Benjamin Millepied left his position at Paris de Opera after just 15 months


I’ve been wondering why Benjamin Millepied had not joined his wife Natalie Portman on any of her red carpets lately, not even in Paris, which is where they live now. It’s not that I believe husband and wife should be joined at the hip at all times, it’s just Millepied has historically come out for many of Natalie’s red carpets, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen them together. Now I’m starting to get an inkling why – Millepied was dealing with his own drama at Opera de Paris, where he served as dance director since late 2014. On Thursday, Millepied announced that he was leaving his position and Opera de Paris for “personal reasons.” But there’s a mountain of French drama and shade going down.

Dancer Benjamin Millepied announced Thursday he’s stepping down as dance director at Paris’ premier ballet company. Millepied’s efforts to innovate at the storied Opera de Paris have met mixed reactions since his arrival 15 months ago, and French media have reported tensions between him and some of the company’s star dancers. He said in a statement that he’s leaving for “personal reasons,” and that his role didn’t allow him enough time for “creation and artistic expression.”

He sought to leave the Opera de Paris on friendly terms, appearing Thursday at a news conference with his successor, star dancer Aurelie Dupont, and Opera de Paris director Stephane Lissner.

“I am convinced we’ve opened up things that are really important,” Millepied said. “The future is bright. What’s important for me is to create, to be inspired by the parts. That’s what motivated me in the ballet and today this position (the dance director position) isn’t for me, it doesn’t suit me,” he told a news conference.

Speculation about a possible departure surfaced after a recent documentary in which Millepied said he still wasn’t satisfied with the level of dance. In an interview with Le Figaro in December, he said dancers should have more of a sense of entrepreneurship and fundraising — a concept foreign to many in France’s more traditionally funded cultural world. He was also quoted as saying, “To be a dancer is to express oneself, not to resemble a wallpaper pattern.”

His predecessor, Brigitte Lefevre, played down any resistance to his unconventional ideas, saying instead that Millepied didn’t have the necessary management experience for the job. “Directing a great institution doesn’t happen by itself,” she said on Europe-1 radio. “You must have competence and energy to manage each post, from administration to rehearsal.”

[From Page Six]

So, he alienated dancers and staff by telling them they weren’t up to the job AND that they needed to be better at fundraising. And the woman who previously held his job is all, “He’s a crappy manager.” And Millepied is all “I better leave before they force me out.” There was similar drama when he left the New York City Ballet in 2011 – there was some talk that he was stretched pretty thin and incapable of being a hands-on director/manager. There was also some talk that Millepied has always been less interested in ballet and more interested in A) promoting himself and B) fundraising. Perhaps he should just seek a full-time fundraising position?

So, does this mean Natalie and Benjamin will move back to America? Their Paris excursion was so brief! I also wonder if Anna Wintour regrets all of the hype she gave Millepied in Vogue.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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116 Responses to “Benjamin Millepied left his position at Paris de Opera after just 15 months”

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  1. Lindy79 says:

    I always got douchey vibes off this guy

    • Little Darling says:

      Maybe it’s because he broke up with his GF to trade up for Natalie? I’m pretty certain there was overlap as well and i think it turned public favor against him.

    • Betti says:

      Me too. He and Natalie always seemed well matched.

    • Cindy says:

      So do I. Just pretentious and self centered. I also wonder if he might put on a really convincing front at the beginning, and it sort of deteriorates from there. I feel a little sorry for NP.

      • Kat says:

        Has anyone else noticed that she looks less cheerful in recent photos? I remember seeing a few pictures of her at premiers and thinking, ‘She looks sad in all of them.’ Obviously she has a right to her privacy, but she’s also a public figure so naturally people are going to jump to conclusions. My first thought was that the bloom was off a few roses, but maybe I’m wrong.

      • Trashaddict says:

        She looks sad and tense, and aging prematurely. Happy women don’t age that fast.

      • nn says:

        She’s also a vegan and she smokes. I don’t know if she still smokes but vegans tend to look….rough, sorry but that’s just been my observation.
        Lack of b12 maybe? Idk.

      • Kat says:

        @nn, smoking will definitely make you look haggard, but I have to jump in and defend veganism (even though I eat cheese and fish) b/c it’s like any diet/lifestyle — there’s a healthy way to go about it and an unhealthy way. If you get enough fat, protein and B12 (something my doctor said EVERYONE needs to take supplements for since it “dies” when exposed to high heat) then it shouldn’t be a problem. That said, any combination of stress, nicotine and malnourishment is no buono, sssso… I guess we’ll see.

      • nn, untrue. As a plant-based eater, that is simply not true. veganism in and of itself doesn’t make you look “rough”. Extreme dieting however, does. Veganism done without the proper attention to micronutrients, or used as a skinny quick-fix, that’s a different matter.

  2. Senaber says:

    I smell a breakup…

  3. Sara says:

    He’s very overhyped.

  4. Danielle says:

    Dance director…is that an artistic position or management? It seems odd to have a dancer in a mager management position unless they had their mba or something.

    • Freebunny says:

      Traditionnaly, dancers take this position at the Opéra de Paris.

    • arbelia says:

      Yep, that was part of the problem also. Hes a choregrapher, and he was given the artistic direction .He had to manage an istitution of several hundreds people. Many famous dancers who took this post before him left very quickly.

