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The Millepied Era at the Paris Opera Ballet

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"Best get your resume ready in case you need to contact Charles Jude or Manuel Legris!"

I had that same thought. ;)

The sheer size of POB does seem to work against the dancers many times (and Millepied seemed to hint at this fact in his interviews). A smaller company (assuming the same schedule) dances more, and is presumably more exhausted.

Of course, once the injuries pile up, suddenly there don't seem to be many etoiles available to dance roles of any type - POB has this issue even with the present company.

One thing not mentioned: it is possible that necessity will find Millepied altering his choreographic style to allow for the needs of his dancers (rather than simply imposing his way on them). That's something Balanchine would have done, as necessary. Not that Mr. M is Mr. B, but it would do Millepied some artistic good to try new things himself.

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Well the situation is different if you're an Etoile or not regarding the ballets you dance.. Only the Etoiles can choose to dance or not, so they will be faced to choices if it what is proposed doesn't suit them. If you're in the other ranks, you have to dance what you are told to (Of course you may behave as you're not offered a lot wink1.gif and that's why I guess some Premiers danseurs are undercast)

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it is possible that necessity will find Millepied altering his choreographic style to allow for the need of his dancers (rather than simply imposing his way on them).

Ideally, he would choreograph to the French style rather than trying to drag the dancers toward him. In his many press interviews, he talks a lot about music and he talks a lot about scenic design and he invokes (vaingloriously) the name of Diaghilev. But I never hear much from him how he's going to marry the French style and training to his own works or to the repertory he's programmed for 2015-16. Maybe there will be a happy marriage. The greater likelihood is that either the French style will mutate so it no longer looks like the French style, or Millepied quits out of frustration.

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This might not be a popular opinion but I'm not sure the POB system is ideal and that changes aren't needed. For instance Aurelie Dupont and some other dancers have spoken rather bitterly about how brutal and inhumane they felt the schooling system was under Claude Bessy. Not sure if this has changed, but their complaints (if true) need to be addressed and not just swept under the rug of "well, that's the French way."

Second of all, the "classics" in the POB are almost always the Nureyev versions. Some of his versions are good (La Bayadere) but other versions of his classics IMO could be replaced. For instance his Nutcracker is a rather creepy Freudian tale with (as always) lots of extra dancing for the male. His Swan Lake is also overly fussy, Freudian, and with so much busy dancing. His R&J is IMO inferior to the MacMillan, Cranko, and Lavrovsky versions.

I'm not sure Millepied is the right person to enact changes, but I'm also not convinced that Lefevre's tenure represented French ballet tradition in the most pure way either.

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Well, Claude Bessy had some choice words about Aurelie Dupont and her comments about the school:

"She is talking about herself. Because though she has brilliant gifts, she was always lazy and from the very first days she didn't like the school that her mother had sent her to. During her whole six years Aurelie never lost a resentful expression on her face, not a shadow of a smile ever. All the teachers knew this grimace of hers."

Regardless of where the truth lies (and it does become a bit like the chicken and the egg with these two), Claude Bessy has been gone from the school for a decade. My impression of Elisabeth Platel's tenure is that she has defended the style itself with the classwork but eased up on the atmosphere a bit so it's less like a cross between a Catholic monastery and a reformatory.

The sense I have gotten from reading interviews with some of the top dancers is that the problem is not with the school per se but with the repertory the school's graduates have had to dance first under Nureyev and then under Madame Lefevre. Karl Paquette gave an interview to Ballet Review during the company's 2012 US tour and he very pointedly said that the training didn't prepare them for a lot of the technical challenges in the Nureyev productions. And there was much criticism of Madame Lefevre during her tenure regarding some of her programming choices and how they were asking classically trained dancers to be something they weren't. So, is the training at fault? Or, have the repertory choices gone too far afield? (And now you have Millepied bringing in this New York City Ballet aesthetic to complicate matters further.)

I'm not opposed to retiring certain Nureyev productions if they have outlived their usefulness. I just don't know that Millepied is necessarily the person to conduct such a review, or that he should be the person choreographing new versions.

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"All the teachers knew this grimace of hers." - Well at least it's not personal. ;)

Dupont is hardly the only person to complain about life at the school. And Bessy doesn't exactly refute the accusations that have been made. It seems to be more of a case of, "we do it that way because it works". The Russians have used that excuse at Mariinsky and Bolshoi for ages.

As far as who can best institute any needed changes at POB, I think it is now a matter of who is game. And Millepied is willing, for now. Would someone like Legris or Le Riche be as willing?

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It seems to be more of a case of, "we do it that way because it works".

I could make the case that the now-legendary generation of dancers Nureyev identified and promoted didn't give birth to themselves. Someone trained them up to the demands of the times.

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Well Aurelie Dupont's complaints seem consistent with other reports of how the school was run:


As I said, the school might have changed under the direction of Elisabeth Platel, and I'm not sure Millepied is the right person to revamp the Nureyev classics, but I don't think the Lefevre reign was a summit of classical ballet in Paris either, and I think the charges of the school's climate (if true) need to be addressed.

I should add that similar complaints were made about 10-15 years ago at the Vaganova and Bolshoi academies. These complaints have since lessened, because apparently many abusive teachers were told to retire or let go. Nowadays there have been no major complaints of a truly abusive, unhealthy environment at either Russian academy.

