Millepied’s plans for the Paris Opéra : Wednesday, 04 February 2015
Benjamin Millepied has announced plans for the 2015–16 season of the Paris Opéra Ballet, the first he has programmed as director. It’s an ambitious season, with many new works, including one by new associate choreographer William Forsythe and a new production of The Nutcracker, to be choreographed by Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Liam Scarlett, Edouard Lock and Millepied.
Millepied announced his season alongside Stéphane Lissner, who has been general director of the Opéra since July 2014: the two leaders promise a new level of cooperation between the ballet and opera companies. The new Nutcracker will be performed as a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta – as these works were performed together at their premiere in 1892. The five choreographers will create separate scenes for the new production.
Millepied has also commissioned new works from Justin Peck, Wayne McGregor, Jérôme Bel and himself. Peck’s work will be danced to Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, with designs by artist John Baldassari. McGregor’s piece will be set to Pierre Boulez’s Anthème II as part of an evening celebrating the composer.
Millepied, who danced at New York City Ballet (NYCB) from 1995 to 2011, brings an American slant with some of his programming. The season will include Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Duo Concertant and Brahms-Schönberg Quartet, Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer, Goldberg Variations and Other Dances. Justin Peck, the resident choreographer at NYCB, is represented by In Creases as well as his new commission; Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, created for NYCB, also joins the repertoire. The season will also include company premieres by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alexei Ratmansky and Maguy Marin.
There are just three evening-length revivals: Giselle and Rudolf Nureyev’s productions of Romeo and Juliet and La Bayadère. There will also be works staged in the foyer of the Opéra Garnier. Choreographer Boris Charmatz will stage a new event to open the season, with 20 dancers performing solos from the 20th-century repertoire in the public spaces of the Opéra Garnier.
Millepied and Lissner also announced a new digital platform, “3e Scene”, or “Third Stage”. Hosted on the Paris Opéra website, this will present new work by composers, choreographers, directors, visual artists, filmmakers and writers. There will also be a new Paris Opéra Academy, which will offer residencies to young choreographers from inside and outside the company. The choreographers will be mentored by William Forsythe. Millepied told the New York Times that the academy aimed to teach dance-making as a craft. “We won’t necessarily discover more geniuses, but there will be more competence,” he said. “Composers learn the principles of harmony, counterpoint, technique, and choreography is no different.”
Millepied has also announced touring plans, and works scheduled for later seasons. The company will visit one French city each season, touring to Brest in the 2015–16 season. Major tours to the US are being planned. Guest companies at the Paris Opéra will include Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas, Batsheva Dance Company and English National Ballet, who dance Le Corsaire at the Opéra Garnier in June 2016.
Looking ahead, Millepied has commissioned an evening-length work from Alexei Ratmansky for the 2016–17 season. He also expects to schedule some work by the iconic modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham. At the press conference, critic Laura Capelle reports, Millepied explained that he had almost left NYCB to dance for the Cunningham company.
Performances for the Paris Opéra Ballet’s 2015-16 season are now on sale.
Picture: Benjamin Millepied at the Opéra Garnier. Photograph: Julien Benhamou
Krohn with Justin Peck in Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Glancing at the long and sinewy Rebecca Krohn, one might not guess that the New York City Ballet principal eats about every two hours. But to keep up with the rigorous rehearsal schedule that comes with her job, Krohn has figured out a mix of strengthening, refueling and daily maintenance that keeps her on top.
On the menu: Before or after class, Krohn has a smoothie made with Greek yogurt, fruit, coconut water, spinach and sometimes half an avocado. “I also eat simple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout the day. They’re not filling, but they’re satisfying. And I always keep a chocolate and peanut butter Luna protein bar in my bag in case hunger strikes.”
Cross-training: Private Pilates classes three times a week in the off-season, and on Mondays in-season. “I have a little bit of scoliosis and I always feel more even after the sessions.”
Rolling out: “I have a ball for each part of my body: small rubber balls from vending machines at grocery stores that I use in between my metatarsals; a slightly larger ball for my plantar fascia; and the next size up I use on my calves and back. The biggest, called KONG Balls, are for the front of my hips. I found them at the pet store—they’re for dogs.”