      • Nanea says:

        Brigitte Lefèvre, his predecessor at the Ballet de l’Opéra, had the job for 19 years.

        I wouldn’t exactly call that “left very quickly”.

    • tasitash says:

      In the ballet world, the position is both artistic and managerial. Most of the large companies have former dansers in that position and that person is then supported by another person who may take on more of the managerial side of things, depending on the company.

      • Tiny Martian says:

        Most ballet companies in the U.S. have an artistic director who handles the artistic decisions and works with the artistic staff, and a General Manager who takes on most of the business side of things and manages the administrative staff. Both have to answer to a Board of Directors. But I have no idea what the structure of the Paris Opera is!

  5. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    Are dancers normally involved in fundraising?

    • Birdix says:

      No (mostly). I haven’t read that Figaro article, but I imagine he’s advocating dancers to look beyond their daily work focusing on technique and getting the next role to the bigger picture (which many ballet dancers, brought up to be unquestioning and accepting of authority, don’t do). Many City Ballet dancers (where he’s from) have their own pick-up groups, or hustle for guesting jobs. It might have been that the Opera, with all of its opulence and security and secure contracts, felt somewhat dull and static to him in some ways.

      • Esmom says:

        I didn’t think so and I can see why it would upset/alienate them. That’s so far outside the scope of their usual job.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Ok, thanks for explaining. I find that world very interesting but know very little about it.

  6. arbelia says:

    Well i think he was probably too innovative for The Opera de Paris. He tried to modernize it , but i think they weren’t so keen to it .He openly critized the archaism of the institution, and also openly stated that it lacked diversity. Arriving from the NYC Ballet,he wanted to have dancers of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds , but it was not in the “habits” of the Opera.He said that he was utterly shocked when he arrived there to hear that a black dancer in the company would be too distracting for the viewers. I think thats says a lot about “archaism” within the institution.

    • OhDear says:

      That’s what I thought, too. I actually respect him for this.

      • Belle Epoch says:

        “To be a dancer is to express oneself, not to resemble a wallpaper pattern.”

        Dancers are told exactly what to do, like they are gears in a machine. He seems to be reaching for more personal passion from the dancers – but isn’t that the opposite of how they are trained? The ballet IS an animated wallpaper pattern for most of the dancers.

    • Birdix says:

      And wow, I’m surprised by the conclusions drawn in that last paragraph. It’s a hugely bureaucratic organization that dates back to Louis xiv, and he realized the changes he wanted to make weren’t possible. He has lots of ideas for revitalizing ballet, which many have been saying for a few decades has been “dead,” into a relevant art form. Some of these changes –like adding dance film, accessible to a wider audience than those in the theater, and bringing back William Forsythe, had started. Yes, he was frustrated by how dull the classics had become and the dancers in them. They are beautiful but dusty. Of course Lefevre’s feathers are ruffled–she did that job for years, then someone came in, was dismissive of her (I fault him for that), ignored some of her requests, and overturned the apple cart. He’s not leaving because they’d force him out, like many of his generation (Chris Wheeldon at his own company, Ethan Stiefel at Ballet Pacifica) he’s leaving this job as it isn’t working, and he wants to focus on choreography, and on moving the art form forward. He wasn’t a director/manager at City Ballet, just a choreographer, and there’s always drama there. And yes, while most ballet dancers are taught to dance and not talk/think etc, he’s entrepreneurial, and can charm the money out of donors pockets, but this doesn’t make him less of an artist, it is sorely needed in this art form. I look forward to seeing what he can do in LA, where he’s already set up Jenifer Ringer at the Colburn School and, with the new program at USC, might finally become more of a dance destination.

      • Timbuktu says:

        Not being able to charm the money out of donors also doesn’t make you less of an artist, either, yet more and more places make your job contingent upon your ability to secure outside money, and not just on doing your job alone.
        I don’t know anything about the world of dance, but I do know a lot about France, and the world of science, education, and music in the US. Everyone I know is convinced that the lack of job security and the perpetual need to fundraise and look for money from a multitude of sources is a detriment, not a stimulant. People waste too much time doing paperwork and polishing pitches, and they spend less time practicing their craft. They also become averse to risk-taking, because a lot of money comes with strings attached, so people are afraid to put far-fetched ideas in their proposals, etc. So, even without knowing the specifics of the dance world, I can easily see how pushing fundraising would be met with resistance.
        Now, I don’t know the state of that dance company, and if they are facing bankruptcy, then fundraising is better than losing the company altogether, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here.

    • Velvet, Crushed says:

      HE IS NOT INNOVATIVE — NOT IN HIS VOCABULARY OR MUSICALITY. The Paris Opera Ballet was already a company which, while intelligently managed, crept dangerously into a phase in which contemporary works were too dominant. His choreographic work, while sometimes decent or even good, was mostly the litest of the lightweight. He was brought in because his wife’s connections were deemed valuable in a less economically prosperous era. His aesthetic contributions to “Black Swan” were appalling to anyone in the dance world. That his break-up with his muse in favour of an ambitiously pretentious starlet could lead to his appointment to the highest-ranking position at the most legitimately prestigious dance institution in the West was beyond the imagination of anyone. To me, he is Comet Millepied, and, after this abrupt break with this grand institution, an even bigger flake than my harshest instincts dared construct. Regarding @Senaber’s remark above, where pretense and grandiosity inevitably fragment, the relationships that fueled their genisis will also break.

