Six years ago, Benjamin Millepied surprised many in the world of ballet when he resigned from his post as director of dance at the auguste Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, a little over a year later. his entry into office.
Now, in another surprising move – and on unusually short notice – Aurélie Dupont, his successor, has also stepped down. On Thursday, Dupont said in a press release that she would be leaving the 353-year-old company on July 31. She “wishes to devote herself to personal projects,” the statement said. These projects included a book and a documentary film. She also wanted to spend more time with her family, he added.
“I leave this magnificent institution with a sense of accomplishment,” Dupont said in the statement. “My greatest pride is to have contributed to the emergence of talented artists, dancers and choreographers,” she added.
The Paris Opera will set up a selection committee to choose his successor, the statement said.
When Dupont was named head of the Paris Opera Ballet in February 2016, she had only recently retired as a star or prima ballerina from the company. She was meant to bring stability to the institution after Millepied had spent a year struggling to modernize it, including trying to diversify its ranks.
Dupont’s artistic vision was very different from that of Millepied. She leaned towards commissions from contemporary dance choreographers rather than those focused on classical technique; and she did not attempt to retain an association with the choreographer William Forsythe whom Millepied had initiated.
Yet his time in charge has also been checkered. In April 2018, the company was plunged into crisis when the results of an anonymous questionnaire on dancers’ opinions of the company were leaked to French media.
In the 179-page document, 77% of dancers who responded to the survey said they had experienced or witnessed verbal harassment, while 26% said they had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment. Nearly 90% answered no to the question “Do you think you benefit from high quality management?” The document included several sharp anonymous comments apparently aimed at Dupont, including: “The current manager appears to have no management skills and no desire to acquire any.”
There was another storm in 2019 when the Paris Opera Ballet announced that Sergei Polunin would perform as a guest in “Swan Lake”, despite a series of homophobic comments on social media and publications trumpeting his love of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Within days, Dupont canceled his appearance.
Some in the French press welcomed his visit to the institution on Thursday. Ariane Bavelier, writing in Le Figaro, said Dupont was leaving the company “with her head held high”. The company “was serene again,” added Bavelier, saying its program struck a decent balance between classical and contemporary works.
Philippe Noisette, a dance journalist for Paris Match and Les Echos, said in a telephone interview that “everyone was surprised” by Dupont’s departure, especially at such short notice.
Dupont was successful artistically, Noisette said, particularly in training young stars. Some of the company’s loyal following criticized him for not promoting fan-favorite Francois Alu to stardom. In April, we shouted “Aurélie, resign! after Alu performed in “La Bayadère,” Noisette said, but Alu made it to the rank in the next performance.
Neef, wishing him success in his next move, said in the press release that Dupont would always be “one of the most eminent figures at the Paris Opera” and that he would help him in his search for his successor.
Roslyn Sulcas contributed reporting