Benjamin Millepied Dishes on the LA Dance Project’s Homecoming

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Benjamin Millepied
Benjamin Millepied

Photo Credit: Morgan Lugo

Benjamin Millepied is in love with Los Angeles and, yes, he can absolutely count the ways (but you’ll have to keep reading to hear them). In our opinion, however, nothing says ‘I love you’ more than the fact that the French choreographer, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Paris Opera Ballet director and Baryshnikov Arts Center choreographer-in-residence, founded his new dance company in homage to the City of Angels. The mission of the L.A. Dance Project, which he founded in 2012 with composer Nico Muhly, art consultant Matthieu Humery, producer Charles Fabius and composer Nicholas Britell, is to promote new, collaborative work by emerging and established artists, and to revisit influential multidisciplinary dance collaborations from the past. In December, for the first time since its debut, the collective will come home to The Theatre at DTLA’s Ace Hotel, where it will debut four new works: “II Acts for the Blind,” the pas de deux “After the Rain,” “On The Other Side” and the world premiere of “Homecoming” with music composed and performed by Rufus Wainwright (Millepied choreographed the latter two and dances in all of them). “I chose Los Angeles as a home base for the company in 2012 simply because the city is inspiring to me,” explains Millepied. “L.A.’s rich cultural heritage, from the silent film era to classical music to visual arts, has been the inspiration and home of many important artists—a place where each felt great freedom and creativity in the pursuit of their art.” Here, the dance guru discusses the grand L.A. return of his passion project and his love for the City of Angels.

Millepied directs his dancers
Millepied directs his dancers

Photo Credit: Morgan Lugo

How does it feel to be bringing the L.A. Dance Project back home to L.A.? 
Very good, very good. It was a conscious choice to go back to L.A. and focus on the company here. I’ve been hard at work for a few months and I feel like I’m in the right place both in terms of leading the company and as a place to live. For the company to exist, for the community, and what L.A .is right now—the cultural momentum it has going on. I feel good.

You’re showcasing four pieces; can you tell us about what these pieces are and how they reflect the location?It really feels like [L.A.] has a clear, strong identity [that complements] what the company is and what it’s grown to be. We have a piece called “II Acts for the Blind” by choreographer Roy Assaf, who came to L.A. and was inspired and intrigued by the city. It’s more of a theatre piece, which has speaking in it. It’s a reflection on thoughts and impressions from a foreigner’s perspective. [They are also performing the Millepied-choreographed “On the Other Side.”] Then, there are two more pieces, [one of which] I will dance with Janie Taylor [called] “Homecoming” that I choreographed to music by Rufus Wainwright and, finally, a duet called “After the Rain” with Carla Körbes, which will be the first time we’ll present a Christopher Wheeldon piece. The idea was to come up with something really special to celebrate this new stage for the dance project. To me, to some extent, this is the most special project we’ve presented here.

Can you speak about the dance project’s mission and how that mission has grown, changed at all since you founded the company?
I think the key now for us is to spend more time in L.A. and to grow our audience as a whole with a physical space that we can develop. That’s really what I’m focusing on for next year and committing to a place where the company will come more often. We’ll still be doing international touring, but there will also be developments on the digital side of the project, which I can’t talk about now. It’s very important that we share the community. I don’t want the company to be just a name. I want things to be realistic [and] more present here in L.A. I think the company will take off in more of a significant way once we actually spend more time here, and that’s going to happen in 2017.

How does L.A. specifically inspire you?
There [are] a lot of things that inspire me. How international the city is and diverse―that is something that [I am] truly confronted with daily, whether I’m going downtown or driving through Koreatown or to the flower market. I think, in terms of performing arts, they’re done well. It’s interesting for me because there is such a young audience, a culture here for music, here for movies, here for technology in a city that is not too saturated with organizations. There is an interesting opportunity. It’s the right home to develop the project. We’re not just looking to stay in one place and do shows; I want to do things across the city and in different areas, with different collaborators. We’re still writing the history of dance in Los Angeles, we’re writing the story. It’s an interesting challenge to me.

What are a few of your favorite spots in the city?
That’s the thing with L.A.: there is always something to discover and there’s always a lot to explore. I mean, right now, there are so many [restaurants] that I want to go to. I haven’t been to Crossroads yet, which is a restaurant I’m dying to go to. I love the Arts District and the new Hauser Wirth [& Schimmel] gallery. I go to places like Factory Kitchen and Bestia, but I also go to small restaurants in strip malls that aren’t exactly amazing. I love Griffith Park, and I don’t get enough to the beach but I love going. There are so many. I love the Huntington Library in Pasadena, the pool there, the flea market once a month. Some of the places like Window, which has this incredible eye―[it’s] a modern-antique place on Melrose―I mean, there [are] so many.

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