Born in Paris and trained at the Paris Opéra Ballet School. He joined the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1980. In 1986 he was appointed Danseur Étoile by then ballet director Rudolf Nureyev. He performed the great roles of the classic and modern repertoire and appeared in numerous world premières. He was a guest performer with renowned ballet companies around the world and also with his own ensemble, „Manuel Legris et ses Étoiles”. In May 2009, he gave his farewell performance at the Paris Opéra and since September 2010 Manuel Legris is Director of the Wiener Staatsballett. He created there his choreographic versions of Le Corsaire and Sylvia.
His repertoire at the Paris Opéra Ballet included the lead roles in works by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Patrice Bart, Maurice Béjart, Trisha Brown, August Bournonville, Vladimir Burmeister, John Cranko, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Mikhail Fokin, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Pierre Lacotte, Harald Lander, Serge Lifar, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Rudolf Nureyev, Roland Petit, Angelin Preljocaj, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, and Rudi van Dantzig.
Prizes and Honours: 1st prize in the ballet competition in Osaka (1984), Prix Nijinsky (1988), Prix Benois de la Danse (1998) Nijinski Award („Best Dancer in the World, 2000”), Prix Positano (2001); Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (1993), Officier des Arts et Lettres (1998), Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (2002), Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (2006), Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (2009).