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The Millepied Era at the Paris Opera Ballet


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#61 Alymer

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Posted 28 September 2014 - 11:07 AM

I first saw the POB in the mid seventies.  The dancers were technically very strong, but the problem seemed to be that there was a lack of discipline, no strong direction and (perhaps) the general administrator wasn't that interested in dance.  Also, there were a great many restrictive practices which made it a very difficult place to work.  So the company atrtacted little attention outside France.  This changed to some extent when Rolf Lieberman took over direction of the theatre.  He was interested in both opera and ballet and was a good friend of Balanchine (Chaconne has its origins in dances which Mr B did for a production of Orpheus given in Hamburg when Lieberman was director there).  So a great deal of Balanchine was added to the rep, including several pieces from the Stravinsky Festival which Balanchine rehearsed himself.  Likewise a number of ballets from the Ravel Festival came into the rep (Lieberman helped with negotiations with the Ravel Estate I believe).  It was also during the Lieberman era that Cunningham created Un Jour ou Deux for the company.  A really interesting piece and the dancers were wonderful.

Verdy had two difficult years, but did bring MacMillan's Song of the Earth into the repertory.  Then came Hightower, who among other things managed to increase the number of performances and I actually heard her say "I'll keep them so busy they won't have time to plot". Things were a great deal less str5essful for the direction (there was one strike and a postponed premiere but that was because the stage was infested with bugs because of real straw bales used as part of the decor for Heinz Spoerli's Fille Mal Gardee).  Then in 1983 came Nureyev who found a galaxy of talent at all levels.  Claude Bessy took over the direction of the school in 1973 so dancers like Piollet, Pontois, Loudieres, Thesmar, Bonnefous, Guizerix, Denard and Jude, at the top of the company when he took over, were all products of the old school - and wonderful dancers they were.  (Platel actually trained at the Paris Conservatoire).

My impression is that Nureyev didn't try to influence style but always gave opportunities to young dancers (often despite custom and tradition)  and opened up the repertory still more trying to stretch both technique and interpretation.  (There's a story about him at the Royal Ballet working furiously to master a sequence of steps.  Michael Somes saw him and said "It would be easier and would give the same effect if you did ............................"  To which came the reply "How will I improve if I don't set myself something to do that I can't do".

It's a long time since I saw POB so I don't know what the company is like now - I've heard ominous reports, But I have no personal knowledge.

As to the Royal Ballet, they have some wonderful dancers but the Ashton style "What used to be known as the English style is in fact the Ashton style" as someone wrote, really went when MacMillan took over.  The level of the men was with a few exceptions pretty weak, and he was heard to complain that the company danced Petipa like they danced Ashton.



#62 sandik

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Posted 28 September 2014 - 11:18 AM

...  This changed to some extent when Rolf Lieberman took over direction of the theatre.  He was interested in both opera and ballet and was a good friend of Balanchine (Chaconne has its origins in dances which Mr B did for a production of Orpheus given in Hamburg when Lieberman was director there).  So a great deal of Balanchine was added to the rep, including several pieces from the Stravinsky Festival which Balanchine rehearsed himself.  Likewise a number of ballets from the Ravel Festival came into the rep (Lieberman helped with negotiations with the Ravel Estate I believe).  It was also during the Lieberman era that Cunningham created Un Jour ou Deux for the company.  A really interesting piece and the dancers were wonderful.
Verdy had two difficult years, but did bring MacMillan's Song of the Earth into the repertory.  Then came Hightower, who among other things managed to increase the number of performances and I actually heard her say "I'll keep them so busy they won't have time to plot". Things were a great deal less str5essful for the direction (there was one strike and a postponed premiere but that was because the stage was infested with bugs because of real straw bales used as part of the decor for Heinz Spoerli's Fille Mal Gardee).  Then in 1983 came Nureyev who found a galaxy of talent at all levels.  Claude Bessy took over the direction of the school in 1973 so dancers like Piollet, Pontois, Loudieres, Thesmar, Bonnefous, Guizerix, Denard and Jude, at the top of the company when he took over, were all products of the old school - and wonderful dancers they were.  (Platel actually trained at the Paris Conservatoire).


Thanks so much for the timeline -- I really appreciate the details.

My impression is that Nureyev didn't try to influence style but always gave opportunities to young dancers (often despite custom and tradition)  and opened up the repertory still more trying to stretch both technique and interpretation.


And yes, I think that, and the general excitement that followed him wherever he went, was his true accomplishment in Paris.

#63 miliosr

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 03:44 PM

At the BAM site, there's a video -- http://www.bam.org/video -- of Deborah Jowitt conducting an artist talk with Benjamin Millepied.  The relevant parts about the Paris Opera Ballet occur between 28:00-39:00 and again between 47:00-54:00.  Millepied covered the following:

 

  • Discusses his approach to the institution -- its history, his place within it as a choreographer, and balancing ballets of the past vs. ballets of our time.
  • Talks a little bit about bucking the hierarchy to cast corps dancers in central roles.
  • Talks about the importance of music and developing musicality, and how he was dissatisfied with some of the piano playing he heard in company class.
  • Envisions himself as an artistic director who is also teaching company class.
  • Discusses his disappointment with companies that performed tributes to the Ballet Russe upon its 100th anniversary.  (I wasn't clear if he was disappointed in companies performing tired revivals of the old Ballet Russe repertory or in commissioning new works to the old Ballet Russe scores instead of commissioning new scores.)
  • Was quite critical of the Paris Opera dancers for being "not ambitious" in terms of some dancers just hanging around until they're 42 when they can collect their pensions.  I get the sense he may start putting pressure on the dead weight to leave.  (This is the part of the conversation with which I wish Deborah Jowitt had done a better job asking follow-up questions.  Namely, how can you get rid of the dead weight when you cannot fire the dancers?)
  • Mentions how the performers on stage and the audience itself are not reflective of what Paris actually looks like.

