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miliosr

The Millepied Era at the Paris Opera Ballet

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sandik - can you be more specific about skills and composition techniques that can be taught?

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There are tools that you can use to help generate movement (to make up sequences) and then there are other tools you can use to develop that material, to create shorter phrases and longer sections with stylistic consistency or structural integrity. In the same way that a composer can learn craft, a choreographer can learn similar skills. I see a lot of work from young choreographers, of all styles. Many of them are still struggling with making a dance, rather than making strings of movement.

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There are skills that can be taught and composition techniques that can be learned, but those don't always get communicated in the rush to get a piece onstage.

Yes, I would hope there would be more to it than giving nascent choreographers a copy of The Art of Making Dances and telling them to get on with it!

A lot of dancers are choreagraphing for side shows but I don't think all dancers are able to do that (it needs some talent, no?) and are interesting to do it (that's not their job anyway)...

The upside (or perhaps downside) of teaching basic choreographic techniques is that even people without much choreographic talent can learn to put together a respectable piece. I can think of a few choreographers in this category. They're a little like composers who understand harmony, counterpoint and orchestration, but who can't write a tune. There also aren't that many 18-year-olds studying dance in college or university who are very interested in choreography at that stage of their lives, while they're still focused on preparing for a performing career. But since choreographers come from the ranks of dancers, theoretically some of the techniques they learned and the practical experience they gained in composition courses could become useful later on, if they should develop an interest in choreography.

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Since you mentioned the Art of Making Dances, volcanohunter, I would love to see more choreographers of Doris Humphrey's caliber acting as in-house editors for young choreographers, much as Humphrey did for Jose Limon and many others in the early decades of the modern dance. Their first words of advice to young choreographers could be to repeat Humphrey's famous maxim: "All dances are too long."

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I encourage young choreographers to find mentors, but it's a tricky process, especially in smaller communities.

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Philippe Villin, head of AROP, isn't happy his - as the hip kids say - 'BFF' Nicolas Le Riche didn't get the job, nor is he happy with where the company's going. He seems to insinuate Stephane Lissner didn't give Nicolas Le Riche a fair chance. The same with Laurent Hilaire, I wonder? http://tinyurl.com/nvkurk3

Google Translate isn't great so for the French speakers amongst, does it says Villin has left the company? "Drove to" specifically. This is one of the most well-connected members of the Paris elite, by the way...

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I'm not sure to understand what is the purpose of this article, nor what Philippe Villin aimed at... He's not the head of AROP but was (it seems from the paper he's not anymore) an important patron. Arop (friends of Paris opera ballet) gathers a lot of money for the Paris opera and some members are very involved in the life of the institution, sometimes there is thin line between what you can do as a patron and what you can't. From what I read, they can't choose the artistic director of the ballet company but it looks like he thought he could...biggrin.png

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I think he is still AROP's president or deputy but either way he isn't somebody you want to cross. His attacks on and personal campaign to have N. Joel fired were pretty horrific.

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Ah OK, I could have sworn he was (once?) involved in AROP's administration but clearly not. It's amusing the power people with money think they have, no? ;)

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I also fail to see the point of this "article", just an opportunity to talk about himself and take gratuitous shots at people.

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It's an economic journal. Perhaps there is no point, just because he's again under the spotlights. He hired one of Nicolas Le Riche shows at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées for a private party wink1.gif

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The season has an American feel to it, with Balanchine, Robbins and Justin Peck. How do you feel about the French repertoire, and choreographers like Roland Petit or Maurice Béjart?

I have to get to know their work. My interest doesn’t necessarily lie there, but there are ballets which may be relevant on some programs. My time here is also a chance to do something different for a while, and I don’t see why I should deprive myself of the best people making ballet today, from Alexei Ratmansky to Justin Peck. At some point I won’t be here anymore—I’m sure they’ll get to do other ballets again.

