Standing at a towering six feet six inches tall, Fabrice Calmels now holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest ballet dancer in the world. The budding model may deviate from the image that conjures at the thought of a principal danseur; however, that is exactly what he is.
Born and raised in Colombes, France to parents of mixed racial backgrounds, Calmels started dancing at three-years-old after his younger sister’s ballet instructor converted him from sideline observer to the only male dancer in her class. Calmels originally treated ballet merely as an extracurricular activity, but it wasn’t long before his potential became too obvious to ignore. At age nine, he auditioned for the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet – one of the top three ballet schools in the world – under encouragement from his then long-time teacher. He was accepted and began training relentlessly with the academy. At age 15, Calmels was decidedly bewitched by dance.
But while his skill blossomed, so did his height. At 17, puberty brought with it more challenges than Calmels was prepared for. The Frenchman grew at an alarming rate, taking on at least one-inch per month according to the dancer. The growth spurt put immense pressure on his muscles, throwing off his technique and center of gravity. Calmels was subsequently forced to relearn over a decade of training.
When he did not land a position with the Paris Opera Ballet, Calmels turned his sights abroad. A tumultuous journey took him from Philadelphia to Chicago and back to Paris before returning to Chicago on a whim with no guaranteed dance opportunity. The late co-founder of the Joffrey Ballet, Gerald Alpino, swiftly took Calmels under his wing, making him his mentee and appointing him to principal dancer within a year of joining the company. The Joffrey’s reputation for not blinking an eye at unconventional dancers boded well for Calmels. He danced leading roles in Apollo and Othello before Versace tapped the star for a 2016 campaign photographed by Bruce Weber and overseen by Donatella Versace herself. He appeared in the campaign alongside supermodel Karlie Kloss. Most recently, the dancer was featured in W Magazine.
Calmels now resides in Chicago and splits his efforts between dance rehearsal and modeling as a part of the IMG roster.