tomorrow

Laurent Hilaire to leave the POB

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It's been confirmed by the Paris Opera now. I don't think I can post links (maybe my phone!), so excuse if it stretches. http://www.nordnet.fr/infos/reg-idfparisgeneral/laurent-hilaire-quitte-la-direction-du-ballet-de-l-opera-de-paris/140528174118.e0hp38oj

A great shame, yet as unsurprising as it is a surprise. Unless Laurent Hilaire has other projects lined up, leaving the no. 2 position of a presitigious company is quite the risk. I do recall around his retirement he said he wanted to try the challenge of working in another area so maybe this is his chance.

It's sure to ignite rumours of being bitter or of there being some kind of internal fued, which isn't helped by Brigitte Lefevre campaigning for him to be her successor - or by Benjamin Millepied's failure to acknowledge Laurent Hilaire and his career publicly. Hilaire on the other hand congratuled Millepied and praised his work from day one.

That aside, it is fair to say Hilaire is a polarising figure amongst POB balletomones. He's helped the youngsters as best he can under Lefevre but in my opinion has become a scapegoat for disgruntled balletomones. Ultimately he's accused of being Lefevre's sidekick (I can't say I'm convinced by this) but I would hope Laurent Hilaire didn't resign out of struggling to cope with the character assassination. It is inevitable some dancers would also stir in a company as over-competitive as the POB is known for being, although I'm sure more than a few dancers are sad to see him go.

Also, it's unfortunate the Paris Opera didn't release a statement on its website with a comment from Laurent Hilaire himself. Typical. I suppose he will go quietly?

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It couldn't have been comfortable for either Hilaire or Legris, whose careers were tied at the hip for so long, to be fighting for the same position that eventually went to Millepied. I hope Hilaire lands on his feet and will be in a position to run his own ship.

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The final mark of the end of one era and the beginning of another. Perhaps it is good that the blood-letting - so prevalent in the foot-hold of the establishment of any new administration - happens within but one fell (and as ever far from swell) swoop. It is sad of course - Hillare has ever offered yeoman service - but understandable. Time: she will roll in the face of any man. As ever, she must.

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It couldn't have been comfortable for either Hilaire or Legris, whose careers were tied at the hip for so long, to be fighting for the same position that eventually went to Millepied. I hope Hilaire lands on his feet and will be in a position to run his own ship.

Yes, coupled with Nicolas Le Riche being a candidate it could not have been easy.

The press is so harsh though. http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=34&hl=en&ie=UTF8&nv=1&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http://www.lefigaro.fr/culture/2014/05/29/03004-20140529ARTFIG00108-ballet-de-l-opera-benjamin-millepied-pose-sa-nouvelle-donne.php&usg=ALkJrhgVoVgo478CeHVkbXZPS2vl-tvd1Q

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Are there any top post vacancies in any European companies in the near future, or even in North America or Asia? I wonder if the changes will affect mathilde froustey's decision to stay in SFB or go back to POB.

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Royal New Zealand Ballet needs to find another AD to replace Stiefel. And, Pennsylvania Ballet also needs a new AD.

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That aside, it is fair to say Hilaire is a polarizing figure amongst POB balletomones. He's helped the younsters best he can under Lefevre but in my opinion has become a scapegoat for disgruntled balletomanes. Ultimately he's accused of being Lefevre's sidekick (I can't say I'm convinced by this) but I would hope Laurent Hilaire didn't resign out of struggling to cope with the character assassination.

Interesting. I've always had the impression that Hilaire was a 'Legitimist' in the sense of trying to preserve the French style (the style taught in the school) amidst a repertory that has grown increasingly uncongenial over time to that style. He's had to contend with preserving the style from the POB's "decades-long attempt . . . to force a hybrid between postmodern choreographers and ballet-trained performers" [quote: Ballet Review], and marrying the French style to the very idiosyncratic Nureyev productions. (In recent Ballet Review interviews, the etoiles Karl Paquette and Dorothee Gilbert both said that what French dancers are taught in the school is an awkward marriage to the technical demands of the Nureyev productions.)

I'm not surprised Hilaire is leaving. It had to be humililating for him, the loyal "company man", to lose the top position to someone who didn't come out of the POB ranks.

