Curtain stays down at Paris ballet as pension strike goes on

Dancers are fighting a plan that would forge a single national pension system, ending their own centuries-old regime that lets them retire at 42

The Paris Opera on Friday cancelled a performance of the classic ballet "Giselle", disappointing fans who had hoped to see an end to pensions strike action that has put the troupe out of action since early December

Dancers are fighting a plan that would forge a single national pension system, ending their own centuries-old regime that lets them retire at 42.

Beyond that age, they say, it is impossible to meet the exacting standards for works staged by a world-class dance company, after a career that often begins when performers are still in their teens.

The city's two operas houses, at the Palais Garnier and the Bastille, have been forced to cancel around 75 performances since going on strike on December 5, causing losses of more than 15 million euros ($16.6 million).

But unions had largely called off the strikes in recent weeks ahead of new talks with government officials, and last Saturday the Bastille venue opened for a showing of the "Tales of Hoffmann" opera by Offenbach.

Friday's "Giselle" at the Garnier was supposed to be its inaugural ballet of the year, and dress rehearsals were held as recently as Thursday and again on Friday morning.

But an Opera employee told AFP on condition of anonymity that a hard core wanted to keep up the strike, saying the government has not responded to their demands to keep their regime, introduced by king Louis XIV in 1698.

Officials had already offered to apply the new pension rules to new employees only, but so far that hasn't been enough.

Dancers have also taken their protest to the street, giving a free performance of parts of "Swan Lake" on the steps of the Opera Garnier on Christmas Eve.

And on January 1, musicians played several classics as well as "La Marseillaise," France's national anthem, on the steps of the Bastille.