Inside Paris Opéra's New Online "Stage"

September 16, 2015

Benjamin Millepied is a very trendy guy. From his movie star wife to his uber-chic L.A. Dance Project and his cameos in swanky ad campaigns, everything he does is coated in “hipness.”

3e Scène

So it’s no surprise that after taking over the Paris Opéra Ballet, he decided to give the very traditional company a very contemporary stage, as he calls it. (Others would probably just call it a website.)

3e Scène
, translated as “Third Stage,” premiered this week with a batch of 18 short films inspired by the Palais Garnier and the artists who work inside of it. As Millepied told Rebecca Milzoff in New York magazine’s Vulture blog, “When I got here the doors were closed shut; you could not get in unless you were doing a project there…. The idea of having a third stage that’s a digital platform was really to invite artists to come to the opera and get a sense that they can really create something here: work with the dancers, the music, the architecture, something.” He’s also hoping to showcase the company to people all over the world who might not otherwise be interested in ballet.

A quirky film called “09/06/2015”

To that end, Millepied gave directors, animators, photographers and other artists open access to create completely original content—not promotions for upcoming productions, but pieces of work unto themselves. Interestingly, Millepied himself is the only choreographer yet to contribute a film. Hopefully that will change as the site grows, especially since the company has a new choreographic academy with mentorship from none other than POB’s new associate choreographer William Forsythe.

Nonetheless, it’s intriguing to see what came out of all the cross-genre collaborations. One film scrolls through illustrations of the dancers, set to the sounds of ballet classes and other goings-on inside the Palais Garnier. Another follows corps member Laura Bachman questioning her career (though unfortunately it doesn’t offer English subtitles). My favorite is a pair of films splicing together archival and current footage of Apollo and Afternoon of a Faun: The effect shows how much has changed in the bodies and techniques—and how much has stayed the same.

And of course, there’s one with Lil Buck.

The most intriguing thing about the project is how the notoriously closed-off company is now inviting the world in to see it through the eyes of all different kinds of artists. So many of the Paris Opéra dancers were next to impossible to get to know unless you could see the company in person. Here, we can catch glimpses of their artistry and personalities. It’s all highly-produced—nothing feels unplanned or unedited—but it’s far more than we ever had before. And it’s very, very hip.

It definitely makes me want to plan a trip to Paris.