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Very tough for Hilaire. As meunier_fan notes above, it's not unusual, in any major institution, for there to be a rash of departures once someone is named to a much-sought after leadership job. It doesn't necessarily reflect on any of the personalities involved. Hilaire might want to leave even if he had lost the job to a colleague.

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Interesting. I've always had the impression that Hilaire was a 'Legitimist' in the sense of trying to preserve the French style (the style taught in the school) amidst a repertory that has grown increasingly uncongenial over time to that style. He's had to contend with preserving the style from the POB's "decades-long attempt . . . to force a hybrid between postmodern choreographers and ballet-trained performers" [quote: Ballet Review], and marrying the French style to the very idiosyncratic Nureyev productions. (In recent Ballet Review interviews, the etoiles Karl Paquette and Dorothee Gilbert both said that what French dancers are taught in the school is an awkward marriage to the technical demands of the Nureyev productions.)

I'm not surprised Hilaire is leaving. It had to be humililating for him, the loyal "company man", to lose the top position to someone who didn't come out of the POB ranks.

The French aren't particularly great at writing a coherent argument against Laurent Hilaire. It falls back on gossip and personal attacks ("I can't say he'll be particularly missed" from one rather bitter and twisted individual who for months has seemed hell bent on maligning the man online). He's accused of casting 'weak' and unprepared younger dancers over the older stars when we know from Dorothee Gilbert's comments, for example, it is Brigitte Lefevre and Brigitte Lefevre alone who casts. Apparently he focuses too much on academics and treats dancers like dolls, trying to relive his career through them, when La Danse and dancers like Mathias Heymann, Stephane Bullion, Mathieu Ganio and Emmanuel Thibault, the latter two being dancers Hilaire has coached very closely for many years, who have praised Hilaire's coaching in interviews (particularly with regards to mime and interpretatons), show otherwise. Hilaire has also spoken in interviews about the need to tailor different approaches to coaching for each dancer, e.g. somebody may prefer mirroring, others touch, some metaphors to help them envision how they move etc.

The French claim the company snootily disdains the virtuosity (tricks) of the Russians and New Yorkers when Laurent Hilaire, Nicolas Le Riche, and some of today's younger dancers, like Francoise Alu and Dorothee Gilbert, do not. They lack musicality and fluidity when Hilaire has commented on the need to improve thse areas before, and they struggle to interpret roles, taking on this apparently "boring" aesthetic where perfection comes at the cost of emotion. Ballet masters can't work with a cast of 70 one to one and from documentaries and videos there are many, many coaches involved in the process. It is also odd to praise Aurelie Dupont's promotion to ballet master when she is extensively criticised for her inability to use her face (debatable). Meanwhile, Hilaire remains one of the most respected dancer-actors of our time ;-).

He is also accused of being promoted to succeed Patrice Bart as a little training project for Brigitte Lefevre, with intentions from the get go to set him up to succeed her. There's no evidence of this whatsoever and in an interview, Hilaire was quite clear, he works with other managers within the company than Brigitte Lefevre! Lefevre did Hilaire no favours campaigning for him and has indeed placed him in an awful situation being so unprofessional, particularly when it was clear she was initially unhappy with Millepied's appointment. In her defense I'm not aware the application process was open, that is, anyone could apply, although I could be wrong, and some of the dodgier characters attached to the company viciously campaigning for their pals to be considered from the second Lefevre announced her intentions to retire. Nicolas Le Riche is one example, despite having no advantage to dancers like Elisabeth Maurin and Isa Guerin, yet nobody is accusing him of being a certain nasty banker's little sidekick. Hilaire's the scapegoat.

It's true Nureyev is different from the French school with numerous dancers commenting on how he is more like a seperate schooling, most recently Sebastien Bertaud (http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=37&hl=en&ie=UTF8&nv=1&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http://www.chacott-jp.com/magazine/world-report/from-paris/paris1405c.html&usg=ALkJrhiwzT4t3Eo4uRXe1ANyP85ngVcwWA) and Kader Belarbi when importing one of Nureyev's productions at the Capitole du Toulouse. As for the challenges of such a varied rep, one has to wonder if some of the injuries and complaints above are a result of that. Millepied hasn't helped in that regard. I will try to find the interview but Millepied made it sound like he wasn't impressed by the quality ('virtuosity' again) and felt it was important to improve standards so they can work around the world, most notably at the ABT. I was left speechless!

