Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project Finds New Home at the Theatre at Ace

L.A. Dance Project
L.A. Dance Project
 Jordan Riefe

Choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied (Black Swan) may be jetting off this fall to begin his tenure as director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet, but his company, L.A. Dance Project, is staying put on the West Coast and moving into a new home, the Theatre at Ace, at the newly-restored Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

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From this Thursday through Saturday, the L.A. Dance Project will perform three new works there --  two of them U.S. premieres, including Reflections, choreographed by Millepied.

Reflections is his sensuous pas de deux set to music by David Lang of the pop group The National. It was commissioned by Van Cleef & Arpels and inspired by their collaboration in the '50s with legendary choreographer George Balanchine on one of his most beloved works, Jewels, a trio of dance pieces. (Similarly, Reflections is the first of three works that will ultimately make up a single show.)

In keeping with L.A. Dance Project’s commitment to the local arts community, the piece features two paintings by Barbara Kruger, one with white letters on red with the words "stay" and "go," and another that reads, "think of me thinking of you."

"The text she chose for the set, she captured the physicality and longing of dance," says company co-founder, Charles Fabius. "It’s so strikingly contemporary in the setting of a 1927 theater. It’s kind of a shock, but it’s a good shock in that setting."

That 1927 theater is a Spanish Gothic-revival movie palace, the United Artists Theater, by architect C. Howard Crane of Detroit, who built 325 theaters worldwide in the early part of the last century. With vaulted ceilings and fresco murals depicting the history of the film industry, as well as plaster sculptures copied from the Cathedral at Segovia and a curtain reading, "The Picture’s The Thing," (a Tinseltown riff on the William Shakespeare quote). The UA Theatre is breathtaking even on Broadway, an avenue replete with movie palaces.

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"It’s a dream come true for us," gushed Fabius. "The venue has a certain influence on what the company is, what we represent, where we’re located. We want to build our own audience down here. So the venue is incredibly important to us."

Also on the bill is Murder Ballades with choreography by Justin Peck, a soloist and choreographer with New York City Ballet, and scenery by L.A. artist Sterling Ruby, as well as a work in progress by choreographer Hiroaki Umeda that will have its world premiere in Paris next month.

Trading toe-shoes for sneakers, an ensemble of three couples will perform Peck’s Murder Ballades, which Fabius describes as a Jerome Robbins-esque ballet, a style Millepied became familiar with back when he was principal dancer for the City Ballet.

Recently returned from Israel where his wife, Natalie Portman, is directing A Tale of Love and Darkness, Millepied will be on hand this week to celebrate his company’s debut in its new home. Some of his detractors have wondered why this trio of dances, along with his latest project, Daphnis and Chloe, had their world premieres in France and not Los Angeles. They also asked whether his new position with the Paris Opera Ballet will impact his commitment to L.A. Dance Project.

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"That was one of the conditions when he signed the contract with the Paris Opera, that everyone knew that he was going to continue to be involved, very, very hands on with L.A. Dance Project," explains Fabius. "I’m surprised, when Placido Domingo runs two opera companies, Gustavo Dudamel has three orchestras -- in the dance business, maybe it’s different. He is committed. He will continue to be involved."

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