For the past few months, the dance world has been holding its collective breath, waiting for New York City Ballet to announce who will take over the helm as artistic director.
Though former ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired over a year ago after accusations of sexual harassment and abuse (an internal investigation did not corroborate the accusations), the search for a new leader didn't begin until last May.
Nine months later, the new director's name could be released any day now. And we have some theories about who it might be:
Balanchine and Stravinsky. Cunningham and Cage. Graham and Copland. Twentieth-century dance was dotted with memorable partnerships between musicians and choreographers that wrought magical, full-bodied, brilliant works.
Today's composer-dancemaker duos, though, have gone in a decidedly different direction. In ever-growing numbers, mainstream musicians are this century's dance collaborators. Sufjan Stevens has aligned himself with New York City Ballet's Justin Peck; Bon Iver's brought his signature indie folk to Minnesota contemporary troupe TU Dance; and even Sia's getting in on the act, working with Akram Khan on a dance theater piece premiering this summer.
What is it that's drawing pop artists to the dance floor?
As the fall performance season kicks into high gear, we've been cramming as much excellent dance on our calendars as possible. But if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options, we've got you covered: From rare U.S. appearances by one of our 2018 "25 to Watch" to an autumn mainstay for New Yorkers, Romeo and Juliet to The Handmaid's Tale, here's what caught our eye.
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
Oh, Hollywood. In any given year, Tinseltown's use of dance in film veers from the woefully disappointing to the surprisingly delightful, but one thing's for certain: It's rarely boring. Here's our not-at-all-comprehensive and completely-subject-to-change list of the new dance-related movies coming soon to a theater (or laptop screen) near you.
Donning sneakers, 24 dancers performed the rapid, rhythmic contemporary movement of Benjamin Millepied's Counterpoint for Philip Johnson during American Ballet Theatre's fall season. Using members of the ABT Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, the commission was an unusual late addition to the program. But even more unusual was its setting: The work was danced not behind the proscenium, but as an intermission interlude on the tiered balconies of the David H. Koch Theater promenade, with the dancers looking down on the patrons from above.
With pieces like Counterpoint at ABT and Peter Chu's Space, In Perspective at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Paris Opéra Ballet looking to set work in the public spaces of the Palais Garnier this spring, in-theater site-specific works are trending among companies whose seasoned patrons are more used to sitting comfortably in the dark.
"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"
Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.
Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
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Janie Taylor didn't know if she'd ever return to the stage. But that's exactly where the former New York City Ballet principal has found herself: Nearly three years after retiring, she is performing again, as a member of L.A. Dance Project.
Taylor officially debuted with the company at its December 2016 gala in Los Angeles, then performed in Boston, via live stream from Marfa, Texas, and at New York's Joyce Theater before heading off on tour dates in France, Singapore, Dubai and beyond.
"She is wildly interesting to watch—and not conventional," says LADP artistic director Benjamin Millepied. "There are films of Suzanne Farrell dancing, where you feel like the music is coming out of her body," he says. "I think Janie has that same kind of quality."
This week American Ballet Theatre launches its fall season at Lincoln Center with an exciting lineup of performances. One last-minute addition to the program is a new work from Benjamin Millepied, which will be performed by ABT Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School dancers in the theater's promenade during select intermissions. Although the specifics of the performance are hush hush, we stepped into the studio with Millepied for an inside look.
What has it been like to choreograph on younger dancers and how, if at all, did you change your approach?
To be honest, they're really good. Rhythmically, it's not easy at all and they've done incredibly well. The piece could be longer. It's really one movement but, for the first time, to use that space it felt right. Nothing says I couldn't add two more movements next season to make it longer.
What are your thoughts on bringing classical ballet outside the proscenium setting?
For me, it's great to think of spaces theatrically. We build sets with lighting and props, but there are also all these environments that are beautiful and theatrical, and with a little bit of work you can create something within them and that becomes site-specific. That's really fun because you create something really specific for the environment.
What would you like to see more of from young ballet dancers?
What I would want to see more of in ballet is just more interesting collaborations. These ballet dancers are great and they're ready and what they need is more interesting work. I feel people are playing it safe a lot. If anything, I think it's the choreographers and the directors who need to make an effort for these dancers who have made this art form their passion, and to really be as daring or at least as relevant as some of our peers were when they were commissioning pieces a long time ago.
American Ballet Theatre is breaking out of the proscenium.
