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Who is Benjamin Millepied?

Who is Benjamin Millepied?

Meet the choreographer behind Black Swan, Appassionata, and L.A. Dance Project

French-born Benjamin Millepied received his early dance training from his mom, Catherine Flori, starting when he was eight years old. After attending the Conservatoire National de Lyon, he attended New York’s School of American Ballet and in 1994, won the Prix de Lausanne award. Subsequently, Millepied joined New York City Ballet (NYCB) where he was promoted to principal dancer in 2001 and danced for the next 10 years. At NYCB, he danced a wide repertory that included works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon, among others. He also performed a principal role in SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s acclaimed Prism, as part of NYCB’s 2000 Diamond Project IV.

Benjamin Millepied attends San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala After Party January 19th 2017 at City Hall in San Francisco, CA (Photo – Drew Altizer Photography)

Millepied began to choreograph regularly while still a NYCB principal. In 2001, he founded a touring company, Danses Concertantes, that performed worldwide. From 2006–07, he served as choreographer in residence at Baryshnikov Arts Center and in 2010, he was made Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. That same year, he choreographed and appeared in the film Black Swan, where he met his future wife, actress Natalie Portman.

In 2012, he moved to Los Angeles, and founded L.A. Dance Project with the goal of supporting collaborative work by established and emerging artists. A year later, he founded an artist collective, Amoveo, that is active in TV, film, and the digital media. In October 2014, he became artistic director of Paris Opera Ballet, where he served until his resignation in February 2016.

Millepied’s ballets have been performed by numerous companies worldwide, from the Mariinsky Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, and Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève; to New Zealand Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. In 2017, he created his first work for SF Ballet’s Opening Night Gala, set to John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” for twelve dancers. In a San Francisco Chronicle article, Millepied talked about his experience with the Company: “I really admire the work that Helgi has done. I think it’s important to say to San Francisco and its community that they have something very, very special.” Of the SF Ballet dancers he noted, “I’ve seen them perform a lot and love them. They are as good as they get.”

Header Image: San Francisco Ballet in Millepied’s Appassionata // © Erik Tomasson