Benjamin Millepied has been named director of dance for the Paris Opéra Ballet. He will take the reigns in the fall of 2014, when current director Brigitte Lefèvre retires. The decision comes as a surprise for two reasons:
1. Millepied, though born in France, is an American dancer. He trained at the School of American Ballet, spent nearly 20 years with New York City Ballet and has just launched his own company, California-based L.A. Dance Project. Many expected the traditional POB to choose from their own ranks of retiring dancers or current administrators.
2. Until recently, Millepied has been a freelance, project-based choreographer. He even refers to his fledgling company as more of a “collective” or “program of events,” based largely on collaborations with various artists. (Millepied hopes the troupe will continue without him come 2014.) Working with a large, established company will certainly be a change for the “Black Swan” choreographer’s artistic process.
Millepied told the New York Times that the opportunity came as a shock to him as well. But he has big plans for the POB, from bringing in more guest contemporary choreographers to nurturing choreographic talent from within the company’s ranks. “I think it’s an asset that I have absorbed other traditions and had other experiences in the U.S., which I can bring to the dancers here,” he said. “But of course I have a lot to learn about this company and its very remarkable and specific qualities.”
Photo courtesy of New York City Ballet