Ballet Buzz: New Season at the Paris Opera, Directed by Benjamin Millepied

Ballet Buzz: New Season at the Paris Opera, Directed by Benjamin Millepied
Ballet is having “a moment.” This summer, Misty Copeland was named the first African American principal dancer at a major ballet company. She assumed this role with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. This historic news came on the heels of a historic online ballet splash, which exposed millions of people to ballet via a music video. Sergei Polunin, the Ukranian dancer who was formerly a company member at the British Royal Ballet, performed in a ballet dance music video filmed by David LaChapelle which served as the official music video for the song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. The video garnered over 12.6 million views on YouTube. Copeland is the face of modern ballet and Polunin is the face of the “bad boy of ballet,” as the media dubbed him. Both of these unrelated ballet events have brought the centuries-old art form to the forefront of pop culture. These big ballet moments are a nice way to usher in the new 2015-2016 ballet season, which is gearing up for a start. As the birth country of ballet, with King Louis IV introducing the dance in the 1700s, France has produced top-notch performances since the inception of ballet as a mainstream art form. This year’s Paris Opera Ballet line-up is helmed by the company’s Director of Dance, Benjamin Millepied (who also happens to be the husband of Oscar-winner Natalie Portman). Millepied kicks off the season with 20 Dancers for the 20th Century, a Boris Charmatz ballet that celebrates twentieth century dance, at Palais Garnier from September 22 – October 11. The unique thing about this ballet will be how the dancers will perform in very close proximity to the audience, making the viewer feel completely enmeshed in the performance. The Opera’s site explains the ballet thusly: “the Paris Opera Ballet will be taking over the public spaces of the Palais Garnier and inviting audiences to stroll through them.” Concurrently featured will be a Millepied-choreographed ballet titled Robbins/Millepied/Balanchine, paying tribute to two of the greatest dancers of the previous century, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. This ballet will showcase Opus 19, The Dream, Creation, and Thème et Variations (September 22 – October 11, 2015). La Bayadère, as choreographed by the late legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, will grace the stage at Opéra Bastille in November (November 17 – December 31, 2015). The ballet originated from French choreographer Marius Petipa in 1877, but was first performed by the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Russia, England, France, and the U.S., are four steadfast countries that produce consistently excellent and large scale ballet productions. Choreographer Petipa also created the traditionally used choreography for the classical ballet Giselle, which will be featured May 27 – June 14, 2016. The season will include an April production from the Paris Opera Ballet School. This is when young hopefuls will strive to catch the eye of the heavy hitters of ballet, who will be filling audience seats. Ballet is a fiercely competitive endeavor, so school productions and showcases can be a student’s ticket into the world of professional dancing. The Paris Opera Ballet 2015-2016 season concludes with Approximate Sonata, a performance choreographed by American dancer William Forsythe, who is known for his work with Ballet Frankfurt, and is a regular collaborator at the Paris Opera Ballet. The show will run from July 4 – July 16, 2016, at Palais Garnier. Visiting dance companies will also be making their way to Paris, like Israeli ballet company Batsheva Dance Company (January 5 – 9, 2016), which was co-founded by renowned American choreographer Martha Graham. The English National Ballet will perform at Palais Garnier in June 2016. And in the midst of this new ballet season, the world continues to be abuzz with upcoming news of dance. A documentary about Misty Copeland, A Ballerina’s Tale, debuts in cinemas on October 14, and Bad Boy Polunin will be featured in a documentary called Dancer. A clip of the film was shown to prospective buyers at the Toronto Film Festival in early September. The Sid Vicious of ballet will no doubt have a graceful and successful landing of this film, given his widespread appeal. A new book about the male dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet entitled Les Danseurs hits shelves on September 29, 2015, showcasing gorgeous black and white photographs shot by English photographer Matthew Brookes over the course of one year in Paris. All this and more will debut this fall in Paris and beyond, as the world continues to be ignited by the power of ballet. Copeland once explained that power, saying: “Something happens when you feel that energy and excitement from the audience. And you do, I don’t know, four pirouettes. You jump higher than you ever have. And it’s just this really magical thing that happens in those moments.” C’est magique, vraiment.    

Lead photo credit : "Theme and Variations", Choreography: George Balanchine. Photo credit: Ann Ray / Opéra national de Paris

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.