Los Angeles, a city overflowing with growing appreciation for the arts, has somehow forgotten dance in its cultural evolution. As part of an effort to revitalize this community and create his own artistic environment, Benjamin Millepied and his company, LA Dance Project, presented a three-day program at downtown LA’s Ace Hotel in honor of their new Los Angeles residency.
Millepied is perhaps most widely known for his work in Black Swan and as Natalie Portman’s husband, but his artistic endeavors reach far beyond the silver screen. Having danced with New York City Ballet for almost 17 years as well as pursuing his career as a choreographer for the greater part of the last decade, Millepied is ready to be on the other side of dance production.
“[Creating LADP] was about getting to be on the other side, and not always just being directed by people…. And so I grew a desire to create my own environment for dancers. To me [LADP] was always meant to be an environment I dreamed of as a dancer. That’s how I really pictured this company in terms of the quality of the work that I would have liked to dance, the quality of the environment, and the variety of projects.”
Given Millepied’s French nationality and long career with NYCB, his choice to base his company out of the dance-starved Los Angeles may seem curious and bold.
“LA was a city that I was really intrigued by, interested in, and really loved. There was something about it from the first time that I came… [Whenever I] came here to perform I always stayed a few extra days and traveled. I was intrigued by the fact that there was no dance in LA. Or practically none. Nothing besides the theaters that program dance and some small organizations. Now, actually, it feels like there’s quite an interesting group of companies pushing forward. I think the time has come now for dance in LA to really grow in an important way.”
With a large focus on art collaboration, LADP has presented Millepied with a number of thrilling opportunities to further develop his artistic environment.
“To be honest, [the most exciting result of this is] the level and quality of artists we’ve been working with from Barbara Kruger to Sterling Ruby. I worked with Mark Bradford when I first arrived and that was really something. This is an interesting artistic landscape in America, and I think that it gives the company a very clear identity. It’s certainly not like any other company in America today.”
The event’s program includes Millepied’s Reflections with music by David Lang and visual concepts by Barbara Kruger, Justin Peck’s Murder Ballads with music by The National’s Bryce Dressner and visual concepts by Sterling Ruby, and a preview or Hiroaki Umeda’s new piece to premier in Paris in March 2014.
Though the program was integrated with multimedia aspects,such as large visuals on the stage floor among other things, they were tastefully produced and in no way distracted from the piece of which they were apart.
“I like technology. I think that there’s an interesting relationship [between multimedia visuals and] movement. Hiroaki has a very specific way of working with technology that I was attracted to. He knows what he’s doing, and the environments are visually arresting. It’s tricky to do well, but I think it was the right person to work with.”
Through expertise in the classical aspects of a dance company and the ingenuity of these brilliant artistic collaborations, Benjamin Millepied and LA Dance project are finally bringing the future of interdisciplinary dance to the dance-starved city of Los Angeles.