RESET, documentary, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts,
This is a story of a world premiere — a 33-minute ballet created for 16 young dancers selected from the 154 members of the Paris Opera’s ballet company. But the documentary is also the story of the company’s director of dance, Benjamin Millepied. Millepied was born in Bordeaux, where he first studied dance, and continued his training in Lyon; he moved to the U.S. on a scholarship to the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, in the early 1990s. He joined City Ballet, rising to the rank of principal, choreographing works for the company (and other ensembles) and remained there for 16 years. He became widely known as the choreographer for the 2010 movie, in which he also appears; the film stars Natalie Portman, whom he later married.
After and his retirement from NYCB, Millepied settled with Portman in Los Angeles, and started a company, LA Dance Project. Then, in what was considered big news in the dance world, he took over the prestigious position with the Paris Opera in 2014. Reset follows the development of Millepied’s new ballet, Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward, with music by Nico Muhly, but also the challenges and frustrations faced by Millepied in his new job with an organization known for its infighting and bureaucracy.
Millepied shook things up at the Paris Opera during his brief tenure as dance director (he left in 2016). He cast up-and-coming dancers in his new ballet, alienating many company veterans. He was also determined to end the lack of ethnic diversity in the company, and to change a culture of insecurity and fear that he said kept dancers from being able to enjoy dancing.
Dance lovers will appreciate the virtuosic rehearsal scenes displayed throughout the film, although they are quick-edited and organized as peeks, which adds impact and rhythm to the film but disappoints artistically. Millepied is shown with earphones almost permanently attached to his head, and a smartphone playing images of his dance in front of his face. Scenes with his amazing multitasking assistant, Virginia Gris (who is always trying to track down Millepied, always has papers for him to sign, and always has a list of the dozens of things for him to attend to every day) show that his attraction to choreography was much stronger than his inclination to take care of business.
recalls another recent ballet documentary, (2014), about the twenty-something New York City Ballet dancer and choreographer Justin Peck and the creation of a new work, Perhaps it is Peck’s youth, or the difference between being a corps dancer and choreographer and Millepied’s much heavier set of responsibilities as a director, but captured much better the collaboration with dancers, which is the heart of a new piece; seems to be about whether Millepied will be able to finish in time.
Perhaps there will be another documentary following Millepied, now back in Los Angeles, at the helm of the LA Dance Project again. But Millepied is returning to France — that company was recently given a three-year-long, five-week residency in Arles. — Michael Wade Simpson