A tall silhouette and head of thick, proud hair masks a complex and multifaceted woman. Born on the slopes of La Soufrière, the volcano that dominates Guadeloupe, this woman seems to have inherited the volcano’s ancestral wisdom and inner flame. On stage, she will make your gaze vacillate between an oriental vestal virgin and a CEO in stilettos. If you hear her humming Ti Amo... don't worry, you’re not mistaken, it's just that she's in love... with Italian songs.
“I’ve always considered Crazy Girls works of art”
“I love Italy and am passionate about archaeology”
“Sometimes it takes months to get a true feel for a role and be completely at ease”

How did you get your stage name?

My first name, Nini, is the nickname I’ve had since childhood. I chose Pompéi because I love Italy and am passionate about archaeology. It’s a reference to the ancient city famous for having been buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Almost two thousand years later, the city was rediscovered intact under its lava crust, full of surprises…


How did you get into dance?

I was born and raised in Guadeloupe. As a child, I used to ride horses. But when I was ten, I wanted to try dancing. The traditional Guadeloupean dance Gwo ka is usually what children begin with when learning to dance. But my dream was full of arabesques, pointe shoes and tutus. I persuaded my parents to enroll me in ballet classes, which for me was wildly exotic! It quickly became my passion. When I was about twelve, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to wear a rigid corset night and day. However, these difficulties failed to dampen my enthusiasm, and soon my one hour of dance a week just wasn’t enough for me. At fourteen, I flew to Paris with my mother to start a dance studies course. I knew that this decision was a major sacrifice for my parents. So I put a lot of effort into it for two years, but fate pulled me away from dance. At sixteen, I was talent spotted by a modelling agency and began travelling the world, from Hamburg to Sydney, etc. Back in Paris at the age of nineteen, I still had not forgotten my goal of becoming a dancer. But in ballet, my height had always been a problem, so I turned to cabaret and successfully auditioned for the Paradis Latin. I was lucky enough not only to be selected, but to be a favorite of the choreographer who encouraged me to work very hard. This helped me make remarkable progress. Two years later, my colleagues decided to audition for the Crazy Horse and dragged me along. I saw it as an opportunity to gain experience. I never imagined I would pass the audition, but in the end, here I am!


Can you tell us about your premiere on this iconic stage?

My first time on stage at the Crazy Horse was quite difficult. I have so much admiration for the Crazy Girls and have always considered them works of art. I was so in awe of dancing next to these legends that I wasn’t very relaxed.


What is the difference between a Crazy Girl and other cabaret dancers?

Charisma! At the Crazy Horse, dancers are chosen for their personality: they are encouraged to use it in their performances, which makes all the difference on stage. In other troupes, there are often two or three dancers who stand out in the small world of cabaret. At the Crazy Horse, each dancer is well-known. Each dancer’s talent and uniqueness are recognized.


Who is your greatest inspiration as a dancer?

When I was younger, two great dancers helped me believe in myself and showed me that despite difficulties, anything was possible. The first is Marie-Agnès Gillot. She was a prima ballerina at the Opéra de Paris, but also suffered from double scoliosis and was supposedly too tall for ballet. The second is Misty Copeland, the first mixed-race dancer to become principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater in New York.



From femme fatale to oriental vestal virgin… is this acting talent innate in a Crazy Girl?

I wouldn’t say it’s innate. Once movements have become part of a person’s bodily memory, it can take months to get a true feel for a role and be completely at ease. Not to mention that we also change over time… Our work on stage is never finished.


What does your solo act Crisis? What crisis! mean to you?

A surprise and a challenge! When the artistic team gave me this solo, I was stunned, because it’s about playing a businesswoman. That’s far from who I am! But that’s what makes it such an exciting challenge! Crisis? What crisis! makes me find the balance between the cold distant behavior of an angry CEO and the sexy heat of her stripping. I worked a lot with Psykko Tico; now it’s my turn to make it my own. The more I dance it, the more I enjoy it. I’m also the main dancer in Vestal’s Desire, a voluptuous and sublime two color act. It is a technical feat set in a slightly surreal and particularly bewitching world.


Discover Nini Pompéi in video : 

Photos: Paul Morel, Rémi Desclaux, Juliette Lambert

Vidéo: Paul-Henri Pesquet