Benjamin Millepied: “I bring dance to suburban kids, but I wanted to be a star again”

The Roman theaters of Fourviere: an old arena, a piano on stage, a dancer warming up intently before the official start of the performance. All eyes are on him at a moment that the public considers decisive. Benjamin Millepied is returning to stage acting after 13 years of devoting himself to choreography and artistic direction, between the Paris Opera, an experience that ended abruptly and early, and his Los Angeles project in California. The performance is called Unstill Life, and pianist Alexander Taro unexpectedly and ingeniously shares it in a bromance of looks, games, videos, humor, childhood memories and role-reversal.

A show with music by Rameau, Bach, Schubert, Satie and Beethoven and with a very French cinematic touch, between nouvelle limbo and Jacques Tati, arrives on June 25 at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto. Where Millepied’s wife, Natalie Portman, is also expected. Who he refuses to talk about with a polite smile, but who shows up at the party in jeans, sneakers and a camouflage jacket. Leaving the spotlight on who was the absolute star that evening. Benjamin Millepied, Unstill Life is a celebration of life that does not stop. And, together, the recognition of physical limitations. She decided to joke about it, such as when she wants to pretend to be out of breath. To prove you wrong later by walking up and down the theater steps. What does it mean to be back on stage at 46? “I craved it: and in the end, maybe I stopped too soon. In fact, it seems to me that I have lived many lives: Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris, New York, Los Angeles. It’s time to meet the public again. Limits? But of course I hear them. And we rework them with Alexander, especially in the section devoted to Beethoven’s last sonata. The mountain, which seems impossible to climb, is the work of a man who struggled with a physical barrier, deafness. At first, this music is scary, but then it turns out to be so human, so full of joy and hope.”

Her homecoming comes with a decision to return to Paris, although she will continue to oversee her art program in Los Angeles. “I am part of two cultures: in Paris, I am inspired by what is happening in Los Angeles, and vice versa. But at this stage, I’m happy to be back in Paris, where I feel freer, where creative stimuli are constant and easier to share, and where I can come into closer contact with the European theatrical experience.” Even with the Italian ones, given his presence in Spoleto and the two Philip Glass choreographies that he will present at the Rome Opera, On the Other Side and Closer. “I can’t wait to be in Spoleto because to me it means Jerome Robbins, my mentor who is inextricably linked to the Festival. It was he who made me understand everything when, in my freshman year at the New York City Ballet, he chose me for two- and three-part inventions. I was 16.”

Robbins is referring to West Side Story, and last year she returned to that myth with Romeo and Juliet, where a young heterosexual couple is joined by two homosexuals. “My troupe has dancers of all kinds, and it seemed absurd to me that this great tragic story is contained in such a limited canon. Love has no boundaries.” Unstill Life uses video in a very sophisticated way, with a direct reference to their new activity – directing. The first film he made is called “Carmen” and is a new interpretation that takes place on the border between the United States and Mexico. “An experience that I hope to repeat, even if the planning times for movies and dances are so different. I love photography, film and fine art and will continue to work on them. There was insane tension on set, great creativity.” Lived with Melissa Barrera, Rossi de Palma and two now much talked about talents, actor Paul Mescal and composer Nicholas Brittell of Legacies. “I spotted Paul on Normal People and didn’t miss it. Then with Nikolai, whom I have known for 10 years, we were eager to make films together. Since cinema and Italy are two of your passions, which Italian directors inspire you? “Fellini, Antonioni and Visconti, of course. And also Ermanno Olmi from Posto and from Sabo Tree. How is your teaching project going? “Introducing dance to children in difficult areas of Los Angeles has borne fruit in terms of creative collaboration with others, physical and emotional well-being, and relationship with one’s body. We hope to do the same in the Parisian suburbs, whether it’s contemporary dance, krump or hip-hop.”

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