    • roses says:

      Yeah their was a piece in the NY Times that mentioned this same sentiment about him wanting them to become more racially diverse and him being unhappy with the training at the Paris Opera Ballet Schools. Think he got a lot of resistance so its best he moves on.

      • Kori says:

        I read that article too and it was a much different perspective on him leaving than the gossip sites have had. Very interesting read–especially if you don’t know much about his career or the professional world that he’s in.

  7. Sb says:

    He looks so smarmy. Something really seems off with him.

  8. Bitchy architect says:

    Definitely a douche but also really talented. Sadly those two things often seem to go together.

    • Senaber says:

      Yep, if you are a man you get a pass to be difficult and still revered. I’ve honestly never heard your statement made about a woman. I think you made a good point.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Yeah, what’s that about?

  9. Freebunny says:

    Why people say he’s a douche, when basically people have no idea about who he is besides being Natalie Portman’s husband?
    He did a lot for the Opéra.
    So he had problems, but he’s not the first and won’t be the last.
    Those huge institutions are very hard to move, he failed but at least he tried.

    • Lynn says:

      Because he has a history of using people to get what he wants. He even dated a woman here in the States so he could get a green card.

      • Betti says:

        As does Natalie. Rumours a the time of filming Balck Swan was that she was having an affair with Aronofsky which was the reason his relationship with Rachel Wiess ended. There were additional rumours that he is her sons real father and Millipede was a business relationship for her to save face in an Oscar campaign. Those stories have long been buried by her PR but the kid looks just like Aronofsky.

      • ChocoChipDstryr says:

        Natalie’s son looks exactly like her dad.

      • Velvet, Crushed says:

        @ChocoChipDstryr (Who says the good names are all taken?) He does now, but as a younger toddler his resemblance to Rachel Weisz’s son with Darren Aronofsky was impossible to ignore.

      • mayamae says:

        I despise paternity speculation. If Benjamin and Natalie claim him, and Aronofsky does not, then he’s Benjamin’s. Let it go people. It seems to me if the rumor was true, Aronofsky is the greater asshole by refusing to acknowledge his child. Why does Natalie constantly catch this flack?

      • Anne says:

        Wow – I hadn’t heard about the paternity speculation, but her little boy does bear a striking resemblance to Aronofsky.

    • perplexed says:

      I think there have been interviews where he’s come off kind of douche-like. I’m not sure if that’s simply a public persona he puts on or he’s really like that, however.

      • mayamae says:

        I’ve only seen him judging on So You Think You Can Dance. He was quiet but pleasant. Ballet dancers are few and far between on the show, and I appreciated his input.

  10. LAK says:

    the big institutions are very difficult to manage. they adhere to ‘tradition’ over all else. You can’t change them. Most people leave and start heir own companies. eventually the institution is left behind and is forced to change.

    whatever his character, he was working with an august institution. he was never going to change it. best to leave sooner rather than later.

    • Tiny Martian says:

      The adherence to tradition in most of our major cultural institutions is usually dictated by audiences though, not necessarily by the artistic direction.

      Ballet companies, theatre groups, operas and symphonies are all scrambling these days just to meet their budgets. Attendance is down, most people would rather stay at home and watch Netlix than attend live theatre. Gone are the days when people looked to cultural institutions as a source of intellectual stimulation and inspiration. Today, most people just want to be entertained, and everyone is a critic due to forums like, well, this one! So most people aren’t really that interested in educating themselves about the arts. Plus, the dire financial state of these organizations pushes the ticket prices up into the stratosphere, so many people can’t even realistically afford them.

      So it is very, very difficult for any artistic growth to take place within these cultural venues because the majority of audiences don’t want it. They don’t want to be confused by the subject matter. They want what is familiar, what is easy to digest, and what they feel safe to discuss afterwards without the fear of seeming ignorant. So every single ballet company has to perform the Nutcracker at Christmas every single year, or they lose out on much needed ticket sales. They have to keep cranking out Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty on a regular basis just to keep the subscribers happy. Challenging audiences with something that is really avant garde will practically guarantee a loss at the box office. That’s just how it is.

      • Birdix says:

        This is significantly different in Europe though, both because of gov’t subsidies and audience taste. Which is why people like Trisha Brown (sad news about her recently) are revered in Europe, and barely known outside of certain circles in the US. Even Mark Morris, considered modern here, was chastised for “aping the music” and just being frivolous during his residency there so many years ago.

      • Tiny Martian says:

        I’m glad to hear that things are still so different in Europe. Sadly what I see in the US is a gradual dumbing down of culture to a point where the least common denominator seems to frequently set the standard.

        And I have to agree about Mark Morris ‘aping the music’ and that his work is frivolous, I actually have the exact same issue with him. :)

  11. iseepinkelefants says:

    I heard she lives here. I dated a guy who lives next to her but have never seen her here. It’s funny that she chose to live in Little America (the 7th). It’s the poshest area but also too expensive for most French, I figured the great intellectual Natalie Portman would at least choose something less obvious and more integrated (read French). Anyhow haven’t heard the drama surrounding this but it did make the news. I was going to see something he’s in in March but the tickets sold out. Maybe they’ll be moving back to NY, since she seems to be in LA more often than not?

