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PROJECT PLIÉ: “Maybe I owe more to L.A. than people know,” said Benjamin Millepied. The choreographer is more well known these days as Mr. Natalie Portman, but he’s also the founder of L.A. Dance Project and on Saturday night, the company staged a performance at the recently restored The Theatre at Ace Hotel.

As Millepied stood on a stage that was once part of the United Artists movie theater, he described how he got into dancing.

This story first appeared in the October 28, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Eventually I started to dance and because I lived in some small town in France, it wasn’t live performances that I could see, it was movies. It was the movies of Fred Astaire, of Gene Kelly, of Busby Berkeley,” he said. “It was those dance films that actually drew me to deciding to become a dancer.”

Portman, who met Millepied while filming her Oscar-winning “Black Swan,” was in the audience herself. She arrived an hour earlier without fuss or fanfare in a demure look by Dior and snacked on popcorn from the concession stand.

“It’s great to get to be reminded how incredible your husband is,” she said. “And the dancers are incredible….I come into rehearsals regularly, but it’s so different seeing it live on stage. I feel very lucky to have this be part of my life.”

After intermission, Millepied previewed his latest, a piece set to Philip Glass’ score for the 1985 cult film “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters,” and received a standing ovation. Laura Mulleavy, James and Kimberly Van Der Beek, Trina Turk, Barbara Kruger, Catharine Soros, Liane Weintraub and company dancers like Nathan Makolandra and Stephanie Amurao were among those who went to the penthouse of the Cooper Design Space for a post-performance celebratory meal.

Between bites, Van Der Beek and his wife reminisced about their own ties to the dance world. “I danced from five years old to high school,” said the Mrs. “And James’ mother owned and ran a gymnastics studio, so James can do the splits actually.”

“Not anymore,” he said.

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