News
Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Pacific Northwest Ballet travels to Paris for the first time this summer, and artistic director Peter Boal couldn't be happier.

"I think we have a tremendous reputation, but people outside the greater Seattle area haven't seen this company," Boal says.

That will change after PNB's two-week stay with the French festival Les Étés de la Danse, which hosts a different international company every summer. A PNB residency had been in the works for several years when Les Étés de la Danse decided to produce a larger celebration of choreographer Jerome Robbins this summer, inspired by his centennial. New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet and Russia's Perm Opera Ballet Theatre will join PNB for that one-week tribute.

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Health & Body
LADP's Rachelle Rafailedes leading a workout. Photo by Studio 6, Courtesy Sunshine Sachs.

If your usual workouts are feeling stale, Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project might be able to help. The contemporary ballet troupe recently launched an online exercise platform that puts its stars in your living room.

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News

Set to begin shooting in early 2018, Millepied's Carmen will be a modern-day retelling, setting the protagonist on a journey from Mexico to Los Angeles in pursuit of freedom. The film, described as a contemporary musical drama, will also feature an original score by Nicholas Britell, the Oscar-nominated composer of Moonlight. “The incorporation of music and drama in film is a cornerstone of my creativity and having such an experienced and talented team by my side gives me confidence that we will beautifully capture the story told in Carmen," Milliepied told Variety.

Carmen has had a long trajectory. Bizet's 1875 opera—which tells the doomed love story of a passionate Romani woman named Carmen and the naïve soldier Don José (whom she seduces and then leaves for a glamorous toreador)—is based off of Prosper Mérimée's 1845 novella. Upwards of 20 films have been made based on the story, as well as several ballets, most notably those by choreographers Roland Petit and Alberto Alonso. Only time will tell how Millepied will add his own contemporary take to this classic story.

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During one of the final scenes of Reset, a documentary following Benjamin Millepied’s 2015 creation of Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward while artistic director of Paris Opéra Ballet, a group of eight dancers walk proudly towards the front of the stage for a final tableau. They are young corps members, not company stars, but they gaze directly and confidently at the audience.  Millepied's message seems clear: Remember these faces.

Of course, we all know what happened a few months later—after trying to shake up POB’s deeply ingrained hierarchy, Millepied resigned. However Reset, which will be available for streaming on Sundance Now March 2, offers an inside view of this fascinating time in POB’s history. The film doesn’t capture a lot of drama and infighting; instead, you’ll see much of Millepied’s creative process, as well lots of rehearsal and performance footage of the hungry young dancers he wants to cultivate. (Two—Léonore Baulac and Germain Louvet—have since become étoiles).

Millepied with Letizia Galloni. Photo Courtesy Sundance Now.

Millepied comes across as an enthusiastic, good-natured boss who is genuinely concerned for his dancers’ welfare and artistic development. Still, there are subtle clues as to why he grew disillusioned so quickly. He frequently complains of a deeply ingrained culture of fear among the school students and corps de ballet, as well as POB’s surprisingly inadequate medical care. Stagehand strikes loom constantly. And he reveals his dismay at being told that black dancers are a “distraction” onstage. “I have to shatter this racist idea,” he says. (The film captures coryphée Letizia Galloni in her debut as Lise in La Fille mal gardée, and notes that she is the first mixed-race POB woman to perform a lead in a classical ballet.)

 

But what’s most apparent, at least to me, is that Millepied would much rather be in the studio creating, and nurturing dancers, than dealing with necessary administrative duties and the company's ingrained institutional bureaucracy. (He often seems to be barely listening to his beleaguered assistant in meetings—his mind is on his ballet.) In fact, a friend notes early on that once he stops having fun, “he’ll leave.” Still, Millepied is so upbeat throughout the movie that you can't help feeling a little surprised, even knowing the outcome, that his tenure didn't work out.

 

Watch Reset, a film by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai, on Sundance Now starting Thursday, March 2.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Benjamin Millepied, who briefly helmed the Paris Opéra Ballet, finished his duties with the company on July 15. He will return to L.A. to focus his energy on his contemporary dance company, L.A. Dance Project, which has its Joyce Theater debut this month.

Millepied came on board at POB buzzing with ideas for change—we covered his first announcement of full-season programming, which included a new Forsythe ballet, his plans for a digital platform and his Americanization of the POB rep. Then, almost exactly a year later, we wrote about his resignation. It seemed that Millepied's ideas couldn't coexist with the POB hierarchy, and now iconic former étoile Aurélie Dupont leads the company.

(Photo via L.A. Dance Project)

Though Millepied has stepped out of a leadership position in the classical ballet world—for the time being—he's still very much involved. New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck has created two works for L.A. Dance Project, former Pacific Northwest Ballet star Carla Körbes is his associate artistic director, and American Ballet Theatre will perform his ballet Daphnis and Chloe as part of its Fall 2016 season.