    • Birdix says:

      His start-up dance company, which continues without him, run by a close friend, is in LA, so they’ll go back there.

    • OhDear says:

      What are the French gossip sites saying about his resignation?
      (Also, if you have a link to them that’ll be great!)

    • mp says:

      I read an interview with NP where she said she misses being able to play and yell on playgrounds with her son, go out in workout clothes to run errands, stuff like that that happens so often in the US. So I wonder if this move is as much Millepied as a wife telling her husband she wants/needs to move. Clue #2 – she had an interview not so long ago on French TV and they asked in French but she responded in English? Hmmm.

      • Ennie says:

        Maybe, just maybe they will move for fear or terrorism. I know it is everywhere, but she is a Jewish-American, highly visible. Life in the USA for the rich, happens less on the actual streets, unlike in Paris.

      • mayamae says:

        @Ennie, she’s also a citizen of Israel, which probably adds to any target on her back.

      • iseepinkelefants says:

        If that were the case shed live in the Marais, the most Jewish neighborhood in Paris. She doesn’t. Also it fits her husbands career more to be in a posh artistic neighborhood. That said all of the Jewish sites in the Marais are protected with armed guard, another reason for her to live there if she really feared for her life. Sorry but you don’t have anyone attacking Jews in Paris. Nightclubs and satire magazines yes, but it’s not all doom and gloom over here. I have no idea why she would fear for her life.

      • Ama says:

        I lived in Paris for a while being not French (born in another posh European city) and I don’t see why NP apperently couldn’t act these things out: “…. she said she misses being able to play and yell on playgrounds with her son, go out in workout clothes to run errands…” Hell, we lived in Montpernasse! I was daily !!!! at Jardin de Luxembourg, jogging in my workout cloths *gasp* and saw many parents with children there. I found Parisians to be a extremly kids-friendly city (though I always wonder how the can affort this with the costs of living), taking them to Restaurants etc. Maybe NP didn’t like the fact the nobody would actually recognize her on the street and she can actually “run” errands to the next Monoprix around the corner without using her car. Well, true, me, living in a different posh city in Europe, I actually won’t be seen in the comfy jogging pants either, going to the supermarket around the corner. But maybe thats a matter of personal style…and Parisian women own that word! ;-)

      • Ama says:

        Mer*e….I really miss living in Paris!

      • mp says:

        I got it half right – she misses chasing her kid on the playground, but she also said that it’s also just very difficult for her to discuss books and philosophy in French. I would imagine that deep cultural conversations happen often when you are attached to one of the premier cultural institutions and cities in the world.

  12. Amber says:

    He should’ve asked the POB to do him a solid and say he was fired. Then we could really run with all the theories and put the blame on the conservatism and suffocating environment of the institution. But his stepping down just creates more questions and the speculation, reasons, and excuses, don’t add up and make him look foolish, especially when you couple that with him going a bit too far on camera, criticizing the company and the dancers. Like, really? You didn’t know what this job would entail and what little time running a massive, historic company would leave you for artistic endeavors? Really? You didn’t think that you might want to get back to other projects and a company you just created, (and especially since POB directors have a tendency to not last all that long), nor did you consider that it might not be worth it for you? You might not be the guy? Speaking of–You also weren’t worried that you really don’t have ties to this 335 year old institution other than being French and having choreographed a few pieces for them? (Now, I think part of that was management trying to have a fresh start, sidestepping some of the factions and drama–Yep that’s what we’re dealing with in ballet companies like this. But I think they took that too far. Then Millepied made it worse by creating his own group of favored dancers that he went to all the time.)

    For those of you who don’t know, because you’re not balletomane’s and geeks like me, saying the POB is hierarchical is like saying water is wet. It’s something that anyone would know about the POB if they have any interest in ballet history, companies and what have you. At the very least, it’s something I’d imagine you’d discover when you did your homework on the company before signing on to run it. And these philosophical differences would have immediately presented themselves in an interview or when Millepied presented any kind of plan to the people he reports to, (Millepied never came off as being particularly “diplomatic” in that way either. They had to know most of what they were getting and said, “Um, Benji, that might not…). This makes both parties look irresponsible and idiotic. He should not have been hired in the first place. It seems like B.M. bit off more than he could chew and overestimated (and underestimated) himself. But it also sounds like Lissner was convinced that “glamour”, celebrity, and new sponsors, would carry the day. There are a few places, like the New York Times, who are trying to spin this, and that’s all they have to say about it! They don’t mention his lack of administrative experience or his paltry, practically non-existent background with classical ballets. Or the fact that he came in with pretty tenuous ties to the company. But no, no, It’s a blow for POB because they’re losing glamour, some donations and he’s a super important choreographer… He is, but… Perhaps some other ballet geeks around here can take that one for me. I’ve never been that interested in him. But from afar it seemed like when “Black Swan” came he let his dance career lapse and he began to spin his wheels as a choreographer around the same time. McGregor, Ratmansky, Wheeldon he never was. And there’s always another Justin Peck or Liam Scarlett around the corner.

