Friday, January 25, 2013

Benjamin Millepied Will Be New Director of Paris Opera Ballet

An interesting piece at the New York Times, "Paris Opera Ballet Picks Outsider for New Director." I like this part:
Mr. Millepied will inherit one of the world’s greatest classical troupes. It has 150 dancers, a complex hierarchy of ranking and promotions and the sizable weight of history: the company is effectively an outgrowth of the very beginnings of ballet at the court of Louis XIV. Its dancers almost all come from the Paris Opera Ballet school, and they rarely leave to dance elsewhere once they have achieved a coveted position in the company.

They are also civil servants, with long-term contracts that run until their mandatory retirement, with pension, at 42. And with the notable exception of Ms. Lefèvre, directors tend to drop like flies at the Paris Opera. Even Rudolf Nureyev lasted only six stormy, if productive, years in the 1980s, while directors like John Taras and Violette Verdy managed just a few seasons.

The byzantine politics, scale and bureaucracy of the Paris Opera are worlds away from Mr. Millepied’s professional experience. He has long put together touring groups, and even at the peak of his dancing career was an indefatigable organizer of small choreographic projects and festivals with musicians and artists. He is a prolific choreographer who has created works for major companies (including American Ballet Theater, City Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet), and his public profile is high, thanks partly to his work on the Darren Aronofsky film “Black Swan” and his subsequent marriage to its star, Natalie Portman.

But his new company, the L.A. Dance Project, which made its debut in September in Los Angeles, is small and experimental in orientation. (Mr. Millepied said he planned to continue running the L.A. Dance Project until he began his new job, when he would move to Paris with Ms. Portman and their son. He said he hoped the company, which has a budget guaranteed for the next three years, would continue.)

“It is always a gamble,” Ms. Lefèvre said in a telephone interview. “I imagine people had something to say when I arrived. But he has a real artistic sensibility and an admirable curiosity. He will have to find his own way between innovation and the house traditions.”

Asked about making the transition from project-based director and choreographer to director of an institution as vast as the Paris Opera, Mr. Millepied smiled.

“I am not entirely a foreigner,” he said. “I did grow up in France, and even though I didn’t go to the school or dance with the Paris Opera Ballet, I absorbed similar ideas in my training. I understand the scale of a big company. I danced for one for almost 20 years. I think it’s an asset that I have absorbed other traditions and had other experiences in the U.S., which I can bring to the dancers here.” He added, “But of course I have a lot to learn about this company and its very remarkable and specific qualities.”
And speaking of Ms. Portman, see London's Daily Mail, "Is Natalie Portman quitting Hollywood? Actress's husband Benjamin Millepied accepts prestigious ballet job in Paris."