American dance icon presents his new project in Amsterdam.

L.A. Dance Project

Benjamin Millepied, Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe

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He was an award-winning dancer and choreographer with the prestigious New York City Ballet. He created the choreography for the Oscar winning psychological thriller Black Swan. But Benjamin Millepied likes a new challenge, and has moved to Los Angeles to set up L.A. Dance Project. It’s not a dance company in the traditional sense of the word, but more of an artists’ collective. Within this collective, Millepied is looking for collaborations with other art forms, with a view to moving into new frontiers of dance. At the Holland Festival, L.A. Dance Project will present a programme with Merce Cunningham’s radical piece Winterbranch, William Forsythe’s Quintett, which is seldom performed, and Reflections, a new piece by Millepied himself.
Programme book

Credits

choreography
William Forsythe
with support of
Dana Caspersen
Stephen Galloway
Jacopo Godani
Thomas McManus
Jone San Martin
costumes
Stephen Galloway
lighting
William Forsythe
direction
William Forsythe
Stephen Galloway
Thomas McManus
Jone San Martin
choreography
Merce Cunningham
set and costumes
Robert Rauschenberg
lighting
Beverly Emmons, Lighting (gebaseerd op concept van Robert Rauschenberg)
choreography
Benjamin Millepied
music
David Lang
visuele installatie, kostuums
Barbara Kruger
lighting
Roderick Murray
dance
Julia Eichten
Charlie Hodges
Morgan Lugo
Nathan Makolandra
Amanda Wells
production
L.A. Dance Project

[Benjamin Millepied] made his L.A. Dance Project a unique cultural resource with an inaugural performance.

The Los Angeles Times

background information

From 1995 until 2011, Benjamin Millepied (1977) was an award winning dancer and choreographer at the New York City Ballet. But with his choreography for the psychological thriller Black Swan (2010) the Frenchman became a household name. In 2011 Millepied moved from New York to Los Angeles, where he formed L.A. Dance Project (LAPD), a loose collective of artists from different backgrounds: composer Nico Muhly, consultant Matthieu Humery, producer Charles Fabius and film producer Dimitri Chamblas. The collective was partly formed to provide the world city of Los Angeles with its own ballet company, but, according to Millepied, mostly to connect with a new audience which would not readily visit a dance performance in a formal setting. L.A. Dance Project emphatically offers more than just ballet. It is focused on cross-fertilisation between various art forms, the development of talent and new ways to use dance in film and the visual arts.

At the Holland Festival Millepied presents a programme with three L.A. Dance Project productions. Two of these are seminal works of 20th century dance history by two American master choreographers: Quintett (1993) by William Forsythe and Winterbranch (1964) by Merce Cunningham. The programme is completed by an entirely new choreography by Millepied himself, Reflections (2013). This work has been created in collaboration with, amongst others, the post minimalist composer David Lang, who is known for his arrangements of the music performed by the Kronos Quartet for the film Requiem for a Dream (2000). The set was designed by the conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, who rose to fame with her room-filling installations of life-size black-and-white photographs overlaid with declarative captions. Lang had worked with Millepied before, on his choreographies Plainspoken (2010) and This part in darkness (2011).

In this varied dance programme for L.A. Dance Project, Millepied refers back to the innovations made by Forsythe and Cunningham. In his earlier choreographies Forsythe added an expressive twist to the basic techniques and positions of classical ballet. He became known for leaving ample space for improvisation within existing structures, emphasising a collective way of working and expressing a great interest in other art forms such as the visual arts and architecture. This earned him the name The Antichrist of Ballet among dance purists. He created Quintett as a love letter to his dying wife. However, the piece – a waltz for five dancers featuring Millepied himself to Gavin Bryars' famous Jesus’ blood never failed me yet (1971) – is anything but morbid. Playful, complex movements are alternated at high speed with lightning-fast changes of direction and gravity defying jumps.

Since its premiere in 1964, Cunningham's experimental and uncompromising piece Winterbranch has been interpreted in the most diverse ways. In Japan it was seen as a piece about the consequences of an atomic disaster; in Germany associations with the concentration camps emerged. The minimalist work revolves around two 'facts of dancing', as Cunningham calls them. The dancers perform a series of tightly stylised falls, from slow motion to surprising speed, sometimes almost invisible to the eye because of the dark lighting design. The piece concludes with the dancers coming together in one single simultaneously falling and rising movement. For his extreme and uncompromising soundtrack, titled 2 Sounds, Fluxus composer La Monte Young used the sound of ashtrays being scraped across a mirror and sticks grinding against a Chinese gong.