Very tough for Hilaire. As meunier_fan notes above, it's not unusual, in any major institution, for there to be a rash of departures once someone is named to a much-sought after leadership job. It doesn't necessarily reflect on any of the personalities involved. Hilaire might want to leave even if he had lost the job to a colleague.

Yes, Hilaire has turned down opportunities to direct before because he has never felt the need, so it is possible he wouldn't have even taken the job had it been offered to him. He's also said he very much stays as a sort of favour to Lefevre and wasn't sure he would continue when she retires - and this was in an interview about a year after he was promoted to management. Perhaps he feels it is fitting to depart now.

It is a shame Millepied and the Paris Opera remain so quiet - I would have nipped accusations of bitterness in the bud 9 months ago with joint interviews. Alas, nothing. Not even a comment from Millepied wishing Hilaire all the best. The bad manners of the inexperienced.

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I realize that POB is an institution with far more cliques and political intrigue, but in the rather binary case of Miami City Ballet, dancer Jennifer Kronenberg was backed by ousted Artistic Director Edward Villella to succeed him. She was seen by board members who wanted Villella gone as a continuation of what they were trying to change, at best, and having his support was seen as a negative by the majority.

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I think it is wonderful that Aurelie Dupont has been appointed to replace Clotilde Vayer, with her qualities as a Dancer and temperament I think she will prove to be a great support to the company. To suggest "she cannot use her face is ridiculous, her way of portraying a role is subtitle, she does not go over the top, her movements are lyrical and filled with style and musicality. If she can pass this on it will be a benefit to others. However of course a dancers style is born not created in a studio. As a person Aurelie is kind and under standing, and it is well known about her re-actions to the treatment of people in the school and the need to support and help progressing dancers who have problems or need understanding. After meeting her now after many performances I personally wish her the very best in her new career and am sure she will do the job very well.

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I think it is wonderful that Aurelie Dupont has been appointed to replace Clotilde Vayer, with her qualities as a Dancer and temperament I think she will prove to be a great support to the company. To suggest "she cannot use her face is ridiculous, her way of portraying a role is subtitle, she does not go over the top, her movements are lyrical and filled with style and musicality. If she can pass this on it will be a benefit to others. However of course a dancers style is born not created in a studio. As a person Aurelie is kind and under standing, and it is well known about her re-actions to the treatment of people in the school and the need to support and help progressing dancers who have problems or need understanding. After meeting her now after many performances I personally wish her the very best in her new career and am sure she will do the job very well.

Aurelie Dupon't supposed lack of facial expression is definitely not an opinion I share with her in-house detractors in Paris (my apologies if that wasn't clear). A POB post-Dupont is, like a POB post-Hilaire and Legris, difficult to imagine. Regardless of negative criticism towards her, in my view Aurelie Dupont has consistently proven herself as a more than capable coach.

With regards to directors recommending their successors, I think Brigitte Lefevre overstepped the mark by being a little too public about it. On a couple of occasions Lefevre said Laurent Hilaire and Manuel Legris were ideal choices but hoped it would be Laurent Hilaire, presumably because of his work since entering management, and dismissed Nicolas Le Riche as a candidate due to his lack of experience in administration. It got a bit persistant, even with an article in a French business magazine explaining why Laurent Hilaire is a great manager, which probably would have come across as innocent had it been published prior to these interviews.

One has to also question the professionalism of Stephane Lissner and Nicolas Joel placing somebody in that position as well when Millepied has always been a controversial figure. That is, presuming choosing between Hilaire, Legris and Le Riche was a bad choice due to the potential conflict, had it been, say, Alessandra Ferri, would Hilaire be in a position where he was seen as bitter? This is why a ballet director should be appointed by a panel of experts, not two directors from an entirely unrelated field, one of whom didn't interview candidates despite 'mutually' agreeing to one, the other a controversial figure for fans of La Scala's ballet.