    • Birdix says:

      But Aurelie Dupont doesn’t have managerial experience either, right? I think it was a job offer he couldn’t turn down, and though he’s leaving suddenly, he still has that aura of someone who was chosen by the European establishment, and that will get him a long way in LA. Kind of like getting into Harvard, then dropping out. Agreed that his choreography is spotty and that is … problematic. But he’s still young, and there’s time. Helgi Tomasson was a laughable choreographer for a good decade before he started putting out decent work. Millepied has a great way of putting different artists together to collaborate and is looking at the art form differently, and he has the platform and the charisma (at least one-on-one) to get people involved/interested. So maybe more of a Diaghalev than a Ratmansky.

      • Amber says:

        Absolutely true, which is why it’s a good thing that Dupont has been there for about 33 years. From school through retirement, she’s spent most of her life at the POB. I think that’s invaluable experience. But don’t get me wrong. Something in the milk ain’t clean or this has been in the works for a while, for them to simply hand the job to Dupont. (I keep waiting for them to say that it’s just temporary.) I adore her as a dancer. But she has her fans and detractors within the company as well. That’s also why I agree in theory that it was a nice idea to try someone who hasn’t been knee-deep in POB politics since they were ten. Most artistic directors don’t have a ton of managerial experience. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But Millepied just has too many strikes in too many areas. 1) No ties to POB, 2) No background in classical ballet, 3) No experience running a company like this, (few people do). I didn’t disagree with a lot of what Millepied said in the lead up to taking over. But I would’ve been more tactful, more patient and also remember that it’s not really “mine”, (so I’d double-check myself before saying “this is how this should be done”). I was kind of astonished by his lack of self-awareness and diplomacy. That to me is step one in being a new director–Don’t alienate or play favorites with the dancers, new guy! Maybe don’t walk in guns blazing, like you have all the answers, telling everyone what’s wrong with them. (Especially when you might not be all that interested in the administrative side of things.) I also don’t know where you get the ego to do that. If that documentary was a sample of how he approaches dancers and willing to do so on camera, well holy moly.

        Millepied didn’t seem to have any real affection for the institution. I don’t think a year or so (of implementing your own strategy) lends much credibility. Harvard or not. People who are trying to blame the institution just aren’t really helping him to me. Because it’s nothing that should’ve surprised B.M. He was very brash and bold in his mission statements. Now it looks like he’s running away.

        More Diaghalev than Ratmansky? That is what I’ve long suspected :D To make himself an impresario with no administrative duties or need for tact. That might be the ticket.

      • Birdix says:

        No background in classical ballet? Are you calling NYCB arriviste? I’m fascinated by this… Because it’s new(er) and emblematic of the neoclassical, do you think the dancers from this company (and SAB) have no “classical” experience? What about Diamonds and the story ballets, Coppelia, Nutcracker, and Midsummer (leaving aside Martins Swan Lake and R&J). Aren’t these classical? All current problems aside, Millepied was a great ballet dancer. But not classical enough? I’m really curious about that idea.
        I do agree with your take on him coming in with all guns blazing. It was a bad idea. I’m not sure how well diplomacy would have worked either though, seems like they wanted someone to shake things up (but not really).

      • Anne says:

        But Ballet of Opera the Paris has more tradition, history and prestige than NYCB

      • Sally Jay says:

        Yes, he was still living with Isabella Boylston (his one time muse) when he got together with NP. Huge douche move. Boylston was corps de ballet at American Ballet Theater at the time and went on to be promoted to soloist and recently principal dancer. She is an incredible, beautiful dancer. She is now happily married to a businessman, someone who has nothing to do with the ballet world. I have seen a couple of Millepied’s works. They are patchy but there is real talent and innovation there. I’m not surprised that he is leaving POB – going before he was pushed. But it is a real shame. I get the feeling he didn’t temper his need to change and innovate with respect for past tradition.

      • Amber says:

        @Birdix – My argument for this wouldn’t really be based on the identifiers of a particular method or style. But rather Millepied’s personal lack of experience with the vast majority (nearly the entirety) of the classical repertory and the fact that his interests do not lie there anyway. I’m not ranking them or saying there is a difference in “class” or quality. Just a difference in manner (and history and training). I shouldn’t have said “no”, as in zero, experience. I didn’t the first time around. That was hyperbolic. But yes, while technique is basically the same, the stylistic variations of say Russian ballet vs Italian ballet are notable, and this only becomes more abstract once you get into standardized training, and different methodologies filtered through varied choreographers. “Giselle” may live in Balanchine, but it’s not “Giselle” and there’s a helluva lot more to him. I mean there’s even a disparity between “Le Palais de Cristal” and “Symphony in C”. :D You think and you’re told, “Oh, that’s the same ballet with different costumes and backdrops, for different companies.” But nope. Half the steps are changed and I swear it’s a different feeling when done well. “Symphony in C”, “Fancy Free”, or “Theme and Variations” look different on ABT compared to NYCB. Exact same steps, companies across the street from each other, and it’s different. On another website there’s an ongoing discussion about the purse snatching scene in “Fancy Free” and how NYCB dancers are perhaps not as deft with storytelling and in their characterizations as ABT’s. So that moment can come across as more threatening and not playful. That’s one example of what I’m talking about. What would be lost (or gained) if B.M. coached even ABT’s dancers in one of these ballets? So what do you get when a neoclassical dancer/contemporary choreographer tries to instruct dancers who were trained in a specific style, in a ballet that he never performed in? I don’t and did not believe that Millepied’s neoclassical upbringing and his contemporary/modern leanings would jive with or were especially relevant to POB’s particular brand of classicism. Would you argue that there isn’t much of a difference between Balanchine, Robbins and Martins vs Petipa? Because I’d say that there are significant variances with the former three, and not effortless to navigate for a dancer or teacher while upholding a high standard. It’s not a slight directed at SAB or NYCB. It goes both ways. I’ve seen many-a-Russian company butcher Balanchine. A lot of the nuances are lost and they don’t have the speed sometime. (Russian’s even do that to “Diamonds”. It’s already slow for Balanchine. You don’t need to slow it down even more, LOL.) NYCB itself has struggled to find a balance at times, and has gone through phases where Balanchine’s works aren’t quite as sharp as they should be.

