Talk about a meteoric rise. It’s only been a couple of years since he choreographed Black Swan, the film that raised his profile to global proportions. A year since he quit dancing and started his own company, LA Dance Projects. And now this: the Paris Opera Ballet has announced that he will follow Brigitte Lefevre in the position of Director of the Ballet in 2014. To lead the oldest ballet company in the world: it is an enormous vote of confidence in this young man, in his mid thirties. A difficult decision for Laurent Hilaire, Lefevre’s heir apparent and a brilliant former étoile formed by Nureyev, to swallow. (And for Manuel Legris, a nother top candidate, for that matter.) Millepied has proved that he certainly has the intelligence, the tough-mindedness, and the drive, all pre-requisites for the job. And perhaps the taste as well: his repertory choices for LA Dance Projects have been smart and interesting, with an eye to modern dance and to the very best of contemporary ballet. The decision to perform William Forsythe’s Quintett was particularly canny. As was the decision to have Forsythe himself come and coach the dancers. His personal charisma and connections are certainly part of the package. (The POB will get Natalie Portman as part of the package; the whole family will move to Paris.) He has an eye for dancers and knows how to show them off in his own works. As yet, it must be said, he hasn’t revealed himself to be more than a stylish choreographer. It is possible that he realizes his own limitations—he told the Times that he will not prioritize his own choreography as director of the POB. The fact that he is a choreographer at all is a huge plus for the company—the last choreographer director there, according to Le Figaro, was Serge Lifar, though Nureyev also re-staged many of the classics. Whether Millepied’s lack of familiarity with many of the ballets in the company’s repertory will be a liability is also an open question. Also: Will he be able to handle the dense layers of a large, French, institution? On the other hand, perhaps he will be able to identify a new generation of French ballet choreographers, an area in which the company has been rather at a loss. Millepied told Roslyn Sulcas of the Times that he wants to put the focus back on ballet; in recent years the company has been known more for its forays into contemporary dance, as if it had lost confidence in the future of ballet. Millepied is a provocative choice, but an intriguing one.
Here is Roslyn Sulcas’s piece in the Times on the decision.
And here’s a fawning profile in Le Figaro. A little excerpt:
“Despite all this, Benjamin Millepied has proven himself to be indispensable! In this world that is increasingly deaf to the unique language of dance, he has decided to dedicate his life to this art….His youth—he is 36—changes nothing; he has always been precocious. His marriage last summer to Natalie Portman, the most brilliant of American actresses, whom he met on the set of Black Swan, did not shake his determination.”
I should think not! It’s a rather romanticized view, but a bit of enthusiasm will be needed to make this transition work.
And a more balanced take, from Libération. The article mentions that Millepied will make a new Daphnis et Chloé for the company in 2014, and that Portman is looking forward to taking on more European projects.
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the decision… Comment below!