Meet The Team is an offbeat interview with the studio’s talents. Get to know us, discover our backgrounds, our favorite games, our life at Ubisoft and our hidden talents! This time, let’s meet Estelle Manas, Choregraph Director on Just Dance!
HI ESTELLE, DO YOU EVER PLAY GAMES?
It’s not really my main hobby, I play Just Dance, Rayman or Overcooked with my kids because they are collaborative games but when I was younger, I was from the Megadrive generation. Before working at Ubisoft, I didn’t own a console, and it’s thanks to my job that the Nintendo Switch came into my life and my kids’ lives.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VIDEO GAME CHARACTER?
Definitely Sonic! Playing it brings me a lot of fun and nostalgia, especially when I play with my son. When I was younger, I used to go all out looking for secret passages. I didn’t have many games, but when I did, I could spend a lot of time (too much) on them! I dive into a universe quite easily until I finish exploring it, and it’s a pleasure to rediscover these sensations with my son, he loves it! I also remember playing all of the Harry Potter games.
HOW DID YOU END UP AT UBISOFT PARIS?
For me, dancing is something natural, not at all thought out. My mother was a pianist for dance classes and a dance teacher. As soon as I felt like walking, I started dancing. After high school, I told myself that I was going to dance despite my enrollment in college. And after two weeks of non-stop dance school, I decided to never leave.
Before Ubisoft, I was a dancer in musicals, on TV, for companies but also assistant choreographer, I worked at Fashion Weeks to manage the models and the rehearsals. I have touched many styles and universes thanks to this job.
I joined the studio through a close friend who was a choreographer and dancer on Just Dance. He told me that a position was available on the project and that I fit the profile. I couldn’t imagine what the job would be like, but I applied anyway. I was not sure if I would like it, as I am used to doing live shows. And I felt rather distant from the world of video games so I didn’t know what would happen.
In the recruitment process, I was presented with a brief like the one sent to choreographers, including the number of coaches on the song, the design, the personalities of each and what was expected choreographically and in terms of style on the map. My role was to propose improvements that fit the expectations of the brief. It was all very unusual for me, but it was an interesting exercise and apparently I did well!
WHAT IS YOUR TYPICAL DAY LIKE AT THE STUDIO?
I don’t have a typical day at the studio and that’s what’s great about it. I like doing different things with different people. After 20 years in the entertainment business, I’ve rarely done the same thing twice! I was afraid of having a more traditional job and in the end, my days are very varied. I can be in brainstorming, meeting, rehearsing, dancing or shooting.
As a Choregraph Director, I work in the Creative Content Team which imagines the maps. Our role is to decide what to do with a song in Just Dance. On my side, with the director and the costume designer, I make a selection to find the right choreographer and dancers. I brief them and they come with a choreographic proposal that we adjust, with technical, narrative, artistic and creative constraints, then we rehearse with them before assisting them during video shootings. My days are laborious, but filled with good humor.
IF YOU COULD WORK ON ANOTHER UBISOFT GAME, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I really don’t know. Just Dance combines so many things I love that it’s perfect for me. Just Dance has the same message as me: dance is about generosity and sharing. Dancing is for everyone. So as long as Just Dance continues, I will continue too!
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY AT UBISOFT?
My best memories happen every day: I work a lot and I laugh a lot. I had a laugh only 10 minutes before this interview! Laughs. At Ubisoft, I find that you have this opportunity to be yourself. I feel accepted as I am, in my sincerity, with my exuberance and my laughter and it’s very nice to be welcomed in that way.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT AT WORK?
Outside of work, I divide my time between family outings to see shows, go for a walk, go to the amusement park and air out my mind and body. Unfortunately, I don’t dance anymore, mostly due to lack of time. It’s not a difficult choice. But as soon as I have the opportunity to dance at the studio, while doing a replacement or while rehearsing choreographies, I don’t deprive myself, it’s my passion. Dancing can be done in many different ways. Some via conservatories, others in the street and others with Just dance! But in my opinion, perseverance and passion make good dancers.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Apart from my children, I would say my general evolution. The shy teenager who only expressed herself through dance and couldn’t dare to imagine herself as a dancer, finally made a career of over 20 years. She now has a great job on a project that is exported all over the world and that brings dance to passionate people from all over the globe. Dance has given me so much in life. I am very proud of it.
Editor : Jennifer Lufau
Graphic Artist : Stéphanie Guérin