This story originally appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Pointe.
The Paris Opéra Ballet is gearing up for another transition. This summer, Benjamin Millepied will hand over the reins of the company to former étoile Aurélie Dupont, who was hastily appointed artistic director in February in the wake of Millepied's abrupt resignation. Her tenure as director starts on August 1.
Millepied's announcement that he was stepping down to focus on his creative endeavors rocked the French institution. Many initially embraced the change his eventful—though short—term brought, but Millepied's American-style repertoire and his public dismissals of both dancers and local traditions undermined his relationship with the 154-member-strong company.
At a press conference announcing Millepied's departure, the general director of the Paris Opéra, Stéphane Lissner, stood by his January 2013 decision to appoint Millepied, who spent his dancing career in the U.S.: “He brought a lot to this company: a new organization, a new health system…He also nurtured new dancers." Millepied, who was artistic director for less than two seasons, stressed the burden administrative work proved to be. “I was very honored to have this opportunity, but what's important to me is to create," he said. He will return to direct and choreograph on L.A. Dance Project, the company he founded in California.
Dupont will be tasked with improving company morale and steering the ship through Millepied's final 2016–17 season of programming, which is heavy on American neoclassicism. Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream will join the repertoire with new costumes by Christian Lacroix; Crystal Pite and Tino Sehgal will contribute creations, along with four company members and Millepied himself.
With Dupont, the company returns to a homegrown director, who danced with the company for 32 years. Her goals include maintaining classical standards and balancing the repertoire: “POB dancers are good. It's a classical company which does contemporary work, and it will never be the other way around with me." —Laura Cappelle