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4 FEB 16
UPDATED: The great Paris Opera ballerina Aurélie Dupont has been announced as the successor to Benjamin Millepied, who today resigned as director of the Paris Opera Ballet after little more than a year in the job. A former New York City Ballet principal, better known worldwide as the husband of actress Natalie Portman, for whose ballet horror movie Black Swan Millepied choreographed the dancing, the Frenchman was a controversial choice in 2014 to take over the wheel at the Paris company, whose classical roots are the oldest in the world.
He continued to run his own contemporary ballet company in Los Angeles, the LA Dance Project, alongside his job in Paris, and his press release - which he tweeted this afternoon - states that it is his choreography rather than the administration and prestige of one of the world's greatest and most onerous ballet directorships which preoccupies him most.
Several of Paris's most renowned classicists, the generation of Rudolf Nureyev protegés such as Dupont and Nicolas Le Riche, made clear their opposition to Millepied's appointment and the appointment of Dupont apparently restores the classical centre stage at the ancient company, which was considered under Nureyev's direction in the 1990s to have become the greatest classical company in the world. After two decades of modernism under Brigitte Lefèvre and Benjamin Millepied, it appears that the cycle has turned once again towards Paris Opera Ballet's roots, though Dupont's prominence in modern ballet repertoire recently indicates that she will be no stick-in-the-mud. Another of Nureyev's golden protegés, the exquisite classicist Elisabeth Platel, is head of the Paris Opera Ballet school.
Paris Match first broke the Millepied story yesterday (which I've translated below Millepied's press release). According to their commentary today, Millepied had won the loyalty of a small group of dancers, but seriously upset traditionalists by querying the dinosaur hierarchy of the Paris Opera organisation and by criticising the classical standards of some of the dancing.
'I need to be able to devote myself 100 percent'
After mature reflection, I have decided to conclude my work as director of the ballet of the Paris Opera. I took up Stéphane Lissner’s offer of this job in November 2014 with honour and recognition of the greatness of the responsibility and passion of its demands. It is a responsibility that I have taken up every day with the sole aim of innovative service to the institution’s glory and the marvel of its dancing.
It is a considerable charge, which I believe I have carried out with success, in creating an artistically ambitious programme, launching the Choreographic Academy and the Third Stage, a considerable development in philanthropic support, and collaborations with France’s prestigious cultural institutions, or again opportunities that the dancer can somehow benefit from.
If I am resigning despite these advances, which I know are sustainable, and despite my deep attachment to the teams, the dancers, pupils, and all of those alongside whom I have been able to work, it is only for personal reasons.
My functions as the director of dance today take up so much of my life that it considerably reduces that part, which is essential to me, available for creativity and artistic expression.
I need to be able to devote myself 100 percent to it, as to anything I undertake, and this has also been the case in my work in the bosom of the Opera.
The bonds that join me to this beautiful institution are such that I will always stay near to it, in the first place in order to implement to the end of this season all the considerable work we have undertaken, as well as to carry through the two creations programmed next season, and in other forms still to be imagined in work with the Opera de Paris in years to come. Finally, I am entirely at the disposal of the Directorship in easing the transition to my successor.
I have loved the mission that was handed to me. I invested myself entirely in it, all my passion and knowledge, and the Opéra de Paris can always count on me.
Millepied to quit for personal reasons
According to our information the star choreographer and director of the ballet at the Paris Opera will be leaving his job.
His appointment caused a thunderclap in the cloistered dance world: this Frenchman who had made his career with New York City Ballet became, in autumn 2014, one of the youngest directors of the Paris Opera Ballet.
His arrival was both hailed and attacked. Under Benjamin Millepied, it was American-style pop glamour that would rescue the great house from somnolent insignificance. Stars, galas, patrons in furs. The Paris Opera, on the eve of presenting its new season on 10 February next, now finds itself about to comment on Millepied’s coming resignation.
Rumours have been flying: some have cited a desire in his wife, actress Natalie Portman, to go back to New York where her career seems to be on pause. Others are pointing to the actual functioning of the Paris Opera, where the smallest decision entails a crucifying journey. Millepied saw himself, very likely, more as a choreographer than an administrator. He was asked to be, in effect, something of both. founded. Or to go with his American friends and all their projects.
All the same, the 2016-17 season will carry his thumbprint: it will offer the two new ballets signed off by Millepied as his swan-song. The choreographer will be boosted in two years by a generation of new classical dancers, he will have quietly achieved a revolution in health and equipment for them - with, amongst other things, new floors for the the rehearsal studios. His style has sometimes appeared over-casual, where his heavy media attention annoyed more than one: inside the Opera there was not much appreciation felt for Relève, a documentary that Canal Plus made about him in December.
His record is very positive, though. The company has found a cruising speed that attracted plaudits even from the New York Times. Everything will be up for remaking, or nearly everything. A successor must be appointed who is in step. Will we see the return of a dancer or personality from within the Paris Opera itself? Possibly. We must hope, meanwhile, that Benjamin Millepied will not forget his native land.
'My functions as the ballet director take up so much of my life that it considerably reduces what is left for creativity and artistic expression'