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Report: Millepied Will Quit Paris Ballet


jeff-sh

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Oui!!!!

Maybe La Scala can save itself some heartache & money by retracting the recent appointment of Mauro Bigonzetti (another anti-classicist) as its new AD. Mr. Bolle, please.

I'll second that. Congratulations to Aurelie Dupont :D !

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the question being, of course, did he jump or was he pushed.

I suspect both. I hope Madame DuPont can learn lessons from his successes and failures and move the company forward in a more peaceful fashion.

Honestly, I suspect part of this is Monseur Millipied's own personality. If was to run NYCB as Martin's successor, I think he would also ruffle feathers and inject new choreography at a faster pace than Martins. The company dancers would probably complain that not enough Balanchine works are being preserved.

Milliepied might have done better to take on a smaller project within POB - perhaps break off with 35 dancers to create/ commission all new works (sort of like what Urin has offered to Filin) and let the remaining 120 dancers do all the classics that they and the public adore. Certainly with 154 dancers, the company can afford to do both classical and contemporary at the highest level?

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Millepied might have done better to take on a smaller project within POB - perhaps break off with 35 dancers to create/ commission all new works

Strangely enough, I feel like that was what he was doing . . . and that it was a part of the problem. He had a core group of dancers -- maybe two dozen -- who he went to again and again in his own works, and who he was pushing elsewhere. But then you got the sense that he wasn't paying much attention to everyone else. 'Generation Millepied' is all well and good but there were a lot dancers, particularly at the premiere level, who weren't doing much in the Fall.

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It doesn't sound as if the problems were purely Millepied's:

Purists were also unhappy when he rechristened in the name of political correctness the original "dance of the little negroes" in the 19th century ballet La Bayadère "the dance of the children" and forbade the young dancers to black up their faces.

If that's the kind of change that was being resisted.....hmmmmm.

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It doesn't sound as if the problems were purely Millepied's:

Right. Of course we're not likely to get all the details on this until someone writes a weighty tome on the subject, but we're really just learning, again, how difficult it is to run a large organization, connected to the national government no less, and try to enact structural changes, and changes to product - that takes a lot of time and energy even for the most charming and talented executive. Millepied plainly doesn't want to fight the good fight. It helps when your wife is worth millions - he can take off at need. ;)

I'm starting to wonder if he didn't tell POB management up front, "we'll try it for a year and see if it gets anywhere, otherwise..."

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Right. Of course we're not likely to get all the details on this until someone writes a weighty tome on the subject, but we're really just learning, again, how difficult it is to run a large organization, connected to the national government no less, and try to enact structural changes, and changes to product - that takes a lot of time and energy even for the most charming and talented executive. Millepied plainly doesn't want to fight the good fight. It helps when your wife is worth millions - he can take off at need. ;)

I'm starting to wonder if he didn't tell POB management up front, "we'll try it for a year and see if it gets anywhere, otherwise..."

Taking off when the going gets tough doesn't help one's credibility for other endeavors. Most ventures worth doing are tough.

There were likely several significant communication issues. For example, did Millepied perform an adequate assessment or due diligence before accepting his new role? Did he and the rest of the management team agree in broad strokes regarding the planned changes over the next several years? In other words, did he get buy-in upfront? Once he began in his role, did he keep the management team informed of his progress toward his stated goals, and equally important, did he keep them well informed of his desired changes to the agreed upon desired goals?

Large organizations are difficult almost by definition. Yet, exceptional leaders find ways and methods to make things work. They are able to convince others of their grand visions.

That said, if it truly wasn't working out, then the sooner he is gone, the better.

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Taking off when the going gets tough doesn't help one's credibility for other endeavors. Most ventures worth doing are tough.

And that's my main issue with his decision - 1 year is not long enough to, as you say, be credible. Millepied is somewhat fortunate in being a choreographer, in that he can always use the excuse that "there isn't enough time for my art!"

The choice of Dupont as the next director, is, if anything, equally dicey. The BBC article mentions that she is Ballet Mistress at POB, but I thought she had actually put that promotion on hold, in favor of guest appearances (such as the upcoming appearance with the Martha Graham Co.). How is she Ballet Mistress while traveling the world dancing for the fans? I LIKE Dupont as an artist, and what I know of her as a person, but she has her detractors in the POB management too.What was the thinking behind her election to director? And if it took a year to decide upon Millepied, why is it so easy to turn to Dupont? (me thinks a lot has been going on in the background for the last two years that we are not privy to...).

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Agree with your comments, pherank.

BBC: Benjamin Millepied: Paris Opera Ballet director steps down

In a statement posted on Twitter, Millepied - who has also directed films and music videos - said he wanted to "concentrate 100 percent on creating" instead of administration.

