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L.A. Dance Project Celebrates Its First Decade With Van Cleef & Arpels 

Benjamin Millepied’s company partners with the French jewelry house for a series of performances around town and a star-studded gala to mark the milestone

Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL

 

L.A. Dance Project artistic director and co-founder, Benjamin Millepied, at the LADP 10th Anniversary Gala. Photo by Jason Sean Weiss, BFA.com.

 

“Thank you for believing that maybe I could pull it off,” said Benjamin Millepied, artistic director and co-founder of L.A. Dance Project, as he thanked a group of founders including Jane Jelenko, Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos, and a host of others instrumental in the company’s 2012 launch. Millepied, Jelenko and Bos gathered with supporters and guests from the worlds of art, dance, fashion and film including Susan Baumgarten, C cover girl Dree Hemingway, Berite Labelle, Sara Sampaio, Elsa Hosk, Cecilia Bönström, Mark Terbeek, Stacen Berg, Aaron Young, Laure Hériard Dubreuil, Erica Pelosini, Pamela Abdy, Alia Shawkat and Alicia Silverstone for a gala dinner and performance to celebrate LADP’s first decade, held at the sprawling estate of Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker in the Los Angeles hills on Saturday, October 29.

“The company was an experiment. The idea was 10 years and hopefully it’ll be here in 100,” Millepied added, as he introduced the evening’s performances including “Quartet for Five” created by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, choreographic artists in residence, and set to music by Philip Glass. Dancers also performed “Pillar I” with music by composer Andy Akiho, part of Millepied’s new work, Be Here Now, and the gala served as the American debut of the “Balcony Scene” in his Romeo & Juliet Suite, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s emotional score and utilizing the entirety of the Pritzker house—including an upstairs balcony—as its setting. The piece premiered at La Seine Musicale in France last month. There were also audience-wide, mid-performance tequila shots in a nod to New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine’s traditional vodka toasts. “But not for you,” Millepied told his 10-year-old son Aleph (with wife Natalie Portman) who was also in the audience.

 

Lawrence Bender, Cindy Cederlund and Travon Free. Photo by River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

Alicia Silverstone. Photo by River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

From left: Devon Lee Carlson. Alia Shawkat. Photos by Jason Sean Weiss, BFA.com.

 

Cecilia Bonstrom, Elsa Hosk. Photo by River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

Nick Delli Santi and Dree Hemingway. Photo by River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

“L.A. Dance Project was an experiment. The idea was 10 years and hopefully it’ll be here in 100”

BENJAMIN MILLEPIED

 

“Benjamin’s done the impossible,” said Lucinda Lent, the company’s executive director, describing Millepied’s pioneering vision for local dance in L.A. “All of the dancers are different, their bodies are different, their nationalities, and his main way of working when he choreographs is to allow them to be themselves, to have their own personalities.” Millepied, who danced with New York City Ballet and created choreography for the company and for various film projects including Black Swan (and, most recently, Dune), also helmed the Paris Opera Ballet as director of dance. Now he and Lent, along with the team at LADP are working to expand international tours, local performances and community initiatives including collaborative summer intensives with Everybody Dance LA!. During the evening performances, Lent also announced a new four-year, $1.5 million pledge, The Van Cleef & Arpels Fund for L.A. Dance Project, from the longtime company sponsor, that will support artist residency, new commissions, community engagement and educational programming. The gala itself raised an additional $1 million for LADP programs and operations.

The evening followed days of performances in partnership with Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels, the jewelry house’s choreographic initiative, that took place at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary venue and at LADP’s downtown studio. Dance Reflections director Serge Laurent said he’s drawn to public spaces, museums and warehouses as places for people to encounter choreographic art, a concept near and dear to Millepied, whose company performed on-site at the Pritzker residence for the gala and previously at Union Station and the Schindler House. “Dance is an art of movement but also an art of space,” he said. “Which is why I find it exciting, with the complicity of the artists, to experiment with different types of places to present dance in addition to theaters.” Laurent tapped choreographer and CalArts dance school dean Dimitri Chamblas who devised “Slow Show,” a performance of 55 amateur dancers at MOCA whose movements appeared to be slowed to the extreme, so as to be imperceptible and almost invisible. “Today, if you want to stand out and resist you have to slow down,” Chamblas explained. “Stretching the time to the extreme generates an intense and agitated dance. I wanted the performance to be rooted in the principles of trance, exultation, telepathy, and unconscious memories.” Laurent called the piece’s oscillation between dance and tableau vivant “a perfect link between the museum and the performing arts.”

 

The evening included live performances at the Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker estate. Photo by Jason Sean Weiss & River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

Everybody Dance LA! takes the stage. Photo by Jason Sean Weiss & River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

Dancers perform a piece choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber. Photo by Jason Sean Weiss & River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

LADP artists take a bow. Photo by Jason Sean Weiss & River Callaway, BFA.com.

 

“Benjamin Millepied’s done the impossible”

LUCINDA LENT

 

As warm Santa Ana winds blew down through the hills, gala guests at the Pritzker residence dined under twinkling lights and a phalanx of white candles illuminating tables filled with dishes of cedar planked salmon prepared by Annie Campbell before returning to the temporary stage created for the evening to join music supervisor and KCRW DJ Mathieu Schreyer who spun for a late-night dance party.

 

Feature image: Photo by Jason Sean Weiss & River Callaway, BFA.com.


November 2, 2022

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