According to a report online in Paris Match, Benjamin Millepied is on the verge of leaving the Paris Opera Ballet. He took up the position as head of one of the world’s most celebrated ballet companies just over a year ago, saying that he would shake it up a little, bringing also a little Hollywood glamour with his actress wife, Natalie Portman.
His arrival was controversial with many saying that his contemporary dance background was not suitable for a traditional company such as the POB. Now, according to Paris Match, he is finding the administrative requirements of the position too time consuming, castrating his future as a choreographer. Also, rumours are floating around Garnier’s gilt corridors that his wife is anxious to return to California.
Whatever, 10 February should have been the date to announce the next season but Managing Director Stéphane Lissner, who does not confirm his departure, or deny it, has convened a press conference for 15 February at the Palais Garnier’s because, according to the Associated Foreign Press, he has ‘important things to say’.
Millepied probably upset the boat during a Canal+ TV documentary before Christmas, saying that the company was in a rut, too attached to its strict hierarchical structure and not as “excellent” as it was purported to be.
The irony cannot be lost when considering the appointment of Mauro Bigonzetti who has just been named head of Milan’s corps de ballet. Both men are contemporary dance choreographers moving from smaller scale companies to take over at national institutions with a predominantly classical repertoire. Lissner, of course, was at La Scala before taking over at Paris and appointing Millepied; just as Alexander Pereira has chosen Bigonzetti (against the will of his dancers) after little more than a year after taking over from Lissner in Milan. Bigonzetti and Millepied obviously have a desire to fulfil their ambition as artists, not as administrators, and the scale of these companies can never turn them into a Stuttgart or Zurich, or even the Aterballetto of Bigonzetti or the LA Dance Project of Millepied.
The great Paris Opera Ballet dancer Laurent Hilaire was in the running when Millepied was chosen and came a close second to take over in Milan this week. Is it now his turn to come in first in Paris?
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.