Recharge: A 15- to 20-minute cat nap between rehearsals and performances. “I lay down and put my legs up against a wall to decompress my back. Plus, your feet get so swollen from standing all day, sometimes you can barely get your pointe shoes back on.”
Stamina secrets: A lean-protein–filled meal, like a chicken breast, two hours before curtain. “It’s enough to keep me going through the evening without getting hungry. I make sure I have water on hand, and adrenaline helps. Once you’re in the zone, you just do it.”
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In 1581, an Italian dancing master, by the name of Balthasar de Beaujoyleux (Baltarazini), a violinist, who changed his name after going to France (court of Catherine de Medici), organized royal entertainments. He requested special music, lyrics, costumes, and scenery for a Ballet Comique. The most famous of these courtly dances was given the name: Comiques de la Reine. It seems to have been structured over a great length of time (ten or so hours) and the location is also questionable, but it did occur in France. After this politically successful and lavish expenditure, the court of the King of France, became the home of the development of ballet. Italian performances were developing into early forms of opera, ballets on horseback were popular in German courts, and in England, the Masque, a spectacle of verse and decoration highlighted dance. You can see some working examples of these in the series, The Tudors.
French ballet was dramatic, romantic and extravagant. Each courts’ expression of the dance was mirrored in its own personality. The main aspect controlling the effects of these productions was the ability of the dancers themselves, usually the royal personages, and the dances had to be accessible for performers with less training. Because not much training was possible or desirable by the royals, there was much emphasis in the music, lighting, scenery and costumes, and theatrics and less actual dancing. So, lyrics and verse, music and acting were the chief means of expression in these productions. Even with all of this, movement was the medium and it literally took our viewers someplace else, to exotic lands, gave impressions, attempted to realize historical themes and above all drama and romance were highlighted. http://youtu.be/aLu6pIHMMtg (dances and music from the time of Louis XIV)
Between 1643 and 1715, no accident-the life span of Louis XIV, a new period of dignity and artistry for the ballet was marked. The king was an able social dancer and all court personages who mattered were by now, privately tutored in the art of ballet, and more importantly perhaps, he was a great patron of the arts. His musician, Jean Babtiste Lully, worked with the king to integrate music and drama to form a whole new presentation of ballet. Artists and poets were seconded to include their work toward the entertainment and an academy of music and dance was established to perpetuate and improve modern dancing. The Ecole de Danse of The Paris Opera Ballet was the product of this alliance and was the second great school of dancing, established by Lully within the confines of his musical organization. Today, however, the original academie continues in its mission, to train artists in myriad ways of dancing for performance of the great French classics, as well as modern works of theater, dance and music as the Paris Conservatoire, which is still the first actual academy of dancing. The phrase “modern works” means a lot, and is continually changing. Meeting in one of the rooms of King Louis’ palace beforehand, for several years, a group of dancing masters (which became the early conservatoire-The Academie Royale de Musique et de Danse) improved the art. These original 13 members were trained as professional dancers, and from them stem all of the future dancers of the western and eastern ballet culture. Lully was the first director of the Opera, as it was popularly known, and the public training of dancers from amateur to professional, began. It’s first production, called Pomone, with dance interludes, choreographed by Charles-Louis (Pierre) Beauchamps (1631-1705), also a dancer, took place on a converted tennis court. In these productions, and those to ensue, earthy characters could be played by these non-aristocrats, but noble characters had to be played by the monarchy. This model is still clearly visible today, where in most classical ballet, you have the male and female principals, danseuse and danseur nobles, for the pinnacle roles, as stars, and the more earthy (and interesting) parts played by more versatile dancers in the corps, or soloists-still, well-trained, over posers, bystanders and the corps. By 1681, the all-male rule had changed. Mademoiselle de la Fontaine (1655-1738), appeared in a Beauchamps ballet (he as Mars), as the ballerina of Lully’s opera, Le Triomphe de L’Amour, still performed by the great classical ballet theaters. His production did not include only one, but four females in roles. Although not much is known of La Fontaine, her likeness adorns a gallery of portraits of France’s famous ballerinas in L’Opera. Either these lead dancer’s skill, graces, or perhaps, influential patronage, gave them precedence over their sister dancers. She was hailed, as the “Queen of Dance,” but since she was the only one, who can you really compare her to? Thus publicity of dance had already begun.
