The 35-year-old will replace Brigitte Lefevre, who has been the institution’s director of dance since 1995, Paris Opera Director Nicolas Joel announced today in Paris.
Millepied will fill a position held by one of the greatest dancers of all time: From 1983 to 1989, Rudolf Nureyev led the company. The Russian prodigy choreographed ballets that are still in the company repertoire, and performed each year.
During his tenure, Nureyev spotted talents such as Sylvie Guillem who went on to become international stars. One of his proteges -- Laurent Hilaire, currently Lefevre’s deputy -- had been viewed as a potential successor until today’s announcement.
Millepied, born in Bordeaux, France, is married to actress Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar for her role as the tormented dancer in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller “Black Swan” (2010). They have a son.
At a Paris news conference, Millepied said he and his family were moving to Paris, where Portman would work on European projects.
The choreographer said he approached the job “with great respect and humility,” AFP reported. He stressed the “refinement and elegance” of its members, and said, “You can recognize a Paris Opera dancer in 10 seconds.”
“Black Swan” irritated much of the ballet world. In a 2011 interview, Royal Ballet Principal Sarah Lamb -- who is U.S.-born -- termed it “horrific.” She regretted that the movie was “received as a plausible and semi-realistic tale,” and that Portman was “applauded for having become a ballerina.”
Millepied joined the New York City Ballet in 1995 and became a principal dancer in 2002. He performed principal roles in ballets by George Balanchine (“Agon,” “Coppelia”), Jerome Robbins (“Dances at a Gathering”), and Angelin Preljocaj.
He left New York City Ballet in 2011 to concentrate on choreography and set up his own company, L.A. Dance Project. So far, he has some two dozen choreographies to his name.
In 2006, Millepied was commissioned to choreograph a piece for the Paris Opera Ballet titled “Amovco,” set to extracts from Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach.”
In February 2011, his choreography was a highlight of a set of American Ballet Theater performances at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. A parade of men in loose waistcoats and women in Grecian tunics twitched and tossed in a blend of ballet and athletics, accompanied by screechy live music.
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