Two years after its inaugural performance, L.A. Dance Project is already a must-see company. In part that’s because its founder and artistic director is the legendary French-born ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied — but also because of its trendy innovations in contemporary dance and modern art.
Millepied, 37, double-timing his duties in Los Angeles with his recent appointment as director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet, became a global celebrity after working on Darren Aronofsky’s hit 2010 movie, “Black Swan” — and his subsequent marriage to its leading lady, Natalie Portman.
A former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Millepied started LADP as an arts collaborative in September 2012, and his hip take on Tinsel Town’s culture scene — incorporating contemporary music and art into dance productions — attracts fans and creators across the spectrum.
This month, audiences in Japan can see what all the fuss is about when LADP brings three works here: “Morgan’s Last Chug,” which it commissioned in 2013 from the French-based, Israeli-born choreographer Emanuel Gat; “Quintett,” William Forsythe’s 1993 elegy to his wife; and Millepied’s own “Reflections,” featuring the work of U.S. conceptual artist Barbara Kruger.
Catching up recently with James Fayette, LADP’s managing director who was also a NYCB principal, said, “We feel lucky to be successful so quickly, but we don’t have as much pressure as other big cities when it comes to trying something new.
“Especially in the New York art and dance scene, there is so much history and so many expectations that it creates a rigid environment for creation. That’s not so in Los Angeles, where creativity and collaboration are truly celebrated.”
In LADP’s upcoming shows in Japan, “Morgan’s Last Chug” explores motion and time through the music of Purcell and Bach. Colorful and restless, the short work features fragmented dance sequences — and an unlikely excerpt from Samuel Beckett’s play “Krapp’s Last Tape.” Then comes “Quintett,” one of English dance icon Forsythe’s lesser-known masterpieces. A lyrical and quietly moving work first staged as his 33-year-old wife lay dying from cancer, this is intended as a “meditation celebrating life,” its creator said.
The three-part show closes with “Reflections,” a taste of Millepied’s choreography with music by U.S. composer David Lang and Kruger’s artworks. At 40 minutes’ duration, this longest of the evening’s works evokes feelings of longing and desire as dancers perform before a stark background of red and white words.
“Benjamin did not want to create something where he sat on top of a mountain and said this is what we’re going to do and you’ll jump on three and turn on two,” Fayette said. “He wanted input and true collaboration from a variety of artistic experts.”
Japanese dance fans will soon be pleased to judge LADP’s collaborative efforts for themselves.
Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project performs Nov. 8 and 9 (at 3 p.m.) at Saitama Arts Theater. For more details, call 0570-064-939 or visit www.saf.or.jp.