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Report: Millepied Will Quit Paris Ballet


jeff-sh

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Ouch! It sounds as if LA Dance project is the perfect fit for BM.

The more that I think about this whole debacle (or overthink it), the more ironic Millepied's actions regarding the promotional competition become to me. For someone who had bad mouthed the competition for fostering (in his opinion) too much rivalry into the company, his own behavior -- focusing on those 30 or so dancers referred to by Francois Alu -- may have ended up injecting more rivalry and bad feeling into the company than the competition ever has.

each struggling ballet company is unhappy in its own way

But was the Paris Opera Ballet "struggling" or "unhappy" prior to Millepied's arrival? I definitely think there was a certain malaise stemming from the sheer length of Madame Lefevre's tenure. (Described by one commenter as the "sclerosis of an endless regime.") But that's something different from how Millepied described things. He has a very New York attitude towards the Paris Opera Ballet which holds that the company's schooling, repertory and performing style are somehow "false" in comparison to those of American companies, particularly those of the New York City Ballet. That's a value judgment but it's often presented by certain quarters as fact.

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The more that I think about this whole debacle (or overthink it), the more ironic Millepied's actions regarding the promotional competition become to me. For someone who had bad mouthed the competition for fostering (in his opinion) too much rivalry into the company, his own behavior -- focusing on those 30 or so dancers referred to by Francois Alu -- may have ended up injecting more rivalry and bad feeling into the company than the competition ever has.

I'm not inclined to take Millepied or Alu as the final word on what happened and why, but I think the complaint about Millepied's focus on 30 dancers within the larger institution can be read in different ways. In fact, I originally thought it just sounded like a variant of other complaints one has read directed at other artistic directors (successful and unsuccessful): that their casting is perverse, unfair, illogical etc. etc. And when new directors come in, they often DO have dancers and looks they favor, often quite different from predecessors and leading to resentment justified or not.

Of course Alu may be right about leadership failures...but he may just be (more or less covertly) complaining about Millepied's casting and hit on a clever one-liner about it.

I missed Dupont's career as a ballerina--never saw her dance, alas. But am eager to read about--and, I hope, one day, see what she does as a director.

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Observing from the other side of the Atlantic, what strikes me about the grievances of Hoffalt and Alu is that on paper, at least, they seemed to be doing well under Millepied. Hoffalt had become the company's go-to male classicist, and by my count, during the 2014-15 season he was the busiest étoile on the roster, dancing more leading roles in more ballets than anyone else, while Alu made debuts in a number of principal roles. If they are this unhappy with Millepied's leadership style, I can only imagine what neglected and cast-aside dancers must be feeling.

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Dancing Times was planning to interview Benjamin Millepied for its March issue but, needless to say, that didn't come to pass. In place of an interview, Gerald Dowler conducts a post-mortem. His takeaway:

"So, this mercurial, at times contradictory, man has decided the pressures of the post he took up amidst such a media fanfare are too much. Has there been resistance to him as an "outsider"? Maybe. Resistance to his ideas and innovations? Almost certainly. Has he always been his own best advocate? Perhaps not. His forthright approach and readiness to voice what should really be kept private, or, almost certainly, internal to the institution itself, put the backs up of many in the company and beyond." (Dancing Times, p. 17)

In the same issue, Laura Capelle discusses Millepied within a much longer article about the current state of French dance:

"In the capital, Millepied's attempt to steer the Paris Opera Ballet towards US-style neoclassicism and the global club of choreographers who dominate programming around the world, from Christopher Wheeldon to Justin Peck, proved ill-fated: his choice of repertoire met with resistance from many in France, who value national giants such as Lifar, Roland Petit and Bejart, all conspicuously absent this season and next, as well as the narrative ballets popular under Brigitte Lefevre, who directed the company from 1995 to 2014." (Dancing Times, p. 23)

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An interview with Millepied by Judith Mackrell in The Guardian.

In his defence, Millepied says the reaction against him was hugely exaggerated – and was modest compared with complaints suffered by his predecessors. “There were no letters sent to parliament asking for me to be removed, as there were in the time of Brigitte Lefèvre, and I didn’t have strikes like Nureyev.”
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Hindsight is such a wonderful thing. I can understand why Millepied would say "yes" to the offer at the POB, but in retrospect, it's easy to see that, if he was going to really do that job, he would have to sever his ties to his other projects. I'm sorry to miss the institution that he might have helped to develop over time, but I can see why he would decide to step away from the job when it started to overwhelm him.

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In his defence, Millepied says the reaction against him was hugely exaggerated - and was modest compared with complaints suffered by his predecessors. "There were no letters sent to parliament asking for me to be removed, as there were in the time of Brigitte Lefevre, and I didn't have strikes like Nureyev."

Another way to look at it is that Madame Lefevre and Nureyev knew how to push back a whole lot better and harder than Millepied did.

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Laura Bachman, who appeared in what might have been the most memorable 3e scene short film commissioned during Millepied's tenure, is dancing with the LA Dance Project in New York right now. Alastair Macaulay mentions her in his review of the company's Joyce performances.

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