Benjamin Millepied's Kickoff Season at the Paris Opéra Ballet

Benjamin Millepied (right) watches Léonore Baulac in rehearsal. Photo by Agathe Poupeney, Courtesy POB.

Less than a year after taking over the Paris Opéra Ballet, Benjamin Millepied is already making his mark on the venerable company. From the schedule to dancers' health, the young director has left no stone unturned. As the curtain prepares to rise on his first opening gala in September, the ensemble looks newly energized and ready for the challenge.

The upcoming season, the first that Millepied has programmed, speaks to his own history as a New York City Ballet dancer, with a distinctly American flavor. In addition to company premieres by Balanchine and Robbins, Justin Peck will create a new work (his first European commission) and restage his 2012 In Creases. Giselle, Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet and La Bayadère are back, but the POB gets a new Nutcracker, divided among five choreographers.


While contemporary choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jérôme Bel and Maguy Marin also feature, Millepied says his main goal is “to focus on ballet. If you want to be the best at it, you have to do it all year, and get the best ballet choreographers here to create projects specific to us."

Millepied is also shaking up the company's infamous Paris hierarchy. Last March, he appointed his first étoile, Laura Hecquet, a tall, stylish ballerina long overlooked; new faces, from Japanese/New Zealander Hannah O'Neill (a rare foreigner) to Héloïse Bourdon and Hugo Marchand, have also filled in for absent principals and shone in leading roles. “I'm looking for ways to fulfill the potential of the company and utilize existing talent all the way," Millepied says.

The company is set to be challenged in other ways, too: This season sees the creation of an in-house academy for budding dancemakers. William Forsythe will be on hand to mentor them as associate choreographer, and next spring he'll create his first work for a ballet company in over a decade. There is faint resistance to the change Millepied is bringing, from critics, audience members and dancers, but his can-do attitude commands respect; the next test will be onstage, as the dancers dive into unfamiliar, and more American, repertoire.

Ballet Stars
Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC

It's hard to imagine the National Ballet of Canada without ballerina Greta Hodgkinson. Yet this week NBoC announced that the longtime company star will take her final bow in March, as Marguerite in Sir Frederick Ashton's Marguerite and Armand.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Alice Pennefather, Courtesy ROH

You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)

Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of:

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos

What do Diana Vishneva, Olga Smirnova, Kristina Shapran and Maria Khoreva all have in common? These women, among the most impressive talents to graduate from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recent years, all studied under legendary professor Lyudmila Kovaleva. Kovaleva, a former dancer with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky), is beloved by her students and admired throughout the ballet world for her ability to pull individuality and artistry out of the dancers she trains. Like any great teacher, Kovaleva is remarkably generous with her wealth of knowledge; it seems perfect, then, that she appears as the Fairy of Generosity in this clip from a 1964 film of the Kirov's The Sleeping Beauty.

Keep reading... Show less