I believe that ballet companies belong to choreographers. You could say some choreographers don’t have management skills, but a ballet company should have someone at the helm with a very clear vision for ballet. If you think of Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky or Justin Peck, they make people dance a certain way. The system that I arrive in here makes it hardly possible to do that. The truth is that today the real tradition of ballet, as it should be, is in America. Whether or not you like how the companies are dancing, they are the right size and the director can have a real impact on the dancing, starting in class. Here, with 154 dancers, seven company classes every day, two theaters, it’s very hard.

http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/May-2015/Director-of-Danse

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" At some point I won’t be here anymore—I’m sure they’ll get to do other ballets again."

I wonder, is he planning only a short stay? Or does "they" refer to the POB but not necessarily the current dancers?

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Millepied sounds like a person who put on a hat too big for him. He can't do other than try to americanize the POB.

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I wonder, is he planning only a short stay? Or does "they" refer to the POB but not necessarily the current dancers?

Millepied has said that he has a plan in his head which would take the company into the future for a half dozen years or so. Whether he lasts that long is another question.

I take "they" to mean the POB dancers of the future.

When Millepied says, "I don't see why I should deprive myself of the best people making ballet today, from Alexei Ratmansky to Justin Peck," he comes across as completely obtuse to the fact that so many other company directors are programming the exact same choreographers as he is. More interesting programming in 2015-16 would have been to give opportunities to French classical choreographers like Jean-Guillaume Bart and Nicolas Paul, and to dig deep into the existing POB repertory to find works that would harmonize with the new works. Instead, Millepied is trying to give the POB a completely new identity as a hybrid between a New York City Ballet aesthetic and a European (non-ballet) contemporary dance tradition. (Small wonder because he has no clue about French choreographers like Bejart and Petit or the great English choreographers Ashton and Tudor.)

One of things that will be interesting to see is if a clash develops between Millepied at the company and Elisabeth Platel at the school. The school is the fortress of the French take on ballet technique and the French style. But what the school teaches is completely at odds with what Millepied has programmed. If push comes to shove, I can only hope that Elisabeth Platel wins that fight.

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This interview is very interesting at different levels. It sounds like Millepied now is in full understanding of what is POB and not what he has dreamt it was or it would be as soon as he arrives… POB is a big and heavy machinery, slow to move and with a lot of administrative and human structures difficult to change … Now we can hear here and there that he’s not that much present, that he does a lot outside, that when he comes to teach, he says in this interview dancers are not attending his classes, etc. I feel a little disappointment…

Regarding the repertoire, it’s a bit puzzling. I remember in one of the first interviews he gave after his nomination he said that he didn’t know Nureyev choreographies and now, he says he doesn’t know Béjart and Petit … but he had two years to get acquainted to the repertoire!!! So it means he didn’t care and had an agenda. Which one? What for?

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It sounds as if Millepied may be about to repeat the mistakes that Stretton made at the Royal Ballet .All ballet companies have their own history and an outsider who is appointed as artistic director needs to be exceptionally careful about what he does with the existing repertory. It goes down very badly with everyone if a director appears to be ignorant of the company's history and its repertory. Although the French have always been very keen on the new and fashionable it is not certain that they will take very kindly to POB being converted to a French version of NYCB. Audiences seem to be fond of the Nureyev repertory and may not be that keen on his versions of the nineteenth century classics being dropped. Millepied's choice of repertory and choreographers could prove to be as unacceptable as Stretton's plans were.

Some of Millepied's comments are bizarre.It sounds as if he didn't know anything about the company before he got the job. There are some things that you should never say about an organisation that you are running however firmly you believe them to be true because they can easily be misconstrued and the responses to them can be damaging.. His statement that the ideal size for a company is sixty dancers is one such statement. The obvious response is to ask why he took on the job? The next is to ask whether he intends to reduce its size and how he will do it? Even if he has no intention of doing anything about the company's size, he has introduced an element of doubt into everything he does.

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Thank you, Ashton Fan.

I'm right there with you regarding Millepied's comments about the size of the company. The number of dancers is set and the artistic director cannot get rid of dancers the way Peter Martins did at City Ballet and Edward Villela did at Miami City Ballet in 2008 (both under the guise of fiscal austerity.) The union would push back mightily if he tried. So, why even bring it up in an interview? All it does is create tension within the company.