        So do I think Millepied isn’t classical enough? Yeah, I guess and not in the manner of the POB. Plus, the dilution of companies’ styles and choreographic subtleties in favor of an International style is already something that I lament as a young ballet goer. (I never got to see these works while any of the geniuses who created them were still alive to teach them.) If I were a dancer at POB, I wouldn’t listen to what Millepied had to say about La Bayadère anymore than I would listen to him explain Ashton, MacMillan, Tudor or Cranko to me–Or any other classical/neoclassical ballet outside of the few in NYCB’s rep. Even with something like Swan Lake, where as you put it, they are Balanchine’s or Martin’s versions and they’re not Nureyev’s. Millepied’s had very little education in classical or even a lot of neoclassical ballets outside of NYCB’s repertoire. While he may have been a great dancer, he never actually danced most of the POB’s major classical ballets either. Furthermore, though his mouth may have said one thing at one time, I don’t think B.M. was all that interested in upholding the POB’s style. On a scale of one to ten I would put Millepied’s history, his overall dance exposure, and his classical ballet education at maybe a four. A four can not look a POB Étoile in the eye and tell them what’s what in classical ballet.

      • Birdix says:

        Food for thought! Thank you for crafting such a thoughtful reply. It’s an interesting viewpoint and certainly one that holds water, given the selection of Dupont. I think our differences are based on our priorities–you see a glorious past and want to preserve the individuality of this historic organization, while I prioritize a future where POB stays part of the cultural conversation. First of all I agree that maintaining POB style was not at the top of Millepied’s priorities. But I do have a higher regard for SAB training translating elsewhere. Look at Paloma Herrera as an example of someone who graduated into heavily classical rep. Or Alexandra Ansanelli, who left City Ballet for the Royal Ballet and convincingly danced the classics. The war horses wouldn’t be coached/staged by Millepied anyhow, there would be an expert in that ballet. I don’t get the feeling that this was the problem, the reason for the split. Secondly, while a part of me admires the idea of a company specific style, I don’t think POB can rest on the laurels of its past success and stay relevant. Look at Royal Danish Ballet for an example of a company trapped by its own heritage. And POB hasn’t–its rep has been quite contemporary for decades, for better or worse.
        Tell me your ballet site! We can meet there and continue our conversation–I think we’re stretching the limits of people’s interest on CB (but not mine!).

      • Amber says:

        Dear Birdix – You’re most definitely right and a difference in priorities is the core of it. I’m with Baryshnikov on this. He once said, “The French dance with their body, and the position of the legs is much cleaner than Russians’. And the Russians have [the best] arms and upper torso, and that overall coordination that is very special, which the French do not possess. … The Russian way of moving is much more natural and instinctive and romantic in the good sense of the word.” But he said that 11 years ago. :D The Vaganova style alone has been distorted and eroding for a long time now. I believe, deep down, in my black, rigid heart, that a key to remaining relevant is upholding the qualities that made you unique in the first place. Oversimplifying–Brits bring the drama. North and South American’s tend to have speed, a certain musicality (that I always take for granted) and you can’t out-turn the Cubans. (Some of the Spaniards and Argentinians have this too. I don’t know what it is about the training where their greatest dancers, like a Carlos Acosta or a Tamara Rojo, could just pirouette for days and it’s the most natural, seamless motion you’ve ever seen.) I think it’s a problem when the POB dances contemporary ballets better than classical ones. A balance is ideal. But that appears to be a sweet spot, quite difficult to maintain. Too often something is just left behind. I also believe in emploi in the manner that Balanchine used it, or “types” at the least. Past a base curiosity, I don’t want to see Tiler Peck do “Giselle” anymore than I’d want to see Sara Mearns do “Don Quixote”. (Though it is so charming to watch her work her butt off in the finale of “Symphony in C”.) I don’t want to see that anymore than I want to see Lopatkina try a soubrette role. Or anymore than I want to see Sveta Zakharova do anything, (though I did like her Giselle when I last saw her.) For every Bussell, Barshynikov or Guillem, there’s a dozen other dancers who should stay in their lane. The Paloma’s, Ethan Stiefel’s or Joaquin De Luz’s are the minority to me. A small minority. Funnily enough, I wouldn’t mention any of them as my favorite dancers either. I mean, if I were ranking ABT men in the 90s-early 2000s. It would be Bocca, Bocca, Bocca, Marcelo Gomes (even then), Ángel Corella, José Manuel Carreño, then Ethan. I’m still all about Gomes and Herman Cornejo above most others. I want to be clear though, that I’m not diminishing SAB/NYCB/The Balanchine Method. I hold it in high esteem. Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Tess Reichlen, Maria Kowroski and Lauren Lovette are some of my favorite dancers. (I’m not interested in the men apparently, LOL.) It’s not that I think they and NYCB’s style can’t “do”. I just don’t want them to. And I think there are enough Balanchine based companies out there as it is.

