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2016-2017 Season

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Underwhelming indeed. I'm not a big fan of a lot of mixed bills in general, they don't seem like a great way to introduce new people to ballet. And Forsythe... seriously, I don't think I feel bad about his departure from the POB. He's *everywhere* and will probably have several of his works performed by other companies touring in Paris anyway (he usually does).

As for ABT, why? I'm surprised La Scala weren't smart enough to restrict ABT to touring it in the US.

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me too but not in Paris...


I used to love the "annual Balanchine piece" that Levefre would program because I love Balanchine, but the Parisian dancers are not that well suited to the movement. At least, it seems slow and strange if you are used to the NYCB style.

They do Forsythe excellently here, and Cunningham moderately well, but it's disappointing to see that the bread of butter of Parisian ballet: Petit, Bejart, Lifar, the grand classics, etc. are almost entirely absent. Millepied criticized so much the classical technique here and the need to improve it; this programming seems rather heedless.

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When I first read the programming for 2016-17, I thought it had to be a mistake. But there is no mistake. Excepting the four dancers from the company whose work will be featured on one program, I count 21 separate dances for next season. Nine of the 21 have a very strong connection to the New York City Ballet - five by Balanchine, one by Robbins, one by Justin Peck and two by Millepied himself. Then there's the strong "contemporary ballet" contingent with three works by Forsythe and one by Crystal Pite, who worked under Forsythe in the 90s. That gets you to 13 of the 21. The next five are all by non-ballet contemporary dance choreographers -- one by Seghal, one by McGregor, one by Chamblas/Charmatz, one by Merce Cunningham, and one by Cherkaoui/Jalet. That gets you to 18 of 21, which leaves only three dances in the "classic tradition" - Nureyev's Swan Lake, Pierre Lacotte's reconstruction of La Sylphide and Antony Tudor's The Leaves Are Fading.

but it's disappointing to see that the bread of butter of Parisian ballet: Petit, Bejart, Lifar, the grand classics, etc. are almost entirely absent.

Where is the French heritage in the 2016-17 season? The Franco-Russian classics of the 19th century are largely missing. The Ballets Russes, which often performed in Paris, is entirely missing. Serge Lifar, Roland Petit and Maurice Bejart, who all made such huge contributions to French dance in the post-War period are MIA. It's as if Millepied truly believes that dance didn't start until the 1950s with George Balanchine.

Millepied criticized so much the classical technique here and the need to improve it, the programming seems rather heedless.

If you don't like the way the company is performing the classics, is the answer to perform fewer of them in 2016-17 than you did in 2015-16? It's non-sensical that a classical company like the Paris Opera Ballet will only be performing Swan Lake and La Sylphide over the course of a ten month season.

And even though Millepied is only supposed to be in his position until July 2016, the company's stuck with this experiment in a void until July 2017!

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It's weird how Nureyev versions are now considered "the grand classics" because when they premiered there was vociferous protest that they were replacing superior versions. I believe there was even an official protest about his Swan Lake.

There's the proof that change happens, whether we work for it, or not. ;)

Anything over 30 years of age becomes 'ancient history' for the youngest generation.

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Roslyn Sulcas reports on the press conference:


And interviews Millepied:


Regarding the press conference, someone should have stood up and asked:

"Given how the ballet director said in the press that the Paris Opera Ballet was the world's greatest contemporary dance company but no longer a great classical dance company, can the press take the programming of only two works in the classic manner -- Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake and Pierre Lacotte's La Sylphide -- during the 2016-17 season as a vote of no confidence in the ability of the dancers of this company to perform full-length narrative ballets? If the answer is 'no,' can you explain the reasoning behind programming so many plotless neoclassical, contemporary ballet and contemporary dance works in 2016-17 and tell us how performing these works will help them to perform the great narrative ballets in the future?"

In the interview article, Laura Capelle really gets to the heart of the matter with how many people felt Millepied was imposing an American view of dance on the French, and that he underestimated the attachment the French had to the traditional -- and very theatrical -- French repertory.

And I don't think it was wise of Millepied to compare the corps in La Bayadere with the Rockettes.

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I guess I'll point out the elephant in the room: WHAT French tradition in classical ballet? It started with Marie Taglioni but the POB performs a vague reconstruction by Lacotte. Their Giselle is heavily based on the standard Petipa version that ... pretty much every company performs. Their Coppelia ... do they even perform that anymore? Their Fille mal gardee is by Ashton. The rest of their "classics" are by Nureyev, who was hardly French in training, background, or aesthetics.

The works created on the POB in the 20th century include a lot by Bejart and Petit. They are hardly classical. In fact I wouldn't even call Bejart "ballet" in terms of the fifth position standard. George Balanchine created one notable work on the POB, which was the Palais de Cristal (later Symphony in C). Serge Lifar's ballets are certainly not what you'd consider 5th position classical, either.