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I agree that Bridgitte Lefevre's rather obvious support of candidates for the position of Artistic Director was somewhat seen as unwise by people, but if her actions were to try and ensure that her successor came from the ranks of the company is to be admired. But it would appear in vain, which is a great mis justice to the heritage of the company and school. Mr Millipied has already criticised the long established style of the dancers, wanting to make them more . like ABT. Quite what he means by this I do not know. Virtuosity is their style, not the well schooled and quality of the POB. When you look at ABT they are a very mixed bunch of people from different countries and techniques. The POB can jump, turn, as well as any other company, but with the added bonus of a thorough grounding in their art which has existed for 300 years. Can he keep up with the reputation and continue in the same vein allowing the coaches and artistic stiff to use their experience to keep POB on a level we are used to, or will it deteriate and loose it's kudos under his control, we will have no alternative than to wait and see

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I hope Aurelie Dupont will bring a different tone to the coaching staff since she's been an outspoken critic of the training methods of both the POB school and the POB itself, citing the harsh criticism and lack of empathy among the teachers and coaches. And when I watched La Danse, I couldn't help but agree with Dupont. I remember the cold smile Lefevre gave a skeletal girl when she said she had lost weight, and I really got the chills.

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I'm not sure I would completely side with Aurelie Dupont's rather sweeping criticism of the coaching in the company today though. Not to dismiss her claims, if Dupont feels treated like a puppet then there is a clear need for her to be taught with a very different approach, but when there are more than a few coaches highly praised by dancers, including Laurent Hilaire and Dupont herself, it seems unfair of her to make it sound like they are all like that. The ecole however I can understand and whilst it appears to have improved under Elisabeth Platel, the harmful 'commit to the POB or nothing' attutide persists.

As for La Danse, it was arty farty with a purposely distant and moody tone to it. Laurent Hilaire was, if anything, exaggeratedly kind (and so French) and for me, is a prime example of what a good coach should be. Footage of his coaching elsewhere along with his public rehearsals show a very caring man who knows how to have fun with his colleagues. He certainly lives up to his reputation for being a very animated and infectiously energetic character. A keen eye for details as well, of course.

Ghyslaine Thesmar and Noella Pontois didn't get a lot of air time in La Danse and have since retired, but both have great reputations amongst the dancers too. Thesmar was a maternal type for Dupont, Letestu and Hilaire, so clearly isn't the distant character she came across as in La Danse. As for Brigitte Lefevre, well it is Brigitte Lefevre. I had the same feelings about Patrice Bart watching the Etoiles documentary when he refused to accept the job is difficult or his colleagues could feel lonely, snarkily cut to immediately after Aurelie Dupont spoke of her difficult experiences. A classic moment!

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Mr Millipied has already criticised the long established style of the dancers, wanting to make them more . like ABT. Quite what he means by this I do not know. Virtuosity is their style, not the well schooled and quality of the POB. When you look at ABT they are a very mixed bunch of people from different countries and techniques.

In his New Yorker profile he said he wanted to make the company more diverse and less white. While a laudable goal, I wonder how is he going to do that? He can't just hire whom he wants because prospective dancers come in through the Concours, and he sits on the jury with other people. Or does he expect to either 1) change the recruitment process or 2) control the jury? Encouraging more minorities to attend the Ecole won't affect the company for several years -- at best.

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By leaving, Hilaire and Legris position themselves well to return to the top job at POB should Millepied for whatever reason leave. It's a good strategic move for them either way. It's good politics.

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Mr Millipied has already criticised the long established style of the dancers, wanting to make them more . like ABT. Quite what he means by this I do not know. Virtuosity is their style, not the well schooled and quality of the POB. When you look at ABT they are a very mixed bunch of people from different countries and techniques.

In his New Yorker profile he said he wanted to make the company more diverse and less white. While a laudable goal, I wonder how is he going to do that? He can't just hire whom he wants because prospective dancers come in through the Concours, and he sits on the jury with other people. Or does he expect to either 1) change the recruitment process or 2) control the jury? Encouraging more minorities to attend the Ecole won't affect the company for several years -- at best.

Well, guest artists are a way to start, while you're waiting for the school process to cycle through.

I think, though, that this is related to the current BA discussion about the lack of Asian and Asian American performers in some US companies.

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After Aurelia's out spoken remarks I think she will definately be an under standing coach, in a clip from the filming of a fashion video she is seen with her progeny as their Petite Mammon talking to four girls There does not seem to be any harsh words only kindness. In the documentary that Cedric Klaplish made about Aurelie. her relationship with Clotilde Vayer seemed very close, which will be very good for her, as she will be taking over from Laurent Hillarie who is leaving. The fact that Aurelie has children of her own, must mean she is used to dealing with young people. Her husband Jeremie Belingard is known as a comedian and is considerate and pleasant so it would seem she enjoys a life full of happiness and laughter, so surely this will follow into her new career. You can see Aurelie collapse on the floor with exhaustion as people in the back ground laugh in Nicholas Le Riche's documentary and the other by Klaplish letting us see her sense of humour.

