(BECKET, Mass.) – L.A. Dance Project, an exuberant contemporary dance collective hailing from Los Angeles, makes a rare East Coast appearance in its Jacob’s Pillow debut at the Ted Shawn Theatre from Wednesday through Sunday, August 19 to 22. Benjamin Millepied, former New York City Ballet principal dancer, choreographer for the film “Black Swan,” current director of the Paris Opera Ballet, and perhaps best known as Mr. Natalie Portman, founded L.A. Dance Project in 2012. Also at the Pillow this week is Liz Gerring Dance Company performing its evening-length work, “glacier,” in the Doris Duke Theater.
The impressively daring, classically trained dancers of LA Dance perform “Murder Ballades” by New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck, the U.S. premiere of Israeli choreographer Roy Assaf’s “II acts for the blind,” and Millepied’s new ballet “Hearts & Arrows.”
L.A. Dance Project, noted by Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times as “attractive, personable, skilled, individual,” has a contemporary vision and stylistically diverse repertory. The young artist collective “has depth far beyond its years” (Robert Greskovic, Wall Street Journal) and is devoted to creating and presenting high quality work in Los Angeles and throughout the world.
Renowned choreographer and founding director Benjamin Millepied has selected a group of classically trained dancers to perform new works by both established and emerging choreographers using creative commissions. Together with an acclaimed leadership team of visual and musical artists including founding producer Charles Fabius, composers Nico Muhly and Nicholas Britell, and art consultant Matthieu Humery, the company incorporates multimedia elements into their live performances and fuses art forms in stimulating dance films.
Former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carla Körbes takes the reins as L.A. Dance Project’s associate artistic director in this Pillow engagement; dancer and rehearsal director Charlie Hodges will give his last performance with the company at Jacob’s Pillow before his retirement from the stage.
The program opens with Justin Peck’s contemporary ballet “Murder Ballades.” Inspired by the spirit of choreographer Jerome Robbins and folk songs of the 1930s and 40s, the work is danced in sneakers and pedestrian clothing, and features the bright athleticism and technical prowess of the ensemble. Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times states that “Peck’s own voice emerges clearly in his gift for structure and patterning, in the dynamic contrasts of the movement and in his ability to surprise, both choreographically and psychologically.” Murder Ballades is set to an original score by indie-rock band The National’s Bryce Dessner, recorded by Chicago-based, three-time GRAMMY Award-winning sextet eighth blackbird.
Seen at the Pillow in its U.S. premiere, Israeli choreographer Roy Assaf’s “II acts for the blind” is both a strikingly theatrical and profoundly personal work, created in collaboration with the dancers. Assaf’s work features a storyteller and solo performances in a modern evaluation of “The American Dream”. In a square light onstage, dancers interpret the storyteller’s narrative through movement and moments of both serious and comedic spoken word. “One of the major emerging choreographic voices on our dancing stages” (Ora Brafman, The Jerusalem Post), Assaf made his name working closely with acclaimed choreographer Emanuel Gat and is known for his frank, simple, and raw aesthetic.
A contemporary tribute to Balanchine’s classic work Jewels, Benjamin Millepied’s “Hearts & Arrows” is the second installment of his trilogy “Gems,” and focuses on the architecture and radiance of diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels jewelers have had a long-standing relationship with ballet, and supported Millepied in the commission of this work. Set to music from Philip Glass’s “String Quartet No. 3”, eight dancers move through numerous patterns where “everything is unexpected, and everything feels serendipitously right” (Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times). Millepied created a film of Hearts & Arrows in the urban L.A. River, bridging dance with filmmaking for a performance in a non-traditional setting.
ABOUT L.A. DANCE PROJECT
L.A. Dance Project’s mission is to create new work and to revive seminal collaborations from influential dance makers. Programs include full-length evenings in traditional theater venues as well as various modular performances in non-traditional environments. Nationally, L.A. Dance Project has appeared at: University of California Davis’ Mondavi Center; Alexander Kasser Hall at Montclair State University, New Jersey; White Bird Dance in Portland, Oregon; and the Westobou Festival in Augusta, Georgia. Internationally, the company has performed at major theaters in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Istanbul, China, Japan, and Korea.
ABOUT BENJAMIN MILLEPIED
Born in France, Benjamin Millepied rose through the ranks at New York City Ballet (NYCB) and was a principal dancer from 2001 to 2011. With the NYCB, Millepied danced a vast repertoire and had many original roles created for him by Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Angelin Preljocaj, and Mauro Bigonzetti. In 2012, Millepied moved to Los Angeles, where he founded L.A. Dance Project to promote new work and revisit influential multidisciplinary collaborations from the past. Many of his ballets are in the repertory of major dance companies around the world, including the New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Mariinsky Ballet, and the Lyon Opera Ballet. His collaborators have included Nico Muhly, David Lang, Philip Glass, Christopher Wool, Barbara Kruger, Paul Cox, Rodarte, Thierry Escaich, Santiago Calatrava, and Daniel Buren. Millepied works in film as a choreographer and as a director, and in 2010 choreographed Darren Aronofsky’s film Black Swan. Millepied was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet in January 2013, a role he assumed in October 2014.
L.A. Dance Project Founder Benjamin Millepied was the Honorary Co-Chair of the Jacob’s Pillow 2011 Season Opening Gala, when his work “Closer” was performed by two dancers from Ballet Genève.
Millepied performed on Inside/Out with the Wally Cardona Quartet in 1999 and in the Ted Shawn Theatre with Peter Boal & Friends in 2004, an engagement in which associate artistic director Carla Körbes also appeared.
Choreographer Roy Assaf performed at the Pillow in 2006 with Emanuel Gat Dance.
On Friday, August 21 at 5pm, the Pillow hosts a screening of the documentary film titled “Benjamin Millepied: Dancing is Living.” The French documentary shows L.A. Dance Project’s charismatic director at work in the studio, hanging out with hip-hop dancer Lil Buck, and discussing his future plans in both Los Angeles and Paris. Admission is free.
PERFORMANCE AND TICKET INFORMATION
August 19-22, Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm, no Sunday performance.
Ted Shawn Theatre
Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholar-in-Residence Maura Keefe are offered in Blake’s Barn 30 minutes before every performance.
- A Post-Show Q&A with members of L.A. Dance Project and Scholar-in-Residence Maura Keefe will take place onstage on Friday, August 21.
- Tickets $39-$69. Now on sale online at jacobspillow.org, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office. A limited number of $19 Under 35 Friday tickets are available for August 21; limit 2 per person, must be between the ages of 18 and 35.
- Box Office Hours: Sunday through Tuesday, 11am–5pm; Wednesday through Saturday 11am–8pm.
Jacob’s Pillow is located at 358 George Carter Road in Becket, MA, 01223 (10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2). The Jacob’s Pillow campus and theaters are handicapped accessible.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
Liz Gerring Dance Company
August 19-23, Wednesday-Saturday at 8:15pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2:15pm
Doris Duke Theatre
2015 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner Liz Gerring’s evening-length contemporary dance is rich with beautiful and intriguing contradictions of elegance, athleticism, serenity, and passion. Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic of The New York Times, describes “glacier” as “wit without quirkiness, passion without emotionalism: its moods change like the weather, and its ebbs and flows carry aspects of poetry and excitement.” The 65-minute work features production design by Robert Wierzel and is danced to an original score by Liz Gerring Dance Company resident composer Michael J. Schumacher, whose piece “Glacier” originated during a summer stay near Colorado’s Glacier Lake. Tickets $25-$35.