Recently, Millepied revealed to The New York Times that Körbes and former New York City Ballet principal Janie Taylor will start dancing for the company in the fall. He also mentioned growing the company, good news for contemporary dancers with strong classical training. If Millepied's dreams for L.A. Dance Project come true, that it becomes a company performing new work and historical repertory across the classical and modern spectrum, it will offer opportunities for many dancers.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Millepied leads rehearsal for his ballet Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward. Photo by Ann Ray, Courtesy POB.

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

Kathleen Breen Combes and Bo Busby in Forsythe's Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

If you ask most dancers whose work they hope to perform, William Forsythe is usually at the top of the list. (How many of us have drooled over videos of In the middle, somewhat elevated?) He’s also, simply put, a nice guy: When Pointe went behind the scenes with him at Pacific Northwest Ballet last year, he radiated positive energy throughout the rehearsal process.

Well, we’re about to see a whole lot more of Forsythe now. Last week, Boston Ballet announced that it is entering a five-year partnership with the internationally renowned choreographer, who is also a dance professor at the University of Southern California. Starting with his full-length Artifact next season, the company will add one Forsythe work to its repertoire each year, creating the richest collection of his ballets nationwide.

The news comes shortly after Forsythe confirmed that he is leaving his post as associate choreographer of the Paris Opéra Ballet—an announcement made on the heels of Benjamin Millepied’s resignation as artistic director. But according to The New York Times, Forsythe's partnership with Boston has been several years in the making and is totally unrelated.

In the article, Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen says he hopes to acquire ballets that are unfamiliar to North American audiences. As for new ballets? Forsythe alludes to the possibility in the company’s statement: “Mikko’s support of the work means that the dancers and I can deepen our wonderful relationship and I will have a new home for new ideas.”

In the meantime, Boston Ballet dancers are getting better acquainted with his extreme, improvisational style through workshops with Harvard dance professor and former Forsythe dancer Jill Johnson. We can’t wait to see the results!

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Benjamin Millepied rehearsing POB dancers. Photo by Gerard Uferas via Paris Match.

Movie buffs and ballet lovers rejoice! A new dance film called Reset, about Benjamin Millepied directing the Paris Opéra Ballet, will premiere April 20 during the Tribeca Film Festival, with New York screenings running through April 23. Directed by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai, the documentary reveals the intense creation process of Millepied’s Clear Loud Bright Forward, which debuted at POB’s 2015 gala. The title of the piece, and Millepied’s use of only corps de ballet dancers, (unsubtly) stated his mission to shake up the rigid institution. It’s especially poignant in retrospect, given how his battle with entrenched tradition turned out.

Millepied, photo by Loic Venance/Getty Images via The New York Times.

The trailer promises tons of stunning dance footage, plus up close shots of the man behind the headlines and his choreographic process. All of the action takes place before news broke of the overhaul that will take place this summer.

Millepied set out to inject some modernism into the world’s oldest ballet company. Reset will show us how, in the form of gripping dance and filmmaking. Visit Tribeca Film Festival website for tickets, theaters, schedule and updates.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles have to be more than exquisite dancers: They must have all the poise, authority and elegance it takes to command the Palais Garnier stage. As Aurora in this excerpt from a 2000 taping of The Sleeping Beauty, Aurélie Dupont radiates with quintessentially French classicism. Even before she starts dancing, she enthralls with the regal tilt of her chin and arch of an eyebrow while greeting the courtiers. She floats through the variation with delicacy and precision, luxuriating in the classical port de bras but also sustaining each piqué and pirouette.

A world-renowned artist during her career, Dupont will now be tested on an even grander level when she succeeds Benjamin Millepied as the artistic director of POB in July. Dupont joins the likes of Brigitte Lefèvre, Rosella Hightower and Violette Verdy, who recently passed away, as a ballerina-turned director at the world's oldest ballet company. If we could, we'd ask each: Which is more challenging, winning hearts as an étoile commanding the spotlight or as the director guiding it? Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Photo by Dean Alexander, courtesy The Washington Ballet.

From Paris to Washington, D.C., there seems to be something in the air affecting ballet directors. On the heels of Benjamin Millepied's startling resignation announcement last week, The Washington Ballet has disclosed the impending departure of Septime Webre; the company's longtime artistic director will step down at the end of the season. "My current contract expires in June," Webre says, "it felt like a 'now or never' moment to take this bold step."

Webre's tenure has left a lasting impact on The Washington Ballet and the city's arts scene. Since taking the helm in 1999, he has increased TWB's budget nearly six fold, expanded the school (which now trains over 1400 students), increased the organization's community outreach, added many works of his own to TWB's repertoire and brought in a number of guest artists. The company has yet to find a replacement director.

