Au Revoir, Millepied
In the end, the revolution Benjamin Millepied sought to bring to the Paris Opéra Ballet didn't last long. In February, less than a year and a half after he took over as artistic director, the Frenchman announced that he was resigning to devote his time to choreography. This summer, he will be replaced by former étoile Aurélie Dupont, and his resignation has left France's national company reeling.
Millepied's appointment was initially welcomed by the French media and many dancers as a breath of fresh air for the institution. But issues had been mounting behind the scenes since the beginning of the 2015–16 season. Millepied's impatient criticism of the company's performances and traditions in the press and in a French TV documentary ruffled feathers, and signaled that he still saw himself as an outsider to his own company.
Officially, Millepied stated upon his resignation that the job, with its extensive administrative duties, “wasn't the right fit for me." The Paris Opéra's general director, Stéphane Lissner, who hired Millepied in 2013, praised his work with young dancers and his creation of Paris Opéra's online artistic platform, 3rd Stage. The new health system Millepied implemented, drawing on his American experience, has also been widely credited with improving care at POB, where injuries have been prevalent in recent years.
The company's image has been bruised by Millepied's departure, however. Some were quick to blame the Paris Opéra's conservatism and outdated practices for the fallout, but the dynamics at play were arguably more complex. Millepied's combative style and refusal to compromise with local culture took its toll: Company members stated to the press that they felt he had little regard for France's ballet tradition and had focused on young talent at the expense of the rest of the company, where dancers retire at 42. When Millepied presented his 2016–17 season the week after his resignation, the culture clash was again clear. His last program heavily skewed towards mixed bills and American-style neoclassicism, with five Balanchine works, including the company premiere of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
While Millepied will return to Los Angeles and his L.A. Dance Project, his successor, Aurélie Dupont, is looking to steer POB back to stability. The homegrown étoile paid tribute to Millepied's vision, adding, “I'll do my best, I promise. I have so much passion for the company and its dancers. It takes time to change things, and I will take my time." Little is known about her artistic plans, but she argued that POB would need to dance more than two classics a season, as has been the case in recent years, to improve in the classical repertoire. After outsider Millepied, POB is entrusting its fate to a long-time insider; time will tell if the company grows more insular as a result, or thrives on its own terms.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.