Benjamin Millepied is a choreographer, filmmaker, and former professional dancer whose growing body of creative works, coupled with his 16-year career with New York City Ballet, distinguish him as one of the 21st century’s most unique artists.
Born in Bordeaux, France, Mr. Millepied began his ballet training at the age of eight under the instruction of his mother and former dancer, Catherine Flori, while simultaneously learning track and field from his Decathlete father, Denys Millepied. He attended the Conservatoire National de Lyon under Marie France Dieulevin and Michel Rahn between the ages of thirteen and sixteen before travelling to New York City in 1992 to attend the summer intensive program at School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of NYCB. He became a full-time student at SAB the following year after receiving the prestigious “Bourse Lavoisier” scholarship from the French government. During his time at SAB Mr. Millepied studied with Stanley Williams and Adam Luders, among other prominent instructors. In 1994, he originated a principal role in Jerome Robbins’ 2 & 3 Part Inventions set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach for the SAB Spring Workshop. He was awarded the Prix de Lausanne that same year. In 1995, he received SAB’s Mae. L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise and was invited to join NYCB.
During his sixteen-year tenure with NYCB, ten of which he enjoyed as a Principal Dancer, Mr. Millepied performed a vast repertoire of works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins whose deep and lasting influences he acknowledges in his own choreography. At NYCB, he originated many roles in ballets by Jerome Robbins, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Mauro Bigonzetti, Angelin Preljoçaj, and Peter Martins, among others.
Concurrent with his rise to the rank of Principal Dancer at NYCB, Mr. Millepied began choreographing and in 2002 founded Danses Concertantes: a pick-up troupe comprised of a varying roster of professional dancers with whom he successfully toured regularly for the next eight years, presenting new works as well as established ballet repertory in esteemed venues around the world. The Baryshnikov Arts Center invited him to serve as choreographer-in-residence from 2006 to 2007 during which time he created the much-lauded solo Years Later for Mikhail Baryshnikov. In 2007, he was the recipient of the prestigious United States Artists Wynn Fellowship in Dance. Mr. Millepied’s choreography has entered the repertories of major dance companies worldwide, including New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Berlin Staatsoper, Mariinsky Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Ballet de Genève, Lyon Opera Ballet, among others. In 2010, Millepied’s choreography was featured in Darren Aronofsky’s award-winning film Black Swan, in which he also starred. That same year, he was made a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. Mr. Millepied has commissioned several original scores from composer Nico Muhly for his work and often choreographs to scores by living composers David Lang, Philip Glass, John Adams, and Steve Reich. He has also collaborated with visual artists Daniel Buren, Mark Bradford, Christopher Wool, Barbara Kruger, Paul Cox, Liam Gilliack, and United Visual Artists, as well as designers Rodarte, Alessandro Sartori, and Iris Van Herpen.
Inspired to pursue collaborative and multidisciplinary dance-centered works in a city whose cultural scene had recently begun an important revitalization, Mr. Millepied moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to found his
company L.A. Dance Project (LADP). LADP’s mission is to support the development and presentation of world-class dance in Los Angeles, and to foster dance-centered artistic collaborations that contribute to new, expanded platforms through which dance may be experienced by 21st century audiences. The company gave its inaugural performance at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall on September 22, 2012. Since then, LADP has given hundreds of performances at prestigious festivals and theater venues worldwide, as well as site-specific performances in eminent, non-traditional venues such as Union Station (Los Angeles, CA), the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), the Schindler House (West Hollywood, CA), the Glass House (New Canaan, CT), the Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France), Les Halles (Paris, France), and the Chinati Foundation contemporary art museum (Marfa, TX). Alongside its live performances, the company has also produced original film projects, each featuring choreography by Mr. Millepied, including a special collaboration with Oscar-nominated director Alejandro Iñárritu. In 2017, Mr. Millepied established LADP’s new headquarters, complete with a state-of-the-art performance space, in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District. As founder and Artistic Director of LADP, he is fully committed to creating a dance organization with innovative artistic and economic models designed to thrive upon and respond to the times in which we live.
To accommodate the scope of his creative projects, Mr. Millepied founded the Amoveo film production company with composer Nicholas Britell in 2013. In 2014, Millepied also co-founded Artform with Mr. Britell: a tech start-up company with the aim of supporting and promoting present-day artists as well as the arts at large, which will launch in 2018.
In January 2013, the Paris Opera Ballet appointed Mr. Millepied as its new Director. He programmed two seasons for the company before resigning in July 2016 to focus more fully on the development of his own company, LADP, and to pursue his own work as a choreographer. Mr. Millepied’s leadership brought commissioned ballets by Justin Peck, William Forsythe, Crystal Pite, Wayne McGregor, and Jerome Bel into the Paris Opera Ballet repertory, as well as the company premieres of existing works by Anna Teresa Keersmaker, Maguy Marin, Boris Charmatz, Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Merce Cunningham, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. Mr. Millepied commissioned new sets for the Opera by United Visual Artists, John Baldessari, and Christian Lacroix; new costumes by designers Karl Lagerfeld, Garth Pugh, Marie Katrantzou, and Iris Van Herpen; and new musical scores by composers Nico Muhly and James Blake. Mr. Millepied was also responsible for launching a major new initiative for the Opera called “3ème Scène” (3rd Stage): an Internet-based public performance space which invites artists from a variety of backgrounds to create original film works relating to the Paris Opera — its environment, history, present-day artists or, more generally, the inspiration it imparts. In 2016, Mr. Millepied was the subject of the documentary film Reset which chronicles the creation process of his first new ballet as Director of the Paris Opera Ballet.
In his capacity as a filmmaker, Mr. Millepied has directed numerous short dance films in recent years and is currently preparing his first feature film, which will be a musical adaptation of Carmen to be released in 2019.