The company announced earlier today that in addition to the works already scheduled for their two-week fall season at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater (Oct. 18–29), a new work for members of ABT's Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School will also take place during select performances. But more surprising than the lateness of the addition is where it will take place: on the theater's promenade during intermission. Entitled Counterpoint for Philip Johnson, the new work will pay homage to the architect of the theater, according to the company's press release. It marks the first time that ABT will perform outside of the traditional proscenium stage at the Koch.
For Dance Magazine's 90th anniversary issue, we wanted to celebrate the movers, shakers and changemakers who are having the biggest impact on our field right now. There were so many to choose from! But with the help of dozens of writers, artists and administrators working in dance, the Dance Magazine staff whittled the list down to those we felt are making the most difference right now.
Click through the links below to find out why they made our list.
Not many choreographers would consider making a lifestyle brand out of their dance company. But Benjamin Millepied plans to do just that with L.A. Dance Project. He's got both the gumption and pop-culture savvy to envision a dance troupe that's as active online as it is in live performances, and sells $500 LADP designer varsity jackets to help its bottom line. Next up: directing his first feature film, inspired by Bizet's Carmen.
New York's Metropolitan Opera House seats 3,800 people. Moscow's Bolshoi Theater holds 2,153. When the Royal Ballet hosts a special event in London's massive O2 arena, the dancers perform for a comparatively giant 20,000.
But dancing for more than 200,000 people at a time? That's simply not something most concert dancers are used to.
So when we heard that L.A. Dance Project's series of livestreams over Memorial Day weekend reached more than 500,000 views total, with its most popular stream hitting 211,300 views, it got us thinking. How does that sort of viewership affect a small troupe like LADP? And how does it feel for the dancers to perform for the equivalent of the entire population of Salt Lake City?
Millepied holding up DIY-style cards to introduce the second "episode"
We're not sure what we did to deserve the livestream generosity the dance world is giving us these days, but this weekend, it's getting even better.
PC Joe Toreno
L.A. Dance Project, Benjamin Milliepied's trendsetting contemporary troupe, has been in residence at The Chinati Foundation for the past few days. This weekend, they're showing us what they've come up with—for three days straight.
It's fitting that choreographer Benjamin Millepied named a recent work On the Other Side. After a difficult two-year tenure as artistic director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, he is happily settled in Los Angeles and reemerging with big plans for L.A. Dance Project, the contemporary company he founded there in 2012.
Today, his ambitious vision is redefining what an independent dance company can do: grow into an online dance platform and a lifestyle brand, host a building and performance space, and build an international presence.
We had a feeling this news was coming, but now it's official: Benjamin Millepied is directing a movie.
Variety just broke the news that he'll be making his directorial debut with Carmen, a film inspired by Georges Bizet's highly successful opera. The story will focus on a woman traveling from the Mexican desert to Los Angeles "in search of freedom," according to Variety's report.
Ballet Across America returns to The Kennedy Center this week with a twist: programming curated by American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland and New York City Ballet soloist/resident choreographer Justin Peck. It's a unique opportunity to get inside the heads of two of the most influential figures in American ballet today—so what companies and choreographers did the superstars choose to showcase?
What made Benjamin Millepied leave the Paris Opéra Ballet after only two seasons as artistic director? A new documentary, Reset (Relève), offers some hints. Filmmakers Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai followed Millepied for 39 days while he was choreographing Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward on the company. The footage shows Millepied's frustrations over POB's hierarchy and meager health care—and his impatience for administrative duties. But it also highlights how much he loves creating new work on rising talent, something he'll have more opportunity to do now that he's back at L.A. Dance Project. Available on video on demand.
Benjamin Millepied on his predecessors, the French style and his ambitious new era at Paris Opéra Ballet
Millepied working with Aurélie Dupont. Photo by Agathe Poupeney, Courtesy POB (2)
Ever since the news broke in 2013 that Benjamin Millepied would be artistic director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, many wondered whether the Bordeaux-born choreographer and former New York City Ballet principal was experienced enough to handle the oft-insular company. The unveiling of POB’s 2015–16 season—the first programmed by Millepied—demonstrates that he has the ambition to steer it in a new direction. With 20 creations or company premieres, it puts the focus firmly on new classical choreography. Millepied’s masterstroke is the appointment of William Forsythe as associate choreographer; top names in ballet, from Alexei Ratmansky to Justin Peck, will also make the trip to France next season. Local reactions have been mixed due to the quasi-absence of French choreography, but change is in the air: Millepied is shaking up the status quo in everything from health care to casting. As the company gears up for a brand-new era, the young director sat down for a frank assessment of his new home, and a taste of things to come.
You went from a small operation with L.A. Dance Project to the huge machine that is the Paris Opéra Ballet. Was the transition a shock?
