When the French-born but American at heart Benjamin Millepied took over the Paris Opera Ballet in 2014, he stated that the tri-centenarian company was aging in every way. Even though the troupe’s repertoire offered one of the world's widest ranges of ballets, from Nureyev’s masterpieces and Lacotte’s reconstructions to Preljocaj, Teshigawara or Bausch's iconoclastic works, the departing artistic director intended to dust off the supposedly stiff institution. Loudly and clearly. To start with, he nurtured a brand new generation of soloists in their early twenties, whom he brought into the spotlight: Léonore Baulac, Hannah O'Neill and Hugo Marchand. Then he drew a few much-in-demand choreographers in: Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, himself and . . . the great maestro William Forsythe. Relying on James Blake's vibrant electro-soul album The Color in Anything, Forsythe graced the “Millepied generation” with a tailor-made, electrifying, anthem which reads like a contemporary version of “Theme & Variations.” As always, Forsythe’s postmodern vibe was received with standing ovations and earned rave reviews in the press.
William Forsythe's “Blake Works I” for Paris Opera Ballet. Photograph by Ann Ray