        I do toooooooooootally get your point about stagnation. Believe me. I think one of, if not THE biggest challenge with young choreographers is–You know how Balanchine looked to classical ballet and the Romantic era and used that as a foundation for a new ballet genre, to build his diversified vocabulary on? Yeah… The Justin Peck’s of the world have of habit of looking to Balanchine, Robbins, etc.,. Not all the time. But a loooooot of the time. (And Jiminy Christmas, what a bummer “The Most Incredible Thing” is. The memory of “Year of the Rabbit” remains though.) We are not truly going forward, going forward enough or doing so with the utmost quality. It’s like the ballet world collectively went, “Well, there’s modern dance for that sort of thing.” Maybe that’s the catalyst for the anxiety, (if only subconsciously) motivating the search for something new. Perhaps that’s why I’m not overly fussed by “progress” because I don’t actually see much sustained growth or innovation in it, while I fear for the loss of legacy and individuality. But as someone else mentioned in the comments, I don’t think the urge to evolve is coming primarily from the audience’s majority vote. If done well, they’ll go see Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Giselle and Swan Lake EV.VER.RY damn year. What to do with ROH’s rehearsal of Ashton’s (fabulous) “The Two Pigeons” from 1961 being one of the most popular segments during World Ballet Day? Hitting pause on new choreography until we find another genius and works that can stand up against the classics is impossible. But, what?

        IDKY B.M. is leaving. If he jumped or if he was pushed. But I definitely can see how he would alienate and piss off a lot of the dancers and the people in charge in a way that you can’t even blame on the particular sensitivities of the POB. I mentioned La Bayadere specifically because its corps was on the receiving end of B.M. “wallpaper” comment. I didn’t think he’d be staging or rehearsing these ballets either. But there he was. The thing is, Millepied, people like him, and the people who root for them, could use Barshnikov’s tenure as ABT’s AD as a good example of how your modernization efforts will likely end. Misha’s probably the greatest dancer to ever live, had an enviable education in classical ballet and is well versed in a variety of dance styles. He tried with ABT. He got the ball rolling in polishing up the corps. He left them with a generation’s worth of grade-A principals and a roster of homegrown talent. He also left them in debt, and his plan to expand ABT’s repertory, blending the old and the new, did not take. So, if HE couldn’t do it with a more transient major company like ABT, what hope is there for the more conservative institutions? (Or when some in your audience get upset when you rename “the dance of the little Negroes”, FFS?)

        I don’t know whether to be proud of myself, or to roll my eyes over the fact that I have droned on and on again, and still haven’t mentioned things like port de bras or développé. I’m trying my damnedest to not be esoteric and scare people away… I’m a devotee of the Ballet Alert site. But I don’t post there. I don’t have the confidence. :D

        Btw, I’m watching the Prix de Lausanne and looking at Diana Vishneva do some hurky jerky, modern crap that I can’t stand, LOL.

      • Apsutter says:

        I am absolutely LOOOOOOVING the ballet discussion! I wish that I was a as knowledgable as you fine people though! Question, is POB the Parisian company with th exceptional Corp de ballet? I remember watching a version of Swan Lake on PBS from a Parisian company and the corp was just sensational. Sooooo many of them and so precise, I loved it!

    • Velvet, Crushed says:

      Thank you so much for your more measured, informed response. I have been shocked at just how accepting of the pandering the commenters on this subject have been.

    • Amber says:

      Btw, @Birdix and @Velvet, Crushed, I can’t believe ya’ll read all that. :D

      • Velvet, Crushed says:

        You are most welcome. I often feel despair when it comes to light what people who have almost no experience in the arts will believe, so I feel relief reading comments as considered as yours, and which also communicate in a very straight-forward way to an audience which otherwise might not understand. I have long thought that — admire any aspects of Elisabeth Platel’s dancing as I did — she was the wrong choice to replace Claude Bessy. Beyond that, and the fact that he had enough humility not to saturate the 2015-2016 season with his own neo-classical-light fare, I will not be giving M. Millepied any credit.

      • LAK says:

        Amber, Birdix: outstanding commentary. Loved it.

        I came to Ballet late in life, and I tend to skewer to modern dance than to Ballet, but I really enjoyed your commentary and will venture more into all the realms of Ballet.


    • Jaded says:

      Excellent reportage folks – another reason I love Celebitchy, there are always people “in the know” who bring all manner of insights to a subject.

      • GingerCrunch says:

        …and the writing on this subject, of which I’m pretty clueless, has been top-notch!!!

      • Lahdidahbaby says:

        Yes! I read every word avidly, and I haven’t danced since my school days. Very informative and interesting conversation, and I thank Birdix, Amber, and Velvet, Crushed for that. One more reason Celebitchy stands out as a first-rate site.

