Benjamin Millepied: Lowering the Barre

By Victoria Looseleaf

After he blew into town last weekend with three North American premieres for Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genèvetalk about an ill wind; click here to read our less than rave Dance Magazine review – Benjamin Millepied announced that his nascent L.A. Dance Project, will feature a total of seven dancers. The big reveal: Not one is from L.A.

This nugget was announced at a press conference touting the 2012-13 season of Dance at the Music Center, held the day after Ballet Genève’s three-performance run ended.

Millepied, at right (he may have left his heart somewhere, but not in L.A.), points out his rationale: “Casting was really, really hard.”

As any local dancer was aware, Millepied held an audition last year in downtown L.A. “It would’ve been my wish” to hire local performers, the 34-year old was quoted as saying, going on to explain that he was looking for dancers of a certain quality and caliber, and “most people that great usually have jobs.”

Huh? Is this hubris or what? And what, really does that mean? This city is teeming with wonderful dancers (left, swan corps, Los Angeles Ballet), and the notion that we would finally have some kind of troupe affiliated with the Music Center, well, that was exciting to our terpsichorean community.


Millepied, who is the beau of Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman and father of their son, Aleph – mazel tov (click here and here to read all about the anointed couple from several postings past), also said that L.A. Dance Project is close to finding a permanent space in the city. “The goal,” he added, “is to have a home.”


Having a home is good, yeah. And he and Portman allegedly live here. But since she’s a major Hollywood star (left, trying to execute the 15% of actual dancing she did in Black Swan, an uncredited Sarah Lane did the rest), and he’s the new face of Yves St. Laurent’s men’s fragrance, L’Homme Libre (“for a spontaneous man with a contemporary masculinity”), we wonder how much time does the couple actually spend in the City of Angels.

We were excited at the thought of a local dance company being in residence at the Music Center, but the L.A. Dance Project seems more like a slap in the face to those dancers and troupes who have been living and making work here for years. (Click here to read more about Los Angeles Ballet, still relatively young at six years, but showing their mettle; click here to read about Diavolo, now celebrating 20 years; and the list of fabulousness goes on…)

Let us know what you think. Is Millepied, with his Hollywood caché, good for this town, or is he a carpetbagger, an interloper, leaping into the spotlight just because he can? And here’s fouettés for thought: Will this mediocre choreographer continue to put his foot in his mouth by spouting outrageous statements, like his casting mal mots, or will he, at some point, embrace the local dance scene and make it an authentic L.A. Dance Project?

Pictured at top: Dancers of Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in Millepied’s Le Spectre de la Rose, courtesy GTG/Vincent Lepresle, courtesy Davidson & Choy Publicity

About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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