For these first new choreographers and dancers, challenges included creating ballets for the stage, rather than the private palaces of kings. A great new theater, The Paris Opera, was built, and turned over to Lully, by the king, for the express performance of these soon-to be-created works. These were to be for the amusement and edification of the public. Greater pomp and circumstance could not have begun or existed anywhere else, for perhaps no other king was so large-minded and extravagant, so despite Louis X IVs’ other reputation, we can thank him for the arts, for the theater and for the music, and for the dance and acting that were to come and have turned into the entertainment of ballet we see today. It has been a long journey, and an expensive one.
A technique called ‘ballet’ was then pronounced, a proscenium arch was created on the stage, to allow dancers to be seen from only one direction, causing them to move and pose in such a way as to give the audience a view only of only what was in front and turnout, among others affects, was established. Turnout, a principle long in use by now (since before the late 1500’s) was given a prominent position and fundamental emphasis in a dancer’s training-meaning the turnout of the legs at the hip joint. Whether it was known by now, or not, that some ballet movement could only be achieved this way, is really not that well documented, or important, but the logic was simple. A dancer, wishing to face his audience, needed to move sideways as well as forwards and backwards, and for even greater visibility, he needed to lift his leg to the side, rather than to the front. It does appear somewhat comical in engravings from the time, but this was taken very seriously, and for good reasons. These movements were more easily achieved when the legs were rotated outward. Choreographers who had created ballets for smaller rooms, with floor patterns for the dancers, now shifted their study to dances including vertical space and large spaces and theater. The dance of elevation was conceived.
Ballet had developed positions-five positions for the feet had been used by dancers for many years, but was now firmly established by Beauchamps, now the
ballet master, responsible also, for giving male courtiers the parts of female roles-they were masked or course! Female courtiers did not dance. He improvised Les Nopces de Pelee et de Thetis (The Marriage of Peleus and Thetus) on April 16, 1654, in Paris, at the Salle du Petit Bourbon, in the Louvre Museum, where a lot of similar early ballets were produced. It is a grand space. This was rather an opera plus dances and not strictly a ballet. But, here, nevertheless, ballet was not accidental, but integrated, as a parallel to the operatic action. Themes of a classical nature were acceptable to the court. There was almost always a subtext in the ballets of politics, through the libretto, and there is the assumption that the theater was created to expound and emphasize the true history or politics of the royalty in ballet as conceived by the aristocracy-or a new way to publicize their exploits and victories. This ballet boasted the defeat of the Fronde, daring Spain, a possible new threat, to risk war. However, the principle reason ballet survived in these performances was that the king wanted to dance, and so ballets were inserted between acts for him to do so. But, we can assume, in these lifetimes, that Beauchamps ingratiated himself to the king and that the technique of ballet was born for ordering these steps and making them memorable and pronounceable by the court, especially with reference to the king doing them, i.e., “your instep is lovely, your highness, in the first position”, and so on. The court learned these terms, almost before the dancers! Too bad today’s ballet audiences are not as eager to please! Also, these great productions would not have been possible without the finances of the King to promote them. The sets and machinery and transformations achieved by Giacomo Torelli (1608-1678) http://www.flickr.com/photos/42399206@N03/4331520565/, a designer who had a profound affect on stage space, was a scenic genius, and designer and engineer of these events: La Finta Pazza, Les Nopces des Pelee et de Thetis, and Les Facheux-were all glorious and legendary works, resulting in the king’s feeling the need of a theater to showcase them properly. Maybe the most magnanimous gesture in his royal history. According to decree by Louis XIV, the academie was started for the purpose of “reestablishing the art in its perfection.”