He added: "My functions as director... take up so much time that they have considerably reduced that for artistic creation, which is essential in my view."

He said he had originally accepted the position with "great honour and gratitude" and expressed his love for the company.

One has to wonder why he took the position if he wanted to concentrate fully on the creative side without the distraction of the administrative work.

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I don’t think we have to look deep into what happened. Millepied was not a good manager, he had little projects for the company as a whole and he was not even interested in it. Anger rose, because a big company like that can’t be just ruled with no strong objectives, no strong direction, a lot of improvisations and last minutes decisions


Perhaps Millepied resigned, but the level of anger among the dancers was too high for him to stay, so I rather believe he was told to leave


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I don’t think we have to look deep into what happened. Millepied was not a good manager, he had little projects for the company as a whole and he was not even interested in it ... Perhaps Millepied resigned, but the level of anger among the dancers was too high for him to stay, so I rather believe he was told to leave

This sounds like the most plausible scenario. Brigitte Lefevre's comment – "a boy who has a lot of charm, a skin-deep curiosity, envy of many things" – seems harsh but something of it rings true. A Balzac-like tale perhaps.

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One has to wonder why he took the position if he wanted to concentrate fully on the creative side without the distraction of the administrative work.

Well, it's the kind of thing that's hard to turn down. I wouldn't have had the smarts to say "no thanks" to an offer like that when I was his age.

He should have called Christopher Wheeldon up and asked him what he thought about that whole running a company while creating great art thing. :wink: In fairness to both gentlemen, plenty of people have, still do, and will continue to both run companies and create new work (ahem, Balanchine) -- Millepied wasn't necessarily wrong to think that he could too, although the POB is admittedly a different beast from the LA Dance Project.

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One thing that Millepied never learned from his old boss Peter Martins is that you never, ever say anything negative about your dancers. Peter Martins has given numerous interviews over the years, and you will never see him say anything negative about the NYCB dancers or the company. I'm sure Martins is a very difficult person and is highly critical of dancers in private, but he has never expressed such thoughts in the public media. Millepied seems very arrogant and naive.

Additionally, I think Millepied may have an overinflated sense of the quality of his own works. When people talk about today's significant ballet choreographers, they refer to Wheeldon, Ratmansky and now Justin Peck. Millepied has never really broken through to that level of acclaim, although he gets lots of commissions.

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Well, it's the kind of thing that's hard to turn down. I wouldn't have had the smarts to say "no thanks" to an offer like that when I was his age.

He should have called Christopher Wheeldon up and asked him what he thought about that whole running a company while creating great art thing. :wink: In fairness to both gentlemen, plenty of people have, still do, and will continue to both run companies and create new work (ahem, Balanchine) -- Millepied wasn't necessarily wrong to think that he could too, although the POB is admittedly a different beast from the LA Dance Project.

Agreed, the temptation would have been enormous. Millepied, however, is no longer that young. He’s old enough to know that running any large institution is a daunting challenge. It goes far beyond creating new works of art. Instead, a substantial—perhaps even majority of his time—would be consumed by working on managerial stuff. Keeping key management personnel and government officials appraised and satisfied would be important and challenging tasks. Then, there’s fund raising and marketing and finance and human resources and on and on. Some thrive on the diversity of people, tasks, and challenges, while others absolutely detest working on things that don’t interest them.
A person accepting this role has to ask himself, does he enjoy creating the grand vision or does he enjoy creating an important part of that grand vision? A strong preference for either choice is perfectly acceptable. This decision, obviously, applies to both genders.
You mention that he should have called Wheeldon. Let’s hope that he did. The POB, too, should have ensured that they were confident that Millepied had internalized the challenges. I am assuming that he interviewed with all the key players before an offer was extended.
Management is tricky and unpredictable. Sometimes those who we think will excel fall flat on their face. Other times, those who we think will never do well pleasantly surprise us.
My knowledge of Millepied and POB is superficial at best. I am just reacting to media reports, which are often highly unreliable. Thus, I will follow the comments from those with a more in-depth understanding of the situation.
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It helps when your wife is worth millions - he can take off at need. ;)

There's no doubt having a rich spouse can help - Beverly Sills was able to use her husband's scratch to force Julius Rudel to give her the role of Cleopatra, for example - but Portman's and Millepied's finances may be completely separate as far as we know.

Well, it's the kind of thing that's hard to turn down. I wouldn't have had the smarts to say "no thanks" to an offer like that when I was his age.

I remember Violette Verdy said something to the effect of "When the Opera calls, you go." it's a tough gig to turn down even when you know the hazards, which Millepied was warned about.

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I'm surprised that Millepied denigrated La Bayadere corps as "wallpaper" and by his choice of choreography. What specific deficits did he see in the school? Any links addressing his improved health plan?

