“In a sense, it feels like a new beginning.” Benjamin Millepied tells me over the phone. I’m in an Uber to the office after an overnight flight back from the holidays, and the line is crackling. “I feel like I’m coming back to the company with a different kind of commitment. I feel like building this company is the right thing to do and the right place to do it in, so I’m particularly excited about it because I can already see the progress.”
Millepied has always felt like a sort of talisman for Los Angeles. Along with Gustavo Dudamel and Plácido Domingo, the three lend an unimpeachable stamp of cultural weight to a city that sometimes suffers under a reputation of vapidity.
When he first set up his avant garde dance company, L.A. Dance Project, in 2012 after nearly twenty years as a professional dancer, including as principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, it was called “small and experimental in orientation.” Following two very successful years, Millepied was scouted for the role of director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet, which he started in September 2014.
On his decision last year to leave that post—one of the most vaunted in the highly competitive world of ballet, Millepied is thoughtful: “I came to realize I wanted to spend my energy building our own [company] and never having to be like any other company that is out there, certainly not one that has been established by anybody else—that was the vision. So it works out really. I wanted to do something different.”
Known for his choreography in the 2010 Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan, and for his subsequent marriage to star of that film, Natalie Portman, that Millepied would choose L.A. as his base seems like a pragmatic step, but when I try to get at his views on his adopted home Millepied is effusive. “You just have more time and more ways to really talk to people. It just feels like a really rich community.” He says, “[I keep hearing] that there are just so many studios and so much art that is happening here. It’s no longer in New York, and that’s the world of people that I’m looking forward to getting to learn more about and see how we could collaborate. There is just so much to do.
On the immediate horizon are two shows at the Theater at the Ace Hotel [tickets available here] December 9th and 10th, featuring music by Rufus Wainwright and sets designed by L.A.-based artist Marc Bradford. “I have a bit of history now at the Ace” Millepied tells me, “I like how the Ace is one of the historical houses and I dream that one day a lot of these theaters on Broadway [downtown] will be revived. It just feels like the right place.”
Purchase tickets for the performances here.
Written by Amy Marie Slocum