Also, in 1661, the king’s finance minister, Nicholas Fouguet, presented a grand fete to honor King Louis, in an opening of a summer palace. The housewarming’s entertainment was Moliere’s Les Facheaux, which qualifies as the first of the genre known as comedie-ballet. Favored, Moliere was employed by the king to develop the comedie-ballet further. The audiences had seen their comedies and their ballets separately. Now they could see the danced entrees that came between the play’s various acts as related to the playwrights scheme, rather than decorative diversions to cover the time actors needed to change costumes, although, these are still used today, even in ballets. So we have Lully, composer, Moliere, playwright, Baltarazini, Director/ballet master/violinist and Beauchamps, choreographer/dancer. As superintendent of the king’s ballets, in the 1661 dance academy, Beauchamps is the father of ballet. He is also the author of the now-codified ballet starter alphabet of the first five positions, and possibly arm positions. As the king was now aged, he quit dancing in 1670, which allowed these principles the freedom to expand, and reduced the risk of offending the king, by training and placing those more adept to take the leads in the productions.
By the late 17th century, women dancers had joined, but not superseded male dancers. When Lully died in 1687, of complications from stabbing himself in the foot with his own baton, the theatrical form of the Opera-ballet was popular. While similar to ballet a entree, these productions aimed for even more thematic and dramatic coherence. They included what we today would recognize as opera, which here served to introduce individual ballets, dances that elaborated on some individual overall theme, and brought more imagination to the table with less recitation and repetition. One writer, called the dances “beautiful Watteaus,” more like moving paintings. The librettist, Antoine Houdar de la Motte, identified them as “spicy miniatures demanding graphic precision, gracefulness of the brush and superior brilliant coloring.” He was of course referring to the entirety of the elements and not just the dancing. Andre Campa, who followed in Lully’s footsteps created the
opera-ballet, L”Europe Galante (1697). It was so successful that it marked the attendance of theater-goers, for the dance, for not only the music, but, maybe even more-the dance. To increase the popularity further, it was suggested by the composer, to lengthen the dances and shorten the skirts of the female dancers.
In 1700 , a description of of the art of French Court dancing for the theatre, as well as the ballroom, was written down in a book called, ” Choreographie, ou l’arte de descrire la danse”, by Raoul Auger Feuillet (1650?-1709?). The books characters, figures, and illustrative signs, were an early attempt to create a dance notation comparable to that for music. Choreographie spread around Europe and although a dance notation system was never universally recognized, it did give rise to other individual systems inspired by it. Beauchamps and Louis Pecourt (who succeeded Beauchamp after Lully’s death) co-authored the book, and are generally acknowledged as the source(s) for the steps contained therein.Later dance writers became ‘notators,’ but for the time being, choreography came from two words, (Greek) khorea-dance, and (German) graphein-write. Thus the English word, choreography. Thus, while the choreographer was the person who wrote the dances down on paper (like a stenographer), the teacher or ballet-master was the one who created them for the stage space (choreographer). These are two important differences, even today, as dancers learn technique only from the teacher, and are posed or arranged by the choreographer-so you can see it has changed completely. Well, not quite, but the ballet master or teacher, today, is frequently only seen as a teacher-perhaps one modern problem in today’s ballet society. By the early 1700’s ballet schooling was largely already in place, and some of Feuillet’s terms are slightly different than today’s. Some choreographers (and teachers) use the same names to distinguish somewhat different movements. Today’s jete (a jump move instigated by a thrown foot), sissone (a jump off two feet landing on one, named after Msr. Sissone), chasse (a step with one foot chased by the other), entrechat (a jump move to “weave” the feet in the air), pirouette (a whirl or spin in place), and cabriole (a jumped
caper with the legs briefly closing and opening again in the air). All of these remain much as they were in Feuillet’s time, however, jetes are called ‘degages’ and ‘jetes’ by Vaganova students, (also ‘entrelaces’) and ‘tour jetes’ by Italians and Americans (such as Cecchetti and Balanchine students). Sissones are generally always called sissones by everyone and chasses as well. Entrechats constitute: entrechat quatre, entrechat trois, entrechat six (6 beats), and others, although there is some dispute as to whether the beat itself is counted or also the opening (as two). Semantics aside, the movement are similar, but the nuance and gesture, including epaulment does almost certainly vary by school. In most techniques, these are virtually the same, but degage turns (Vaganova) are called lame ducks (RAD). Some teachers will call the pas de chat, grand pas de chats, saute chat, or grand jetes, depending on the teacher (er, ballet master and choreographer). There are many differences in dancing terms, but more particularly the name of the move(s) associated with it, multiples and extensions of it, depending on the way the person explaining it learned it, and in some schools, they might just say, “Turn”. This is even more difficult to write, much harder to interpret, impossible to remember unless witnessed and demonstrated, and is a prime reason for learning to notate your own dances! Maybe more from history would exist accurately, if we could unravel it. Beyond that, we would have to agree. Some of these terms, were specifically excluded from ballroom (or social) dancing eventually, and were reserved especially for ballet dancers, or those with more training to execute them properly, but these dictionaries, you see, only represent a fraction of the meaning or possible meanings.
