Benjamin Millepied foils « Romeo and Juliet »

Back from America with the LA Dance Project, the star choreographer revisits the story of cursed lovers in a new and surprising version. The most anticipated event of 2022. Interview.

Paris Match. Since our last interview, the situation in the United States has changed a lot …
Benjamin Millepied. We breathe after being stunned. For four years, we had our noses in the media, in the Tweet. But the health crisis has arisen since these changes. The United States remains a divided country, although some progress has been made. I am thinking for example of the awareness following the Black Lives Matter movement.

Also read:Benjamin Millepied: « In Paris, I come with a 100% Millepied program »

Is Los Angeles still the city of your dreams?
Yes, but it is also a city in crisis. Violence, the homeless, ecological issues – we lack water – are salient. Maybe more than elsewhere. The signals are contradictory. We will resume the shows with the LA Dance Project. We feel a movement among young artists, the desire to express themselves and to expose themselves.

Did you doubt the viability of your project, an American dance company?
I did not wait for the Covid to ask myself the question! A troop here is a bit crazy. There is no help from the authorities, the cultural institutions help each other little. I could have said to myself: I can’t take it anymore. But a sense of responsibility drives me. We had to adjust, have a digital presence, shoot dance films. But now we have to focus on the physical experience of the dance, on the community. I don’t want to live in augmented reality! This is not what I want for my children.

What would you say to someone who does not yet know Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”?
That I took great pleasure in choreographing to this music. She is so rich. We reduced the whole to an hour and twenty, but an hour and twenty of passion. When the performers leave the stage, they are still present by the image. I hope the public will travel with my dance.

Did you shake up the classic love story?
I’m not going to do “Romeo and Juliet” again with a man and a woman in love on stage. It no longer makes sense today. There will be three couples, three versions. A man and a woman, two men or two women. Above all, there is a certain privacy that the camera reveals. Dance has its limits. You can use words or cinema to increase it. I chose the image. Each performance will be different; it’s a technical feat with all this direct, the dancers on and off stage, the cameras.

Is that a way to show some diversity, too?
Dancers are interesting if they are deeply themselves. Society has changed, I have to take that into account as an artist. And continue to be permeable to others, unlike them. To be opened. Which, in the United States, is not so obvious.

You were the first to evoke these questions of diversity during your visit to the Paris Opera. Which has since commissioned a report. So you had influence?
My stay in Paris was brief, but if it allowed us to start thinking about certain questions, it is still beneficial. Let’s say I put my foot in it!


To remake “Romeo and Juliet” with only a man and a woman in love, that no longer makes sense today


In fact, Gustavo Dudamel, to whom you are quite close, is the new musical director of the Paris Opera.
Gustavo is a force of nature. This “Romeo and Juliet” project was born in Los Angeles with him and the architect Frank Gehry. The idea was to present this building, the Walt Disney Concert Hall (which houses the Los Angeles Philharmonic) in a different way, in images and in dance. These two artists bring so much to this city.

Has your creation been heckled by the confinements?
In the meantime, I have mainly made a film, “Carmen”. For almost a year, I toured Australia. Suddenly I was leaving this hectic American life for something else. It fed my mind, my intellect and my heart. Result: there are elements of cinema in my ballet “Romeo and Juliet”.

Will we see the film at the Cannes Film Festival? I would love !
It is the ideal place for this kind of project. “Carmen” is, in my eyes, more of an opera with dance than a musical. It will be released in the second half of 2022.

What did your participation in the film “Dune” consist of?
Just to give directions on walking in the desert. Denis Villeneuve, the director, loved “Relève”, the documentary on my work at the Opera. We have developed a friendship. He gave me comments for the editing of my film.

It is rumored that you are going to come back on stage yourself. It’s the case?
I get back in shape to rehearse a solo. I want to work on myself. To reinvest my body. I participated in a workshop on baroque dance. And I realized how rich it was. It is still one of the bases of the classic. It should be essential in the curriculum of dance schools.

In the series “The Opera”, broadcast in September on OCS, the character of the dance director looked a lot like you. Did that amuse you?
I did not have contact with the team, I did not watch the series. Afterwards, it remains fictional. In the end, I don’t know if it makes me that important! [Rires.]

Natalie Portman has launched her Book Club. When will you start your own “club” with dance or movie tips?
I would love to share what I love. But it has to be done seriously.

“Romeo and Juliet”, with the LA Dance Project, from January 13 to 22, 2022, La Seine Musicale, in Boulogne-Billancourt. July 28 and 29, 2022 at the Nuits de Fourvière, in Lyon.

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