There's more but I'll leave it at that for now.  Millepied was interesting and well-spoken but Jowitt didn't seem particularly well-informed about the Paris Opera Ballet.

 

P.S.  Millepied did say he will announce the 2015-16 season in February.



#64 miliosr

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 08:58 AM

Millepied in Vogue:

 

http://www.vogue.com...november-cover/

 

Not much new under the sun in this interview other than that the 2015-16 season will feature, "seven newly commissioned ballets."

 

Can work up much enthusiasm for the same old overextended names being thrown about: Wheeldon, Ratmansky and Peck

 

I wish there was a better photo of the etoiles than the one Vogue used.



#65 Drew

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 09:29 AM

Millepied in Vogue:

 

http://www.vogue.com...november-cover/

 

....

 

Can work up much enthusiasm for the same old overextended names being thrown about: Wheeldon, Ratmansky and Peck

 

Peck is very "hot" right now, but "old [and] overextended?"--he has only been prominent for about a year...In many ways, he and his audience are still figuring out what kind of choreographer he is going to be...



#66 miliosr

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 02:52 PM

I stand by my assessment of Justin Peck.  In the short span of less than eight weeks, New York has seen the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform one of his pieces at the Joyce and the LA Dance Project perform another at BAM.  This in addition to his very busy activities at the New York City Ballet.  I question whether he's taking on too much.

 

As for him, "still figuring out what kind of choreographer he is going to be," that ship sailed when he accepted the Resident Choreographer position at City Ballet and started accepting major commissions from A-list dance companies.  He's in the big leagues now and he has to accept that critics won't cut him any slack.

 

But my bigger point is this: I'm dreading the prospect that Millepied will bring the POB's repertory into line with the prevailing international standard.  The names he's thrown around include Balanchine, Forsythe, Peck, Ratmansky, Robbins and Wheeldon.  They're all wonderful . . . but you can see them anywhere.  Even ABT, for its Fall season, will be featuring pieces by Ratmansky, Wheeldon and that other hot young choreographer, Liam Scarlett.  I like POB precisely because their repertory consists of things that are hard to see anywhere else: the defile and Lifar's Suite en Blanc and Bejart's Bolero and Balanchine's Palais de Cristal and Cunningham's Un jour ou deux and the Lacotte reconstructions and the Nureyev takes on the classics.  I would hate to see any of that disappear.  And if Millepied wants to bring in fresh choreographers, I would prefer it if he used French choreographers who have a tie to the company style -- the former etoile Jean-Guillaume Bart and the sujet Nicolas Paul and the quadrille Samuel Murez.

 

But I'll have to wait until February to find out what's in store.  Worried!!!!!



#67 pherank

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 03:47 PM

And if Millepied wants to bring in fresh choreographers, I would prefer it if he used French choreographers who have a tie to the company style -- the former etoile Jean-Guillaume Bart and the sujet Nicolas Paul and the quadrille Samuel Murez.

 

But I'll have to wait until February to find out what's in store.  Worried!!!!!

 

Change is not without stress.  ;)

 

I agree that it would be best if Millepied focused on home grown choreographic talent rather than simply add a bunch of Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Forsythe ballets to the repetoire. It is precisely the big, state funded companies that have the opportunity to create a specific style and approach. Small companies simply don't have that option (unless one happens to hire an unknown genius choreographer - still waiting for that to happen); they have to appeal to a broad range to survive.



#68 dirac

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 04:53 PM

A few outside commissions doesn't make Peck overextended....yet. He has said that he doesn't want to follow the Wheeldon/Ratmansky model of doing ballets for lots of different companies. And, as Violette Verdy said, you don't say no to the Opera. :)

 

miliosr writes:
 

 

 I'm dreading the prospect that Millepied will bring the POB's repertory into line with the prevailing international standard.

 

 

I agree. I hope he comes up with other ideas beyond commissioning ballets from the usual suspects.



#69 sandik

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 10:15 PM

A few outside commissions doesn't make Peck overextended....yet. He has said that he doesn't want to follow the Wheeldon/Ratmansky model of doing ballets for lots of different companies. And, as Violette Verdy said, you don't say no to the Opera. smile.png

 

miliosr writes:
 

 

 I'm dreading the prospect that Millepied will bring the POB's repertory into line with the prevailing international standard.

 

 

I agree. I hope he comes up with other ideas beyond commissioning ballets from the usual suspects.

 

There's overextended, yes, but you learn to make dances by making dances, and at this point, Peck is still learning.



#70 miliosr

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Posted 21 October 2014 - 04:00 PM

Change is not without stress.

Oui!!!




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