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Last week Benjamin Millepied took over as head of Paris Opera Ballet in a move many in the Los Angeles dance community see as a betrayal just three short years after he co-founded L.A. Dance Project. “L.A. Dance Project is an artist collective that from the beginning was created in a way that didn’t require my daily oversight,” he insists in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. “I never positioned myself as the ‘father-figure’ artistic director and as a result the dancers and the company has (sic) found a distinct voice in many ways on their own.” To prove the point, the choreographer, best known for his work in the 2010 hit, Black Swan, is in Los Angeles with spouse, Natalie Portman, who took to Facebook to promote the company’s three-night stand this weekend at downtown’s Theatre at Ace, running Oct. 24-26.
Featuring a new work by Millepied set to Philip Glass’ 1984 film score for Mishima, the program also includes the U.S. premiere of Emanuel Gat’s Morgan’s Last Chug and a reprise of William Forsythe’s acclaimed Quintett, a 1993 look at hope in the face of tragic loss set to composer Gavin Bryar’s “Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet.” Part of the company’s inaugural performance at the Music Center back in 2012, Quintett’s return to L.A. coincides with the announcement of Forsythe’s hire to the faculty at USC beginning next year.
Coming on the heels of Millepied’s critically lauded inaugural dance, Daphnis et Chloe made on Paris Opera Ballet, his two new works have little in common with the recent success. “There isn’t a comparison to make,” he says. “Although I can say that my new work is the most dynamic and athletic that I have created for my company dancers, and we all really enjoyed pushing some limits during the creation process.”
While studying as a teenager at New York’s School for American Ballet, Millepied caught the eye of dance legend Jerome Robbins, which helped him advance to New York City Ballet where he became a soloist in 1998 and principal dancer three years later. “Jerry was someone who further exposed me to the broader artistic experience and encouraged me to explore the visual arts, literature, opera and much more,” he says of his mentor. “This informed me as a dancer and later a choreographer. Dancing his work at New York City Ballet also demonstrated to me the importance of relationships onstage and how the interaction of individual performers and their engagement with each other is one of the compelling elements of dance.”
With L.A. Dance Project, his collaborators include Pasadena-based design firm Rodarte, which provided the costumes for Black Swan, as well an L.A.-based artist Barbara Kruger, who provided backdrops to his Reflections performed earlier this year at the Ace.
“What makes an L.A. Dance Project performance unique in the dance world is that we offer such different creations. All three of these pieces we are performing at Ace have their own individual style, environment and flavor, and they are danced by a very diverse group of extremely talented dancers,” he said, reassuring his L.A. fans, “I will always continue to direct the path of my company, curating programing, engaging dancers and artists and choreographing new works.”
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Jeriana San Juan