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Mr Millipied has already criticised the long established style of the dancers, wanting to make them more . like ABT. Quite what he means by this I do not know. Virtuosity is their style, not the well schooled and quality of the POB. When you look at ABT they are a very mixed bunch of people from different countries and techniques.

In his New Yorker profile he said he wanted to make the company more diverse and less white. While a laudable goal, I wonder how is he going to do that? He can't just hire whom he wants because prospective dancers come in through the Concours, and he sits on the jury with other people. Or does he expect to either 1) change the recruitment process or 2) control the jury? Encouraging more minorities to attend the Ecole won't affect the company for several years -- at best.

With regards to Millepied's commenrs about the lack of diversity, which caused outrage in France, I was under the impression the company only started recruiting externally (that is, not from the POB School or the Paris Conservatoire) in the early 2000s. Changes to labour laws meant institutions and companies couldn't solely rely on their feeder schools anymore, something like that.

The POB School (which gave some of its students from minorities publicity soon after Millepied's comments!), like both the internal and external concours, relies on body measurements. It is, according to an interview with Mathilde Froustey, only free if you join at a young age. That's not going to produce a wide demographic, and certainly not when only the top ranking applicants gain a place.

Millepied is not a diplomat and far from a smoother talker anyway. He didn't credit the dancers to Elisabeth Platel but Claude Bessy, despite the latter retiring ten years ago, and it is obvious he took the job because he wants the extensive resources. In a recent interview he said he arrived convinced he was going to have to hire dancers externally to bring the company upto scratch, but was pleasantly surprised that wasn't the case. I mean, seriously? Can you imagine City Ballet hiring a director who doesn't even know the company? Just more insult to Hilaire and Legris.

I wouldn't be surprised if Hilaire moved into theatre. A fine, fine dancer-actor, he hinted that is an area he wants to try when he retired. Sylvie Guillem also wants to try theatre, so perhaps we will see this legendary partnership reunite. Excited for Mr. Hilaire but still sad. The life of POB fans eh? ;-)

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Can we please boycott the POB, Benjamin Millepied's ballets and the company's dancers when they're guesting?

This is a very strange turn of events. According to this, Laurent Hilaire was invited to resign by the incoming general director in exchange for a bonus of 200k: http://www.mediapart.fr/article/offert/79bea3640837ed171d94459898d04a13. A review of the Paris Opera's spending has been ordered. (Is this OK to post? Just checking.)

For me, Aurelie Dupont and Clotilde Vayer just went from respectable individuals to avoidable. Sickening. Why is Laurent Hilaire being judged by the actions of Brigitte Lefevre? Why are the company's dancers silent and supportive of Benjamin Millepied's arrival? Why, when the ballet world was quick to damn the mess at the Vaganova, are people still quiet? I cannot comprehend this at all.

Edit to add: I don't understand French labour laws, so I don't know if it's possible to offer a payout when there's no basis to fire somebody, or if you have to have a reason. Can anyone confirm? I can't see how Laurent Hilaire is unreliable so unless he is guilty of misconduct, I assume the former...

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I don't know why managers would not be able to choose their own assistants, who are part of management. French law may differ, but it is Lissner, Millepied's boss, who, according to the Google translation of the linked article, is cleaning house throughout the Paris Opera organization, not Millepied.

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I don't know why managers would not be able to choose their own assistants, who are part of management. French law may differ..

Hm OK, I'll take that view instead. In the UK I don't think this is a particularly common occurance although I may be wrong. I guess Mr. Hilaire could have refused, and 200k is an awful lot (although still tiny compared to the small salary of those above him).

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Top management salaries and perks compared to the rest was certainly one of the main points of that article. If Heymann makes 6,000 Euros a month, I hope rents are cheaper in Paris, because corps members at top companies with seniority can make 5,000-6,000 USD a month, and for those living in NYC without a mortgage interest deduction, the taxes paid to city, state, and federal governments are similar to total tax rates in Europe.

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