Danse d’ecole came to not only represent the school of dancing, but the body language associated with it demonstrated by the students of it. Whew! It also serves as a synonym for ballet dancing in general. So after, you believe you know everything about ballet, you find you really know nothing with certainty at all. Though Feuillet’s writing included working from the five positions of the feet credited to Beauchamps, it was not until The Dancing Master (1725) by Pierre Rameau (1674-1748), a social dancing manual, was published, that they were formally documented and credited to Beauchamps. Rameau was dancing master to the Queen of Spain.
There is no end to what you can learn about ballet, the world of dance, or art. However, it is a subject that you can just jump right into, start anywhere, and I believe,come out a fan, feeling part of a group and inspired. No matter what you do. That is because I feel most people dance. Not if you are right in the middle of the U.S. where for most of your life, especially for guys, dance is not cool. People do not know how to feel about their bodies sometimes, or are not comfortable in expressing themselves through movement. But in most cultures, there is dancing. Balanchine (I think) once said, he did not know any dancers who were born dancing, but rather the ones he knew were trained and worked hard, or something like that.
Well, we moved. Each year we do this. Moving is renewal-for me. My children are not always so adaptable. Perhaps they rue this because I do it. My mother was mostly a sty-at-home. There was security (and boredom) in that. But out of boredom often comes the ability to amuse oneself. For me, moving is life affirming, starting over with a new perspective, but also the actual movement means something to me-like Chocolat. Part of that is probably the artist in me: needing to get around and view life from a different point, see if it goes better? I think Balanchine also said, he did not want dancers who wanted to dance, he wanted dancers that needed to dance. Not so much, but rather, I am a glutton, getting the better, the fresh and the new while I can. This may make me seem a bit of a moving addict, although I know I do not escape my problems this way. I bring them with me in a bundle and my new life becomes my old one, no more or less complicated, but I do constantly have a different view. Part of this can be the dancer in me, too. As you move, or change places, you automatically (should) get a brand new, if fleeting, impression. the key, like in a leap, is to hold that impression, long enough to feel it, write about it, or paint it, maybe even record it. At my age, the trick is just to remember it….sometimes. We never really lose our vanity! Vanity is actually important, like pride, but that is not the point today.
Summer programs are important if you can put them into perspective and they do count as experiences. Other experiences might include performing, auditioning, learning variations, traveling, taking a master class. Having a boyfriend. Going to a football game. Learning a language. It is important if you learn anything from it at all, and we do learn something from everything. Such is the human paper. Never blank.
I think that a fair amount of time to savor an experience is desirable (usually)-you learn more. Living somewhere for a year may be preferable to visiting for a few days or a couple of weeks. Sometimes an experience could have been better if you think about. Moving is not necessarily a good experience. I always look for a step up, or a feature that has been missed or desired before. Usually, I find one. Perhaps this is only my optimism. There is not time to do many of the things I would like to do and my paper is pretty full, has a lot of lines crossed out, revisions, carets, and so on. There is a lot in the waste can, but I am always looking to pull it out and make sure I cannot use it, really throw it away. Not too much, for me is truly, worthless.
