Widespread strikes across France in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping pension reform plans began in the first week of December, 2019 and have found their way into various sectors of France’s industries. As of Tuesday, December 24, even transport workers remained on strike. Many commuters were stranded, unable to visit their families on for Christmas Day.
Among others participating in the protest are museums and operas.
The Paris Opera, France’s primary opera and ballet company has cancelled dozens of shows since December 5, joining numerous public sector workers in their walkouts. For ballet dancers, who begin their careers at ages as young as eight, early retirement and pension plans are a blessing. However, in the face of Macron’s reforms, they stand to lose these benefits – pushing their retirement from the age of 42 to 64.
“We start classical dance at the age of 8. By our late teenage years, we’re getting recurring injuries,” said ballerina Héloïse Jocqueviel to France 24. “Once you reach the age of 42, you’re already suffering from arthritis, stress fractures, hernias and in some cases titanium hips.”
“It’s hard to maintain a level of excellence until 42, but 64 seems impossible,” added Jocqueviel.
In protest, the Paris Opera took to the streets to perform the popular ballet Swan Lake (above). Dressed in white tutus, the ballerinas were accompanied by a group of musicians from the Paris Symphony Orchestra while hundreds of onlookers provided an audience.
At the forecourt of the Palais Garnier, a massive opera house that was built for the Paris Opera in the 1870s, the dancers had put up large posters reading “Culture in danger” behind them before they performed.