Childhood & Early Life
Benjamin Millepied was born on June 10, 1977 in Bordeaux, France, and was raised in Dakar, Senegal. He is the youngest of three sons in his family. His father Denys Millepied is a former decathlete and a dance teacher, and his mother Catherine Millepied-Flory is a former ballet dancer.
His mother trained him in ballet since he was eight. Simultaneously, he learned track and field from his father. When he was 13, he started attending the Conservatoire National Supérieur Musique et Danse de Lyon, France.
In 1993, he joined the New York City Ballet on a full scholarship from the French ministry. Choreographer Jerome Robbins took an interest in him and mentored him during his early career.
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In 1995, Benjamin Millepied was invited to join the New York City Ballet's corps de ballet. He performed brilliantly and in three years’ time, he was promoted to a soloist. He continued rising and became a principal dancer in 2002.
During his 16-year tenure at the New York City Ballet, he portrayed several characters in ballets by Peter Martins, Christopher Wheeldon and George Balanchine, and earned critical acclaim.
Around this time, he began choreographing for various dance companies worldwide, such as the City Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, the School of American Ballet, and the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg.
In 2001, his dancing was motion-captured for the children's film ‘Barbie in the Nutcracker’. His dancing was once again motion-captured for the 2003 film ‘Barbie of Swan Lake’.
In 2002, he founded his own company, Danses Concertantes. The troupe consisted of professional dancers with whom he toured worldwide for the next eight years.
In 2006, he became the choreographer-in-residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. His solo work ‘Years Later’ for the ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov was highly appreciated.
He choreographed for the award-winning psychological thriller movie ‘Black Swan’ in 2010, which was directed by Darren Aronofsky. On the sets of ‘Black Swan’ he met his future wife Natalie Portman, whom he trained for her role in the movie. He also did a small role in the film.
In 2010, he appeared as the leading male character in a short film, ‘Time Doesn’t Stand Still’, which he co-directed with Asa Mader. He also choreographed for the film.
In October 2011, he announced his retirement from the New York City Ballet and moved to Los Angeles. In the same year, he founded LA Dance Project in collaboration with composers Nico Muhly and Nicholas Britell, producer Charles Fabius, and art consultant Matthieu Humery. The project aimed at making work available for small groups of dancers in traditional as well as unconventional fields.
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The LA Dance Project became popular in a short span of time. This art collective started turning heads with its unique vision of contemporary dance and ballet. Its performances were held worldwide in Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai, New York, France and beyond.
In 2012, he established a multimedia production company called the Amoveo Company, and directed a number of short films, commercials and music videos in collaboration with different artists like composer Philip Glass, painter Mark Bradford, band IO Echo, music duo Zeds Dead, and dancer Lil Buck. Based on his original choreography titled ‘Reflections’, he directed a short film for the jewelry brand Van Cleef and Arpels.
In January 2013, Benjamin joined the Paris Opera Ballet as the director of dance. During his tenure, he brought about several changes in the organization. He started an in-house training program for choreographers, increased fund-raising, and created a digital platform for more work.
He resigned from the Paris Opera Ballet in February 2016. While critics wrote that he failed to respect the company’s traditions, he explained in an interview that he was frustrated over its resistance to the changes he wanted to bring in. Benjamin said that he had envisioned a new kind of organization that could deal with the various cultural and economic issues of the time. However, he faced various challenges in his efforts to make Paris Opera Ballet a relevant organization for today’s ballet.
In 2016, LA Dance Project entered into a three-year partnership with LUMA Foundation in Arles, France. The partnership offered residency and performance space at Parc des Ateliers in Arles, where the company will spend five weeks a year.
Benjamin Millepied’s LA Dance Project is still going strong in 2018. Since its launch, it has held classes worldwide at international venues and festivals like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Holland Festival, La Maison de la Danse, Shanghai and Bejing Opera House, Theatre du Chatelet, and many others. Its nine-member troupe has performed worldwide to glowing reviews.
His choreography has earned him acclaim from far and wide. He choreographed a number of times for the New York City Ballet and also created two works for the American Ballet Theatre—‘From Here On Out’ in 2007 and ‘Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once’ in 2009. His other works that were appreciated were ‘Passages,’ for the Conservatoire National de Lyon in 2001; ‘Triple Duet,’ performed at Sadler’s Wells, London in 2002; and ‘Circular Motion,’ premiered in London in 2004.
Benjamin Millepied was once in a relationship with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. He left her when he met actress Natalie Portman in 2009.
Benjamin and Natalie’s son, Aleph Portman-Millepied was born on June 14, 2011, and the couple got married in August 2012.
In 2014, he converted into Judaism. He, along with his family, shifted from Paris to Los Angeles in 2016.
In February 22, 2017, Benjamin and Natalie’s daughter, Amalia Portman-Millepied was born.