Opera ballet

Benjamin Millepied resigns as Paris Opera’s dance director and returns to Southern California

In a surprise reshuffle at one of the world’s most revered dance institutions, Benjamin Millepied said on Thursday he would step down as director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet after just over a a year, citing personal reasons and his desire. devote himself entirely to artistic creation.

The loss of France will be the gain of Los Angeles: the star dancer and choreographer plans to return to Southern California, where he had lived with his wife, actress Natalie Portman, before joining the Parisian company in 2014.

Millepied is co-founder of the LA Dance Project, a four-year-old artist collective that has produced modern and contemporary dance at prominent local venues including the Music Center and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

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He created new dance productions with the company and performed with members in Los Angeles and on tour internationally.

Millepied made his announcement in a statement posted on his official Twitter account, where he said in French that he was leaving “for personal reasons only”.

Millepied alluded to the administrative burdens that come with running one of the oldest and most prestigious dance companies in the world.

“My work as a dance director currently requires such commitment that it largely excludes what is essential to me – artistic creation and expression,” he said.

Millepied said he wanted to “dedicate himself 100%” to creative work, but added that he intended to stay with the company until the end of the current season, which ends this summer. .

On Thursday, Millepied attended a press conference in Paris with Stéphane Lissner, director of the Paris Opera. The company has indicated that dancer Aurélie Dupont, recently retired from the company, will succeed Millepied from August.

Millepied, 38, is originally from France but has spent much of his career in the United States. He is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, where he was a star and rose to the rank of principal.

He was seen by many as a bold choice for the venerable Paris Opera Ballet, a 3-century-old company renowned for its old-fashioned tradition and habits. During his brief time there, Millepied sought to modernize the institution, making inroads into digital platforms to reach new audiences. It was the first time that Millepied led a large dance company.

“I’m sure I’ll find out all the complications of it once I get started,” he told The Times shortly after his nomination was announced in 2013.

LA Dance Project co-founder Charles Fabius confirmed in an interview that Millepied was moving to Los Angeles. “It’s a great opportunity for [us] to reconnect more regularly with the founding director,” said Fabius. “He took this job in Paris very seriously. He is more than 100% committed on a daily basis. But he also realized after almost a year and a half that there was a price to pay for that. He had no time for his own artistic expressions as a choreographer. This is something that is extremely important to him. »

LA Dance Project expects Millepied to work with members to grow the company upon its return, with the possibility of adding more classically trained ballet dancers to the contemporary focus of the organization.

In her review for The Times of the company’s performance last Friday at Wallis, Laura Bleiberg said the dance troupe from Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s work was “spellbinding” but that other parts of the program could have benefited from ‘”a bit more mature”.

Millepied, who could not be reached for comment, remains a popular choreographer with companies around the world.

He still plans to create works for the Paris Opera after his departure and is expected to debut a new piece later this week with the company.

Millepied met Portman on the film “Black Swan”, where he served as a choreographer. The couple have a young son and lived in Los Feliz before moving to France.

Millepied had succeeded Brigitte Lefèvre as dance director in Paris. On Thursday, she blasted Millepied, saying in an interview with Europe 1 radio that her appointment had been a “risky bet”.

“He’s an extremely charming boy who has a hypersensitive curiosity and wants to do a lot of things,” she said. But the job requires “the ability and energy to manage each position, from administration to rehearsals”.

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