Looking forward, Webre says, "I have been itching to get back to my core skill set: creating new work, coaching and mentoring young dancers and choreographers and advocating for the art of ballet." In addition to new creative endeavors, he plans to stage his ballets for other companies. Already, Webre's Alice (in Wonderland) has appeared in repertoires from Kansas City to Cincinnati.

Companies in Italy and Russia, too, are seeing big changes. Milan's La Scala Ballet announced that choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti will replace Makhar Vasiev, who heads to Moscow in March to lead the Bolshoi Ballet. Bigonzetti was the artistic director of the Italian contemporary ballet company Aterballetto from 1997 to 2008, and he has choreographed for companies like New York City Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet. Given his contemporary background, Bigonzetti's appointment at the large and traditionally classical La Scala has raised some eyebrows.

We'll be keeping our eyes on how the flurry of new directorships develops this year. For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Septime Weber interviewed about his Alice at KCB:

A clip of Bigonzetti's Vespro for New York City Ballet: http://www.nycballet.com/ballets/v/vespro.aspx

La Scala Ballet dancers in Bigonzetti's Cinderella. Photo by Marco Brescia and Rudy Amisano courtesy of Teatro alla Scala.

In less than 24 hours, what started as a murmur in the French magazine Paris Match (here, if you read French) became a full-fledged roar throughout the ballet world. Benjamin Millepied is stepping down from his role as director of dance at the Paris Opéra Ballet—after only a little over a year.

When Millepied assumed directorship, his vision was at least somewhat at odds with the entrenched culture of POB. He was outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the company's classical technique, training program and system of promotion to French media outlets. He also commented on the need for POB to become more racially diverse.

Millepied delivered a major coup when he announced that William Forsythe would join the company as associate choreographer. But while Forsythe's presence was a major vote of confidence from a legendary choreographer, his work is also definitively boundary-pushing. Was Millepied's vision for POB to turn it into a lab for experimentation? It's possible that those two sides could have coexisted, but now we'll have to see how things play out under new leadership.

Paris Opéra Ballet in Millepied's Clear Loud Bright Forward (photo via @benjaminmillepied on Instagram)

POB's press conference today stressed that Millepied was stepping down of his own volition to better focus on choreography and L.A. Dance Project, his contemporary troupe in Los Angeles. His lasting impacts, such as greater attention to the dancers' health and 3e Scène (the digital platform he spearheaded), will likely remain in place. As for Forsythe, he told The New York Times that he wouldn't stay past the end of Millepied's tenure. His agreement to come on board at POB seems to have been based on hopes that Millepied would make lasting changes to the company.

Now, recently retired étoile Aurélie Dupont will step into Millepied's place. According to frequent Pointe contributor Laura Cappelle, who live tweeted news and opinions from the POB press conference this afternoon, Dupont will take over in summer 2017. Stéphane Lissner, the general director of the Opéra, stressed the continuity between Millepied and Dupont. However, Dupont had a few words of her own, saying that for her, POB would be a classical company that performs contemporary works, not the reverse, and that two classic ballets in an upcoming season is too few (as is the case with the company).

Aurélie Dupont as Nikiya and Josua Hoffalt as Solor in La Bayadère (photo by Agathe Pouponey)

Despite the collaborative spirit that Lissner championed at the time of Millepied's appointment, it appears that Millepied might have tried to change too much too soon—and bitten off more than he could chew as the director and choreographer for two companies. He will return to L.A. Dance Project with the goal of expanding the company and increasing its repertoire, free from the administrative pressures of running a more than 300-year-old institution steeped in tradition. He will also continue to choreograph for POB, at least over the next few seasons.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

Foyer de la danse I. Photo by Pierre Even via Paris Opéra

What do Netflix and the Paris Opéra have in common? Like the popular streaming service that enables our binge watching addiction, the Paris Opéra has released a series of videos all at once as part of 3e Scène, “Third Stage,” a project initiated by POB’s daring new director Benjamin Millepied. In the 17 videos released thus far, we can see POB dancers rehearsing in studios and drinking on rooftops, a cross-dressing Giselle, a Disney animator transforming a ballerina into a whimsical cartoon—and the vast spaces of the famous Palais Garnier, which appears like a character itself throughout the artfully packaged mini-films.

On the heels of last week’s second annual World Ballet Day, I’m marveling that ballet—an art form born in royal palaces and nurtured in grand theaters—is using digital platforms to become something that it couldn’t be before: widely accessible. With directors like Millepied, ballet won’t languish in gilded, velvet-lined cages with dwindling audiences. It will be streamed on laptops, viewed on iPhones, surreptitiously opened in browsers at office desks. It will become ubiquitous and, if the delightful films of 3e Scène are any indication, better for it.

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