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As I've thought some more about Millepied's self-immolation at the Paris Opera Ballet, I can't help but see the irony in someone who talked endlessly about the necessity of employing 21st century communication tools (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) being undone by a complete inability to communicate to the people who mattered most -- the dancers. I agree with the criticism of him that he was living too much online and in Paris Match photo shoots and not telling people what he thought was wrong and, more importantly, how to fix it. Snidely referring to the La Bayadere performances as "wallpaper" really isn't a useful blueprint for people to implement.

What specific deficits did he see in the school?

It baffles me why he thought challenging Elisabeth Platel was a good idea. It's in the same vein as his challenge to the annual competition. No one wanted to get rid of it but him so why expend a lot of energy on a useless fight?

A short piece from The Wall Street Journal:

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2016/02/04/aurelie-dupont-is-named-director-of-paris-opera-ballet/

(The writer gets one thing wrong. Dancers at the Opera don't have to audition every year to maintain their positions.)

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I must say my read of this interview shows good ideas on Millepied's part. Maybe POB with it's entrenched history wasn't the place to implement those ideas. However, most of what he has stated should not have been for public consumption.

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I'm surprised that Millepied denigrated La Bayadere corps as "wallpaper" and by his choice of choreography.

As I recall, the reviews of Bayadère were not very favorable, so this statement isn't particularly shocking. And the discussions of how to approach Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, etc. into the current millennium have been constant. Millepied is just showing that he's attuned to these issues. Does he really have a fix? Well, he would have to demonstrate that before our eyes on some company, somewhere. And that obviously isn't going to happen now at POB.

Personally, I find that, in interviews, Mr. M. makes many good points. But is he a successful diplomat? No, and he's not even trying to be. That seldom goes well. The statements from Lefèvre weren't shocking either - she's just reinforcing her own legacy (translation: Now people will appreciate how good I was at my job!). She didn't say anything that wasn't obvious.

I had to laugh when I read this comment:

"While it’s great to dance in the summer in Japan during the Paris Opera vacation, that isn’t enough to establish an international career"

The POB étoiles do appear to use Tokyo guest performances, as a yearly ego-stroking - I saw this quip as a sly dig at Dupont, among others.

Well now Dupont is basking in the limelight - everyone loves Aurelie - until she has to make difficult decisions. It's not going to be like dancing in Tokyo. Not at all.

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[snip] In fairness to both gentlemen, plenty of people have, still do, and will continue to both run companies and create new work (ahem, Balanchine) -- [snip]

Let us never forget that Balanchine had Lincoln Kirstein... which freed up a lot more of Balanchine's time/energy for creative work.... (Doesn't everyone wish they had a Kirstein?) Petipa had the deep pockets of the Tsar... Is much written about how much of his time was taken up managing the company? Ashton had de Valois?

I'm not defending Millepied... I'm just not sure a choreographer should lead the Paris Opera... though Nureyev's choreography demanded a certain skill level and Balanchine's demands demanded a certain skill level... when a living choreographer isn't intimately involved in casting repertoire, is the technique/style of a company free-floating and tied most strongly to a calcifying version of it's historic repertoire?

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Let us never forget that Balanchine had Lincoln Kirstein... which freed up a lot more of Balanchine's time/energy for creative work.... (Doesn't everyone wish they had a Kirstein?) Petipa had the deep pockets of the Tsar... Is much written about how much of his time was taken up managing the company? Ashton had de Valois?

Surely the head of the POB has an able administrative staff at his disposal?

(Alas, I couldn't find any info regarding the POB's staff anywhere on its website.)

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I reread the New Yorker feature on Millepied from 2013. The two individuals who had the most clear-eyed view of the situation were Elisabeth Platel and Peter Martins:

"The house is older than us," Elisabeth Platel, the director of the Ecole de Danse, told me, warily.

Peter Martins told me, "I said, 'Are you [Millepied] sure you want to do this? There are so many layers of authority -- you have a Minister of Culture, you have a directeur general, and there's such a history. And there are the labor unions: people are always on strike."

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Surely the head of the POB has an able administrative staff at his disposal?

I don't think Kirstein & de Valois were quite "staff", though surely Petipa must have had something like that?

Maybe the way to think about it would be to consider the number of POB directors who have been major choreographers?

Lifar, was he prolific? I am not all that familiar with his oeuvre, I can call to mind a few pieces, but did he create several pieces a season like Balanchine? (I just checked Wikipedia which says he was director for 3 decades but only lists a handful of pieces even though stating many were choreographed).

Nureyev mostly seemed to do re-stagings (involving a lot of choreography but with much groundwork already done) is that really comparable?

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