also made guest appearances with foreign ballet companies at the Wiener Staatsoper: in 1989 with the Tokyo Ballet, in 2000 with the Paris Opéra Ballet during “ImPulsTanz”. During guest appearances by the Paris Opéra Ballet at other Viennese theatres, he danced in TANZ ’86 at the Theater an der Wien in 1986 and at the Burgtheater as part of “ImPulsTanz” in 2005.
In 2008 he performed in the “ImPulsTanz” ballet gala at the Burgtheater. In 2012 at the Burgtheater he presented the gala Manuel Legris & Guests for this festival in which he also performed. In the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic’s 2001 New Year’s Concert, he danced a solo choreographed by Zanella. Recent performances include The Bat in Peking (National Ballet of China), Pas de deux from Onegin (Gala Tokyo Ballet, 50 years jubilee) and appearances at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, in Beijing and Tokyo.
In his first season as Director of the Wiener Staatsballett, Manuel Legris presented altogether eight premieres, five at the Wiener Staatsoper, and three at the Volksoper Wien. For the enormous successful premiere of Rudolf Nureyev’s version of Don Quixote Manuel Legris himself was responsible for the staging. In his second season together with Elisabeth Plated he staged Pierre Lacotte’s La Sylphide, in the season 2012/2013 he produced Rudolf Nureyev’s The Nutcracker and in the 2013/2014 season Swan Lake. At the multi-part evening Junge Talente des Wiener Staatsballetts at the Volksoper Wien his choreography Donizetti Pas de deux was presented. In March 2016 he presented his very first full-lenght story ballet: his version of Le Corsaire at Wiener Staatsoper.
As dancer he appeared at the Wiener Staatsoper at the opening ceremony of the Vienna Opera Ball 2011. During a tour of the Wiener Staatsballett to Japan in 2012 he created the title-role in Patrick de Bana’s Ludwig II – The Swan King and danced as well as in Roland Petit’s The Bat and in the annual Nureyev Gala 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Prizes and Honours: 1st prize in the ballet competition in Osaka (1984), Prix Nijinsky (1988), Prix Benois de la Danse (1998) Nijinski Award (“Best Dancer in the World, 2000”), Prix Positano (2001); Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (1993), Officier des Arts et Lettres (1998), Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (2002), Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (2006), Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (2009).
2016 he won the People’s Choice Award for his gala performance as Ulrich in Roland Petits Die Fledermaus at the XV. DANCE OPEN International Ballet Festival at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.