PARIS — Benjamin Millepied is bidding adieu to the Paris opera.
The former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and founder of the L.A. Dance Project, who joined the company in November 2014, has resigned as the house’s director of dance “for purely personal reasons,” he said Thursday.
“My duties as director of dance today take up so much space that they have reduced that reserve for creation and artistic expression, which in my view is essential,” he explained.
Millepied’s exit comes as a surprise. Though outspoken about the Paris opera’s shortcomings of attracting a younger audience and proposing more contemporary pieces, the 38-year-old was enthusiastic about his new post.
In September, Millepied spared no effort opening the ballet season with a lavish fund-raiser set in the grand Opéra Garnier, raising over one million euros for the company.
He then told WWD: “The audience still feels too elitist to me…People are afraid of coming to this theater. My vision essentially is to widen the audience, make ballet interesting to people that normally wouldn’t be interested in it — younger and more diverse also. Ballet should reflect our society and in order to make the audience more diverse, the company also has to be more diverse…that’s something I would love to achieve here, and globally.”
Among the changes he instated is the so-called 3rd stage, an exclusively digital venue alongside the Palais Garnier and Opéra Bastille locations, offered via the house’s redesigned Web site, including archive material, videos and behind-the-scenes footage.
Millepied said on Thursday he would remain with the opera for the current and the next season to see through the production of new pieces already in the works.
His ballet “La nuit s’achève” is set to premier on Friday.
Millepied is married to Natalie Portman, who scooped an Academy Award for best leading actress, following the “Black Swan” choreography he had thought up for her in the movie.