My daughter did not go to a summer program this year. She did not want to. This may be a result of her experience at her summer program last year. We did not have the money and she tends to not want something if we cannot afford it. A teacher told me that once, and I have ever since been thinking about it-to want, to not want. I think it is a very socialist view. What is worth pursuing in life if you teach yourself not to want? Life itself. She is different from me.The artistic process is different for everyone. It is up to her to find her own process. And yet, it is shattering in a way that I cannot share this always. My magic mirror is cloudy and I cannot always see, nor will she let me see, into her mind, her desires, her feelings. This summer, I have come to accept that. In fact, in some small way, it is a relief.
Sometimes I move around the house with my laptop to find a comfortable place to write. Sometimes it takes me days or weeks to resume writing because I must experience life in order to have new ideas at my disposal. Like music performance, dance performance can be repetitive. But too much repetition can be harmful in dance, as in sports. Perhaps too much repetition in art is also not good for the mind in a less obvious but equally important way. The mind and the body get a new perspective from a summer program. The fan of Aerosmith or Brittny Spears wants to hear a certain song, time and time again. For the fan this is a memorable moment, but for the artist, this process of fulfillment might get to be boring. Dancing with a certain teacher, school or even a part in a ballet, might be boring after a while, or the dancer might need to move in another direction for awhile to come back and breathe new life into that activity or role. For us, that may not be the issue. For us us, it may have been that too many classes with certain teachers might have been making it difficult for her Achilles tendon to heal, so less had to be more.
My daughter’s journey is a slow one, and each day or month, there seems to be progress. As parents we do not always feel this is moving along fast enough, or we feel the need to constantly pressure our children to work harder, achieve certain levels of accomplishment, but in retrospect, I have learned to back off, and let her be. I feel this summer she has learned to work smarter-not so much or so hard, but more to the point. She is learning to have confidence by trusting her knowledge and listening to her body. Her technique seems to be good, her extensions are better and higher, but what has really bloomed is her sense of what her own artistry might be, and although she hasn’t nailed it yet, it has presented itself and she is pondering it. This is an exciting moment for me to watch. She has enjoyed her sleep. I really see that. Her Achilles tendon seems to be healed, but occasionally there is a twinge on the sides, especially before she is warm. She has eaten more, presumably in preparation for growth. There were days at the lake, the beach, the movies, the pool, and about 5 ballet classes per week, plus her privates, when they were not cancelled by someone else who was enjoying his summer. There were books, movies, television shows, talks with her brothers, family time, and importantly, the discovery that if she cannot be a dancer, she wants to be a writer. There is a certain maturity about her, a focus and awareness, beginning to develop, and I hope none of this impedes or is a path for her to stop dancing, but rather to include in her world of dancing other parts of life and experiences that will round her into a lovely and soulful woman. I see she is becoming one right before my eyes.
I am glad I got to see this this summer firsthand, even if there were a few arguments, spats or bouts of laziness. I realize she has worked for this time off and she needed to rest. But I see as she begins classes again, there was growth, her own, and the consciousness of her maturity and the artistry required for a rewarding career in dance. Whether she has one or not, who knows, but she will appreciate more that life is part of an artist, a dancer, and that these things matter, not just ballet class or a summer of adventure away from home. Perhaps from viewing performances she will see more of the person in the dancer, and what they personally bring to the role-not just technique.
We all want our children to have opportunities, to go places and be a part of the world of dance, theater, acting, etc., but we must remember that to be truly happy we must be able to find happiness within ourselves, and not expect others to be the entertainment committee or to become something else just because we are a part of another world for a short time. All of these experiences do add up to who we are, and good or bad, they mold us. There is no hurry I have found, as these opportunities are always around us, within us, and sometimes as we center ourselves and a new perspective is possible without ever leaving home. But it is important to remind our children, wherever they go, that our artist home is always within us and we take it wherever we go.
Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life, it is life itself.