I’m very aware that the two jobs are completely different. The idea behind LADP was to create a home for the American modern dance repertory, but Paris is bringing me back to my career as a dancer. It’s a ballet company, first and foremost. Of course there are all the issues that go with the size—the bureaucracy, the French laws, the unions. There is stuff in the system that’s 150 years old, and there is so much talk about tradition!
How did you construct your first season?
Everything is about choreography and its relationship to music. My goal here is to focus on ballet: I want a repertoire that will challenge the dancers’ technique, utilize their talents. In a way it’s a transition season with Brigitte Lefèvre because there is also some contemporary work with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Maguy Marin, but I chose pieces where the craft of choreography is almost balletic. The seasons after this one will be more classical.
Millepied giving notes on his Daphnis et Chloé
The season has an American feel to it, with Balanchine, Robbins and Justin Peck. How do you feel about the French repertoire, and choreographers like Roland Petit or Maurice Béjart?
I have to get to know their work. My interest doesn’t necessarily lie there, but there are ballets which may be relevant on some programs. My time here is also a chance to do something different for a while, and I don’t see why I should deprive myself of the best people making ballet today, from Alexei Ratmansky to Justin Peck. At some point I won’t be here anymore—I’m sure they’ll get to do other ballets again.
Nureyev productions have dominated the classics in Paris. Do you want to keep them?
We are doing his La Bayadère and Romeo and Juliet next season, and I’m going to keep some of his other works, but not all. There are some where the choreography is really lovely, but essentially he made things that he loved to do himself. He liked difficulty, oppositions, things that are quite awkward. But that’s because he loved technique so much: You have to find that pleasure when you dance his choreography.
You immediately started casting young dancers in big roles, starting with Léonore Baulac and Germain Louvet in Nutcracker.
I feel it’s very important to give dancers roles at the right time, and you have to start quite young if you want to see an evolution. But I want to try to push everybody up, not just young dancers. I want everyone to have more opportunities, which is why we’re doing a ballet like Goldberg Variations next season.
How would you define the French style nowadays?
What I retain of the French style is the elegance, the restraint. But in the last 10 years, I’m missing a lot of the essentials: the épaulement, the musicality... This company had these things at one point, more so than today. There’s been too much concern with positions and not with how you move from one to the next. I want more contrast, more life.
Do you plan on doing away with the infamous internal competition, the concours de promotion?
We’ll see. I think it’s anti-art: You can’t rank dancers, and it’s completely unfair to judge them on one day. The dancers say it’s a chance for them to be seen, but when I started to teach class, a lot of people didn’t come because they were afraid to show themselves. There are a lot of contradictions. If they want to keep the concours, in a way, too bad for them.
Injuries have been a major issue at POB. How are you addressing it?
Dance medicine doesn’t exist in France, and unfortunately that goes along with not knowing how to take care of your body. I’ve been looking for staff to work with me. I found a French orthopedist who is aware of the problem, and we’re bringing in new PTs, Gyrotonic, massages. The culture is going to change, and I want people I can talk to so I know what’s wrong with the dancers and how to cast them.
You’ve mentioned the need for more diversity. Do you want to hire from outside the POB School?
I want to bring in the best possible people, period. I’m not going to just hire from the school if I have better people from outside when we audition.
How will the new academy for young choreographers work?
I think ballet should be taught like music composition. It’s a craft, and choreographers need to have the keys to find their voice. We’ll select a few people from the company and two choreographers from outside, and for one year they will have dance history classes and mentors to work with them. William Forsythe will be a part of it as our new associate choreographer. It’s everything that I wish I’d had.
Is choreography taking a back seat for now in your own life?
I look at choreography differently now. I want to create work that’s right for the company, challenges the dancers, teaches them how to partner. The work I will create next season will be for the corps, to push them.
What are the challenges of being a choreographer-director?
I believe that ballet companies belong to choreographers. You could say some choreographers don’t have management skills, but a ballet company should have someone at the helm with a very clear vision for ballet. If you think of Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky or Justin Peck, they make people dance a certain way. The system that I arrive in here makes it hardly possible to do that. The truth is that today the real tradition of ballet, as it should be, is in America. Whether or not you like how the companies are dancing, they are the right size and the director can have a real impact on the dancing, starting in class. Here, with 154 dancers, seven company classes every day, two theaters, it’s very hard.
You’ve been called an American in Paris by the French press—do you feel French or American now?
Both. I have 20 years of experience in America, but I felt French my whole life there. I think when you come in from the outside, you always bring something.