And why does he keep badmouthing the concours in interviews? Yes, it has its drawbacks. It worked against a unique talent like Mathilde Froustey, who freely admits she sucked at taking the exam. But, by and large, the dancers seem to like it (or at least tolerate it) because there's a rationalized process for advancement. Plenty of people on this board would testify to the fact that leaving these decisions up to the artistic director doesn't always result in sensible decisions. (You can look at ABT, where Stella Abrera hasn't gotten promoted to principal and Daniil Simkin has, even though he hardly dances anything.) Yes, the concours is conservative but it can be seen as being conservative to the good: it prevents rash appointments by a particular artistic director who may not last long (and whose aesthetic may not last long either.) The biggest "injustice" I can think of at POB is the failure to name Emmanuel Thibault as etoile. But the promotion from premiere to etoile has nothing to do with the concours.

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"The truth is that today the real tradition of ballet, as it should be, is in America. Whether or not you like how the companies are dancing, they are the right size and the director can have a real impact on the dancing, starting in class. Here, with 154 dancers, seven company classes every day, two theaters, it’s very hard."

It sounds like people are upset by Millepied's assertion that some of the Amercian ballet companies are better organized, or perhaps run better, than the POB. And changing the management model at POB would somehow "Americanize" the institution, as well as the style of dance and choreography. But that would be quite a leap. And I don't get the sense from his interviews that he's really looking for a duplication of say, NYCB's company organization (thank goodness), but he is thinking about how POB can be more streamlined, efficient and effective - how can POB be at the forefront of the art of ballet, rather than simply the "oldest ballet company in the world"? With the POB and the major Russian companies, there is so much emphasis placed on maintaining traditions that there often isn't sufficient energy and time being devoted to the creation of new artwork. That's obviously a big issue with Millepied, as he's coming from the side of the creators/choreographers.

How would you define the French style nowadays?
What I retain of the French style is the elegance, the restraint. But in the last 10 years, I’m missing a lot of the essentials: the épaulement, the musicality... This company had these things at one point, more so than today. There’s been too much concern with positions and not with how you move from one to the next. I want more contrast, more life.

Do you plan on doing away with the infamous internal competition, the concours de promotion?
We’ll see. I think it’s anti-art: You can’t rank dancers, and it’s completely unfair to judge them on one day. The dancers say it’s a chance for them to be seen, but when I started to teach class, a lot of people didn’t come because they were afraid to show themselves. There are a lot of contradictions. If they want to keep the concours, in a way, too bad for them.

Injuries have been a major issue at POB. How are you addressing it?
Dance medicine doesn’t exist in France, and unfortunately that goes along with not knowing how to take care of your body. I’ve been looking for staff to work with me. I found a French orthopedist who is aware of the problem, and we’re bringing in new PTs, Gyrotonic, massages. The culture is going to change, and I want people I can talk to so I know what’s wrong with the dancers and how to cast them.

These statements may rub some people the wrong way, but I think there's a lot of truth in them. The last statement about injuries and lack of conditioning at POB has been talked about by Mathilde Froustey, who was amazed at the amount of services available to dancers at the much smaller SFB, and she's said that there's been definite improvement in her strength and general energy levels since joining in the extracurricular healthcare/training. Why these things haven't been important at POB is certainly a great mystery.

The Concours - advancement by trial - is too flawed to be the only manner of promotion. It simply needs to be used differently: A.D.'s should absolutely be able to promote dancers they think are special talents, and, there should be a means by which less 'exciting' dancers (to the A.D.) who have paid their dues can also earn advancement. Neither way is perfect enough to be the only means of promotion, but they can be used together to create a more fair system.

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It sounds like people are upset by Millepied's assertion that some of the Amercian ballet companies are better organized, or perhaps run better, than the POB. And changing the management model at POB would somehow "Americanize" the institution, as well as the style of dance and choreography. But that would be quite a leap.

There are two separate ideas in what you wrote: management structure and style of dance/repertory. Clearly, he is dissatisfied with the sheer size of the POB (he says as much in the interview) and would like to remake it along an American model in terms of who's onstage and who's behind the scenes. But, again, that begs the question of why he took the job at the Opera to begin with. The unions will fight him to the death if he ever tries to downsize the talent or the staff so why keep on harping about something that he does not have the power to change?

