Alumni Spotlight: Elaine O’Malley Cotillard
At Marin Ballet: 1989-1998
Elaine’s love affair with ballet started at age three, when her grandmother took her to see The Nutcracker. She recalls, “I knew then and there I wanted to be a ballerina.” At age nine, her mother enrolled her at Marin Ballet, where she would spend the next eight years studying with notable teachers such as Laurie Klein, Maria Vegh, Shannon Bresnahan, and Svetlana Afanasieva.
Some things never change. Elaine has fond memories of the excitement of Nutcracker season—learning next year’s choreography in anticipation of advancing, feverishly studying Clara’s variation in the wings with her classmates, and getting her first opportunity to wear pointe shoes onstage in the party scene. Favorite Marin Ballet Nutcracker role? “Dewdrop Fairy,” she says, “I practiced and practiced to master those fouettes on stage!”
Following graduation, Elaine underwent the dancer’s rite of passage—the audition tour—ultimately landing at the National Ballet of Canada thanks to a helpful nudge from then newly appointed Marin Ballet artistic director Cynthia Lucas and, later, the Dutch National Ballet, where she danced professionally for six years.
After retiring from ballet, Elaine moved to Paris to study fashion design, and married her beau Quentin in a fairytale French countryside wedding. Together they returned to the Bay Area, and she established a career in design.
In 2013, a chance encounter turned into an invitation to join Marin Ballet’s Nutcracker cast, playing Clara’s mother in the party scene, a role she has reprised every year since. These days, you can find Elaine at Open Division classes several times a week, enjoying ballet 100 percent for herself—rediscovering the pure joy of moving, working hard, gaining control, and reveling in “little triumphs like nailing a perfect double pirouette!”
Elaine lives with husband, Quentin, and their two children, Felix (12) and Maurice (7). She teaches ballet at a French immersion preschool and offers private lessons in fashion illustration and portfolio prep for aspiring young designers.