        I could do without the rumors from other posters re the little child of Portman and Millipied, though. Let’s leave the lives of children alone, because no matter what the truth is, they didn’t put themselves out there to be public figures the way their parents did.

    • S says:

      I’m a ballet person, but still learning so much on this thread! I haven’t seen his choreographed works yet, but our ballet company is performing one next season. It was probably an ambitious attempt by the POB to put a round peg in a square hole, but I don’t know that I could fault either the company or Millepied.

  13. Em' says:

    He really did try do modernize the institution.
    I think he is right about the level of the ballet de Paris. Every time I see them I feel like something’s missing.

    • Freebunny says:

      The level of the ballet is quite mediocre since decades, so he was not totally wrong when he said dancers didn’t work enough.

  14. MsGoblin says:

    In the first photo Natalie has that hopeless look in her eyes that is seen in the Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”.

  15. Lynn says:

    This guy was only able to land the job because he was married to Natalie Portman and the hype over Black Swan. I am not surprised he got booted out. I have heard stories of him being nasty and stand-offish.
    Also the fact that he dumped his long-time girlfriend for Natalie at that time speaks volumes of him. I have never liked him to begin with. I smell a break up coming for them.

    • Freebunny says:

      He dumped his gf so he’s a douche? Ok.

      • Betti says:

        The rumours were that he was still with his gf when he started seeing Natalie. In fact he was still living with his gf a few weeks before his engagement to Portman was announced. But these stories have been buiried by her PR team as the ex spoke to the press saying that she was completely blindsided by this and that they will still a couple.

      • Kara says:

        He was living with his girlfriend while sleeping with Portman. Pretty douche move if you ask me. Even the other dancers in Black Swan thought Millipead and Isabel Bolyston were still a couple. The dancer who spoke out against the dancing controversy even said Ben was aiming for Natalie for career reasons.

  16. Norva says:

    Ehhh he looks like a slimey, creepy, ugly version of Elijah Wood. Don’t know what Natalie saw in him but he looks vile.

    • Awrin says:

      He is not attractive I agree. He looks dirty to me.
      I don’t think its fair to compare him to the beautiful EW though. Such a terrible comparison.

    • iseepinkelefants says:

      Yeah I never understood how NP and Scartlet Johansson could pull such meh looking French dudes. Especially considering how many hot men are in Paris.mtwo of the most beautiful women in the world and they found two of the least attractive Frenchmen. C’est bizare.

      But his smarminess goes well with Natalie. They both look like they’re up their own asses. Match made in heaven if you ask me.

  17. Pix says:

    Wow. The level of good gossip in these comments is extraordinary! I’m not a ballet person, but I’m loving the inside view!

  18. Saks says:

    I never liked him, it also appeared that he was just promoting himself not really the POB. Anyway, I love Aurelie Dupont! I’m sure she’ll do a fantastic job!

  19. kri says:

    He has Resting Smirk Face. I don’t like either one of them.

  20. Penelope says:

    There’s always been something slightly shady about this guy that I could never put my finger on.

    That said, I love that (second pic) dress on her!

  21. mayamae says:

    I’m pretty sure I read gossip here that Rachel Weisz left Aronofsky for Daniel Craig. They were filming Dream House together in 2010. I have no idea how good Weisz’s relationship was to Aronofksy, but they never married in nine years. She married Daniel Craig in 2011. Looks like she found a man who was willing to commit to her, and dumped Aronofsky. But sure, it’s probably Natalie’s fault.

  22. HatetheletterK says:

    I have never known any American woman who married a French man have the relationship work out.

  23. Amelie says:

    I am in France right now so I saw him announce it on TV on the news. I’m sure his management style did not fit the Opera de Paris but I think a lot has to do with Natalie’s career. What has she done of significance since Black Swan? There are no roles for her in France, I doubt her French is good enough. And it can be very hard living in a country where you don’t speak the language, apart from her baby and husband not sure who she’d hang out with. Americans have this very idealized vision of Paris–it can be a brutal city to live in.

    • Bridget says:

      She had her baby, directed her first movie, and put together the disastrous Jane Got A Gun (which was not a disaster because she lives in Paris).

  24. sauvage says:

    Is there a reason why the headline reads “Paris de Opera” instead of “Opera de Paris”? Am I not getting a joke ? (It happens!)

  25. Liberty says:

    Home sick w a cold tonight and so while reading all this — fascinating insight from all commenting here!! — I thought “I will look him up” and this popped upand made me sort of laugh, so I will share (though I have never heard of this blog so can’t vouch for accuracy, maybe someone else can):

    While Cyberspace is buzzing about whether Natalie Portman’s beau is a “Member of the Tribe” or not (ABC News reports his faith is unknown), New York City-based writer Marla Garfield is working the conspiracy theory angle. She wrote on Facebook: “I doubt that Millepied is even that guy’s real last name. In French, it means ‘a thousand feet,’ and the dude plays a dancer in ‘Black Swan.’ That’s just too ridiculous to be real. I bet his last name is Schwartzenbergerfeldowitz or something.”

    UPDATE #2: On January 29, 2014 posted the following news about Benjamin Millepied:

    French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, the husband of Jewish actress Natalie Portman, told an Israeli newspaper that he is converting to Judaism.