In terms of style of dance/repertory, I absolutely believe he is attempting to make a wholesale revision of the repertory along the lines of dance as he knows it, which is American dance. I wrote in another thread that his programming for 2015-16 is almost exactly the same as that of the San Francisco Ballet for 2015-16 and very similar to most of the New York City Ballet spinoff companies for 2015-16. He admits he isn't familiar with the historic POB repertory but then he has gone and jettisoned it anyway. Too much emphasis on tradition can be stifling. But no emphasis at all on tradition can be equally as self-defeating.

With the POB and the major Russian companies, there is so much emphasis placed on maintaining traditions that there often isn't sufficient energy and time being devoted to the creation of new artwork. That's obviously a big issue with Millepied, as he's coming from the side of the creators/choreographers.

I would disagree with the notion that the POB is so beholden to tradition that it prevented them from creating new work. Madame Lefevre commissioned a lot of new work during her 20+ year tenure. The problem with most of it was that it had no connection to the company's traditional repertory or training base and instead had them trying to be every kind of company but the kind of company they actually were (and are.) I see Millepied's 2015-16 programming as yet another detour into an alien world rather than the restorative act he obviously thinks it is. I come back to the point I made earlier that I see a conflict brewing between what the school teaches and what Millepied is programming, which is a New York City Ballet-derived aesthetic. The French training and style taught by the school is a very different thing to what you would find in New York, and I'm hard-pressed to see how you can put it in the service of these new repertory demands.

In regard to the concours, I haven't read anything from Millepied where he advocates for a hybrid system of promotion. His every utterance suggests he wants to abandon it altogether.

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I am glad we still have ballet companies, though very few, which can put 32 shades (swans, willis) on the stage. This wouldn't be possible if a company only had 60-65 dancers on its roster. Thirty two women dressed in tutus moving in unison to beautiful music is such a mesmerizing image and I don't want it to become history, remote memories of vanished traditions. Don't future generations deserve to see it too? If there are companies willing to and capable of preserving the traditional ballet reportoire we should applaud their efforts. The world is becoming so homogenized; we already see the same chains of department stores, restaurants, bakeries, shops, etc. in every major city. Old traditional country-specific businesses are disappearing and being replaced by multinational corporations. It would be a truly sad day when this trend extends to the world of ballet.

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I just don't see how Milliepied can create a New York City Ballet aesthetic in Paris, miliosr. Edward Villella even with the help of former NYCB principals was just barely able to do that in Miami over a twenty year period. And it took what seventy years to build and complete that look and idiom at City Ballet itself, with occassional half decades of lapses. You can see no one else really comes close if you look at all the new video clips posted on the website - it surely didnt take in San Francisco, except for Symphony in Three Movements.

The French seem to have always nicely put their own stamp of refinement on whatever they've imported. Their Dances at a Gathering are French DsAG, Sol Le Witt translates as Daniel Burren, rock and roll becomes a kind of chanson ...

But Bejart! (Balanchine's nightmare)

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Well after nearly one year he spent around, even if he only took the lead in October, I have the feeling that Millepied doesn't really know what he wants... His first season had little imagination (but perhaps he was still in need to know the dancers) and ambition but doesn't really look like he will transform the company into a New York City Ballet avatar.

Regarding the concours, I don't think that a two-way (hybrid) system is possible. It would not be acceptable for the dancers... and I don't really understand why he's making all that fuss about it (except of course that apparently the dancers voted against his proposal to suppress it which is perhaps his first big fail in the company) since he's casting Choryphées and Sujets more than some Premiers danseurs which seems to indicate that it's not impossible to bypass the hierarchy...

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I just don't see how Milliepied can create a New York City Ballet aesthetic in Paris, miliosr.

Well, you know the old saying: "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean it ain't going to happen!" ;-)

But Bejart! (Balanchine's nightmare)

I've always admired Bejart for defying Balanchine and hiring Suzanne Farrell.

Regarding the concours, I don't think that a two-way (hybrid) system is possible.

I agree. You already have one five-tiered hierarchy. Having a two-way promotional system would label one group as Millepied's favorites and the other as a lesser status group of workhorses.

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