Making Los Angeles a dance home

Benjamin Millepied and the Los Angeles Dance Project open the International Season at Suzanne Dellal Center.

Benjamin Millepied (photo credit: ROSE EICHENBAUM)
Benjamin Millepied
(photo credit: ROSE EICHENBAUM)
For the longest time, when it came to contemporary dance, Los Angeles had little to offer. Sure-fire turf of the film industry and its associated dance genres and geographically distant from the modern-dance hub that is New York City, Los Angeles was far from any claim to contemporary dance fame. And yet, over the past few decades, visionary artists have slowly but surely relocated to the sunny environs of southern California with varied visions of a dance future. It is thanks to these individuals, among them Benjamin Millepied, that Los Angeles has finally become a home to cutting-edge dance.
This month, Millepied will bring his troupe, Los Angeles Dance Project, to Israel for the first time to perform as part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s International Season. The festival, which spans four months and is in its first official program, has encompassed many styles and genres of dance and has hosted several reputable companies for their inaugural visits to Israel.
Millepied was born and raised in France. He began his training under the guidance of his mother, Catherine Flori, who was a former ballet dancer. At 16, after studying ballet at the National Conservatory in Lyon, Millepied traveled to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet, which is the feeder school of the New York City Ballet. In 1995, he was offered a position in the company. Four years later he was made a soloist, and a few seasons after that, a principal dancer. During his time at NYCB, Millepied began to hone his choreographic skills, incorporating the classical vocabulary of his training with more experimental elements borrowed from other dance genres as well as other fields of art. He formed a pick-up troupe while still in the company, called Dance Concertantes, which toured for several years. In addition to his work for stage, Millepied is dedicated to the film medium and has collaborated with a long list of directors and cinematographers to explore the bounds of dance on camera. In a recent commission by champagne brand Dom Perignon, Millepied called on break dancers and hip-hop artists to embody Bach’s music in various ethereal settings. Many may recognize Millepied from his role in the movie Black Swan, which he performed in and also choreographed.
In 2012, Millepied founded Los Angeles Dance Project as a home for his choreographic enterprises. The troupe performs works by Millepied as well as up-and-coming choreographers in the neo-classical and contemporary scenes. Millepied also makes a point of incorporating works by seminal choreographers such as Martha Graham in his repertoire. There is a beautiful balance of men and women, younger choreographers and more established artists, contemporary and classical movement in the repertoire which speaks not just to a dedication to diversity but to an essential attention to detail.
While in Israel, the company will perform a two-part program. The first part is Bach Studies (Part 1) by Millepied. Inspired by Bach’s Partita for Violin No. 2 in D minor, Millepied invoked various choreographic techniques to communicate music through the body. The group work features costumes designed by Alessandro Sartori and a stark set of wooden chairs which serve as a resting place/vantage point for the dancers to observe one another.
The second work, Martha Graham Duets, is comprised of three duets from two larger works by Graham, Diversion of Angels from 1948 and Canticle for Innocent Comedians from 1952. The first duet is “White Duet” from Diversion of Angels, which is known for being Graham’s soliloquy to love. The other two duets are from Canticle for Innnocent Comedians and are true, rare dance artifacts. During the course of Graham’s life and after her death, the choreography of Canticle for Innocent Comedians was lost. The only excerpts that were preserved are these two duets, “Stars” and “Moon.”
Los Angeles Dance Project will perform at the Suzanne Dellal Center on October 8-10. For more information, visit