L.A. Dance project had its first performance on 22 September 2012 at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, in a programme which featured Quintett, Winterbranch and the premiere of another choreography by Millepied, called Moving parts (2012). Millepieds most recent work, Reflections, will premiere in Paris before being staged at the Holland Festival.

biographies

The French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied was born in Bordeaux in 1977. He started dancing at the age of eight, coached by his mother Catherine. From age thirteen to sixteen he trained at the Conservatoire National de Lyon. In 1992 he made his American debut in a summer programme of the School for American Ballet (SAB), the official school of the New York City Ballet. In 1994 he won the Prix de Lausanne and in 1993 he received a scholarship from the French Culture Department to train at the SAB. In his final year there he received the Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise and was drafted into the ranks of the New York City Ballet. In 2001 he was promoted to Principal Dancer. Millepied stayed with this prestigious ballet company as a dancer and choreographer until 2011. He became famous with the general public for his choreographies and for and his role in the psychological thriller Black Swan (2010), which won an Oscar for the performance by actress Natalie Portman, who is Millepied's wife. Millepied was also a guest judge for the American version of the television programme So you think you can dance? In 2011 Millepied moved to Los Angeles, where he formed the art collective L.A. Dance Project (LAPD) with the composer Nico Muhly, consultant Matthieu Humery, the Dutch producer Charles Fabius and film producer Dimitri Chamblas. The opening production, featuring choreographies by William Forsythe and Merce Cunningham, amongst others, premiered on 22 September 2012 at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. From September 2014 Millepied will be the new Director of Dance at the Paris Opera Ballet, taking over from Brigitte Lefévre.

 

The American dancer and choreographer William Forsythe (1949) is regarded as one of the most influential innovators within contemporary dance. He gave new meaning to classical ballet and used classical dance techniques to create a dynamic art form for the 21st century. To this end, Forsythe has looked to connect with and draw from other art forms, such as architecture, visual arts and digital media. His drive for innovation earned him the nickname The Antichrist of Dance. Forsythe was born in New York City and trained at the Jacksonville University in Florida and the School of American Ballet in New York. He danced with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. In 1976 he moved to Stuttgart to become the house choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet. In 1984 he became director of the Ballett Frankfurt. In 2004 he formed his own ensemble, The Forsythe Company. His work has received international acclaim. He received three Bessie Awards, two Laurence Olivier Awards and the Nijinsky Award. In 1994 Forsythe started a revolution in dance education with his computer application Improvisation Technologies, followed by a second software programme in 2009, called Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced. In 2010 he launched Motion Bank, a digital database for choreographers. That same year, he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. His work has been performed a number of times at the Holland Festival. Last year both his dance performance Bill & Mr. B. and the choreographic installation City of Abstracts featured. This year, the French choreographer Benjamin Millepied will stage a version of Forsythe's Quintett (1993).

 

The American choreographer and modern dance pioneer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) has had a lasting influence on the development of contemporary dance. Cunningham was at the vanguard of post-modern, experimental dance and one of the first choreographers who dared to completely strip the narrative element from his work. To him, dance was all about the purity and technique of movement, and how one movement could lead to the next. His observations of nature, the movements of animals, the chance actions of the I Ching and the teeming crowds on the streets of New York City were an inexhaustible source of inspiration for his work. Cunningham was born in Centralia, Washington, and was introduced to tap dancing at a young age. He studied dance and theatre at the Cornish School in Seattle and from 1939 until 1945 was a member of the company of dance icon Martha Graham. In 1944 he made his debut as a choreographer, with music pioneer John Cage at the piano. In 1959 he formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. From his first international tour in 1964 he received worldwide recognition as a leading dance innovator. Right up until the end of his life he continued to closely collaborate with artists from other disciplines. He also remained extremely productive and innovative. He was one of the first people to use video and computer programming on the dance stage. In 2010 Cunningham was posthumously honoured at the Holland Festival with a tribute in three parts, featuring choreographies by Boris Charmatz and Jérôme Bel and a film by Tacita Dean. At the Holland Festival 2013, the French choreographer Benjamin Millepied will stage an interpretation of Cunningham's seminal work Winterbranch (1964).