The only thing about French ballet that's special is their training and their famous company hierarchy. Their upright backs and necks, their straight 90 degree arabesques, their aristocratic and slightly stiff port de bras. But that is their training, their school. Their company repertoire has no great founding father, it's a mishmash of different choreographers.

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WHAT French tradition in classical ballet?
Their company repertoire . . . it's a mishmash of different choreographers.

It's a mongrelized tradition, to be sure, but it's a mongrelized tradition that carries with it the accumulated weight of French history. For better or for worse, the Paris Opera Ballet has had to exist in a country which saw the collapse of monarchies in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1870, the collapse of the First Empire, three separate German invasions in the span of 70 years, the disorders of 1968 and the arrival of the strongly Left Mitterand government in 1981. If the POB's repertory seems messy and non-linear . . . well, French history has been messy and non-linear. To the extent that the Opera holds up a mirror to France, then it stands to reason the repertory will be as convoluted as the history. It's still a tradition, and a tradition worth preserving, even though there may not be a "great founding father" at the center of it.

In any event, I don't know if eradicating the old tradition(s) and imposing this entirely new tradition in its place is smart strategy. In my more paranoid moments, I look at Millepied's two seasons of programming and see a corrective to what certain quarters in New York still see as the unforgivable sin on the part of the Opera: rejecting Balanchine in favor of Lifar. Viewed in that light, Millepied's programming for 2015-16 and 2016-17 becomes like an alternate worlds scenario in science fiction: "You see, I am giving you the history you should have had if only you hadn't bungled the decision back in the 1940s." Call me paranoid but you know the old saying -- "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean it ain't happening!" :wink:

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'I also want the dancers in the corps to dance as much as possible,” he added, “and that’s what these Balanchine ballets give to you. What he created is simply the best 20th-century classical ballet that teaches you beautiful musicality, the art of partnering and gives you an ability to express who you are as a dancer.”'

[From Paris Opera Ballet Opts for Silence Over Benjamin Millepied’s Resignation]

Even for those persons not in love with Balanchine (for instance, seemingly many English balletomanes), it is difficult to argue with the truth in Millepied's points. And given that ballet is passed on from person to person using direct contact, having a former NYCB dancer as choreographer-in-chief, and Artistic Director, serves to pass on more of the Balanchine heritage to POB, in a very legitimate manner. Except of course when that A.D. discontinues the relationship after a short amount of time. Then the opportunity is lost.

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I don't object to Balanchine at POB per se. It's that Balanchine is the one 20th century choreographer who seems in no danger of being lost (for many excellent reasons). However, if the POB doesn't perform Petit, Bejart, Lifar, Nureyev, Bart, etc., they're in active danger of slipping away. And I would miss them.

And, in general, while the canon of 20th century neoclassical and abstract works is relatively healthy, one rarely sees 20th century dramatic works onstage anywhere. The POB is one of the few companies that serves up that repertory.

(I think that's useful for other reasons. Balanchine does indeed hone technique and musicality. But when it comes to stagecraft in his works, you better arrive prepared...as some of the post-Robbins generations at NYCB have illustrated.)

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And, in general, while the canon of 20th century neoclassical and abstract works is relatively healthy, one rarely sees 20th century dramatic works onstage anywhere. The POB is one of the few companies that serves up that repertory.

What do you mean by "20th century dramatic works"? Surely Cranko, MacMillan, Neumeier fit that description, and they get a LOT of airtime.

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Surely Cranko, MacMillan, Neumeier fit that description, and they get a LOT of airtime.

But not in Paris at the moment. Cranko's Onegin, MacMillan's Manon and Neumeier's La Dame aux camellias were some of the first things to get the boot from Millepied even though they're all popular in Paris. Now, to be fair to Millepied (gagging as I type that), he did tell the following to Roslyn Sulcas at the Times:

"I was mandated to bring new ballets and choreographers to the Paris Opera; I don't see why I can't present a season with a new repertoire. It doesn't mean I wouldn't have brought back certain French choreographers."

Maybe you could extend his comment about 'French choreographers' to include non-French choreographers who made works that are popular with the French. I guess it could have happened if Millepied had lasted longer than two seasons. But there's nothing in his background that leads me to believe he has any affection for or even understanding of the works listed above. To my knowledge, he never danced in any of them.

Ultimately, I get back to that quote Marie-Agnes Gillot posted on Instagram: "You are what you do, not what you say you'll do." Millepied can make all the after-the-fact pronouncements he wants but the only real proof we have at our disposal is what he actually programmed in 2015-16 and 2016-17. And that proof doesn't convince me he has any interest in the works I mentioned. Programming them would cut too far against the grain of his 'New-York-City-Ballet-on-the-Seine' project.

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Re; New York City Ballet on the Seine; Millepied seems to be unaware that Balanchine came to Paris to rehearse his own ballets as did Robbins. And there are still people around, at the school in particular, who would have worked, albeit briefly, with Balanchine himself which I don't think Millepied can claim. certainly I remember the young Elisabeth Platel dancing in the Ravel programmes staged in Paris after the Ravel Festival.

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