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Claude Bessy was heavily criticized for the moral pressure (military style) in the school but not for technical training. I don’t know what changes if any Elisabeth has made regarding the latter but it is widely said now that the new dancers are less technical...

I think that the main problem with the Nureyev’s ballets is that they are extremely complicated to dance and that they were not programmed enough. If they were all practiced more frequently, perhaps the dancers would be more like to embody the difficulty of the steps and give more artistic dimensions. But in your entire career (so not necessary at the soloist level), if you only have to dance three times at most each classic, it’s difficult to reach the perfection of other companies which are used to present these ballets on regular basis.

If you take Swan Lake for example, among all the current female, Etoiles Emilie Cozette, Marie-Agnès Gillot and Ludmila Pagliero danced it twice. Aurélie Dupont, Laura Hecquet and Laëtitia Pujol have only danced it once and took the role in their thirties. The other Etoiles haven't danced this role said as the most important for a female artist!

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In an interview Ismene Brown recently translated, Claude Bessy accuses a trade union of making false allegations. http://www.ismeneb.com/Blog/Entries/2015/5/18_Paris_ballet_schools_iron_lady_speaks_frankly.html

Whilst I don't think ALL of the accusations thrown at Bessy's era are false (David Hallberg and Dorothee Gilbert don't speak highly of their time there), they clearly believe Bessy is fit to be around minors or they wouldn't continue inviting her to teach classes. I doubt problems at the ecole under her direction will ever be addressed anyway. Aside from the fact the Opera director at the time ruthlessly defended Claude Bessy, it's not only a state school but under the watchful eye of relevant Ministries. Assuming France has regular school inspections like the UK then they should have picked up on these problems, and relevant Government representatives involved in the school also had a duty to raise the alarm.

Except for complaints about the pressure to focus on getting into the POB, rather than having a career in ballet in general, I haven't heard anything negative in recent years anyway. A lot of the dancers speak highly of Elisabeth Platel and the teaching team there, especially Wilfrid Romoli's students. I'm not 100% sure but I was under the impression the school's director was appointed by the state anyway, so given the controversial nature of Bessy's tenure I would imagine they chose carefully.

With regards to the lack of classical ballet under Lefevre, it worsened under Mortier and Joel, with a restricted budget and culture ministers not all that fond of ballet (election 2017 should be interesting...), as well as their own personal tastes getting in the way. It's likely Lissner is just as controlling. However I can't recall the POB being a powerhouse of classical dance anyway? Carolyn Carlson was a choreographer there in the early 70s and the POB has rarely made much use of its heritage, which is a great shame IMO.

As for Hilaire, Legris and Le Riche, well, we won't know what the former two would do with a company, but given their track record for complaining about the ONP I don't think they wouldn't have pushed for change. The whole job wasn't about the POB anyway (has it ever been?). It was about fitting Stephane Lissner's vision for the company, who has admitted he knows nothing about dance (he knows very little about opera too, but that's for another discussion). He claims Millepied worked for the ABT and at Dupont's farewell, he addressed Benjamin Pech as Bernard Pech. Millepied isn't much better, mind, recently claiming Pech was on the same level as Le Riche, and his PR stuff for Aurelie Dupont has been a bit OTT.

I don't think from interviews with Agnes Letestu and even Dupont the POB are fond of choreographers imposing their style, but I guess we'll see. The POB these days are better than what they were in the early 00s (Nureyev etoiles being the exception there) but they're still pretty weak compared to the generations before them IMO, so I think they need some fairly 'academic' staples in their rep they can get to grips with. I don't think we'll see that under Millepied though, or whoever succeeds him.

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at Dupont's farewell, he addressed Benjamin Pech as Bernard Pech.

Bwahahaha. That's almost as good (bad) as David Koch referring to ABT artistic director as "Peter" (as in Martins) at an ABT event.

I went back to the very first post (mine) in this thread and I noticed that one of the programming ideas Millepied mentioned in The New Yorker profile didn't come to pass. This was the proposed evening of "silent" ballets by William Forsythe, Emanuel Gat and Jerome Robbins. There must have been significant pushback from the musicians.

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I went back to the very first post (mine) in this thread and I noticed that one of the programming ideas Millepied mentioned in The New Yorker profile didn't come to pass. This was the proposed evening of "silent" ballets by William Forsythe, Emanuel Gat and Jerome Robbins.

Yet. He could still be contemplating it.

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I question how great an idea an evening of silent ballets was in the first place. I don't think they would have gained anything from each other. I would argue that each one would have been 2/3rds less interesting that it would have been if it appeared on a mixed bill with two other works set to music.

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It works both ways, for me. I know when I've seen "Moves" in a mixed bill with other works that use a conventional score, it takes me a while to 'hear' the rhythm of the movement without the tick-tock metronome in my ear. Once I get there, I wind up with a very specific kinesthetic reaction, but it feels like I'm supplying a "score" for the work. The times I've seen a whole program of silent works, I've had more time to really examine the relationship between the movement and the rhythmic structures it creates.

What it comes down to, I think, is that a single work feels more like a novelty -- a group of them feels more like a genre. Like programming a trio of works to Bach, or a group of solos. You learn more about the unifying theme or element by seeing the variety of iterations.

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