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Guillaume Graffin

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The sculpted cheekbones, the borzoi-lean body: Graffin suggests kinetic energy even in repose, which isn’t often. As a principal with the American Ballet Theatre, he dances up to eight performances a week. Naturally, Graffin, 26, equates beauty with motion. “Beauty is not a plastic concept,” says the native of Neuillysur-Seine, a Paris suburb. “It doesn’t do any good to have a beautiful body if you can’t move it.”

He can move it thanks to his mother, a dance teacher, and Rudolf Nureyev, with whom he worked for four years at the Paris Opera Ballet. The New York Times has applauded his “beautifully pliant feet and moody intensity.” Adds ABT ballerina Cynthia Harvey: “Onstage, Guillaume is a real man. He responds brilliantly—he looks at you, and you’re convinced you’re it.” Monaco’s Princess Caroline was similarly moved in 1986 when she appointed him premier danseur of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. In 1988 Graffin shifted to the Manhattan-based ABT, where he has starred in works ranging from Mikhail Baryshnikov’s staging of Swan Lake to modern pieces by Twyla Tharp.

“I learned a great deal from Nureyev and Misha—strong-tempered men who know what they want,” says Graffin. He hopes one day to follow them into acting, but for now, ABT and his girlfriend, dancer Nina Goldman, fill his hours. “We dancers spend most of our time in front of the mirror seeking to improve our line, striving for perfection,” he reflects. “Inevitably you become self-centered.” Spoken like a true jeté-setter.