Movie Review: Benjamin Millepied’s Documentary “RESET” on The Paris Opera Ballet

“RESET” is a documentary on Benjamin Millepied’s (choreographer of “Black Swan” and husband of Natalie Portman) journey as the new director of the Paris Opera Ballet and his attempts to rejuvenate this historic institution with his dance production of “Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward.” “RESET” is a real behind-the-scenes account of the creation of dance production that includes concept, costume, music and choreography.

While watching the movie I couldn’t help but think of King Louis XIV, the key progenitor of the French Opera Ballet, who was heavily influenced by his mother Anne of Austria, who was enamored with the Italian ballet of her period. The young King Louis XIV started his balletic performances with “Ballet de Cassandre” at 13, and at 15 he played Apollo, the sun-god, in “The Ballet of the Night” or in French, “Le Ballet de la Nuit.” The latter was his most defining role. That’s how he became known as the “Sun King.” King Louis XIV continued to dance until he as 22 and then he retired. I bring this up because of the royal and courtly origins of The Paris Opera Ballet. Because of its formal and rigid inception, born out of the highest concept of royal and courtly power at the height of French culture, it lacks the fluidity of Millepied’s sensibilities. Wikipedia puts it this way, “The Paris Opera Ballet had its origins in the earlier dance institutions, traditions and practices of the court of Louis XIV… Also in 1661, Louis XIV had founded the Académie Royale de Danse (Royal Academy of Dance) in an effort “to improve the quality of dance instruction for court entertainments.”

Benjamin Millepied ©Billy Bennight

To this day French prestige and culture is embodied The Paris Opera Ballet and is considered a national treasure. But with such historical context, there is an inherent stiffness and rigidity locked in to that tradition and Millepied brings a catalytic change in performance with his own particular vision of dance as a joyful expression of movement. Millepied’s presence as director of The Paris Opera Ballet offered a fresh perspective and embodied a new open approach to dance to reinvigorate and reinvent The Paris Opera Ballet for a contemporary world.

For ballet and dance enthusiasts, the behind-the-scenes of Millepied’s “Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward” in “RESET” is an eye-opening experience. “RESET” explores the process of infusing traditional ballet with modern ideas of dance and concepts. While it is a documentary of how a ballet comes together with the dancer selection process, the necessary practices and choreography, costuming, lighting and stage directing, musical composition and marketing, all demonstrate Millepied’s innovative and unconventional approach to dance, with which he challenges the status quo of The Paris Opera Ballet.

While “RESET” explores the mechanics of putting on a grand performance for The Paris Opera Ballet, it also exposes the viewer to the utter beauty of dance with its poetic physicality, and the dancers are an outpouring of musicality and fantastic art, bathed in the contrasting elements of light and dark. The closing sequences of the documentary involve the finished product of “Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward”; after months of effort, it all draws down to a 33-minute dance performance to a sold-out house. On this high note, the documentary closes with an epilogue of Millepied resigning his post as director of The Paris Opera Ballet. His current work is here in Los Angeles with LA Dance Project. “RESET” is a must-see for any dance enthusiast and a great introduction to those curious to see the mechanics of the creative process for a great performance!

 

 

Billy Bennight

About Billy Bennight

Billy Bennight is a writer, photographer and wardrobe stylist with expertise and years of experience in these disciplines. His musical youth started as a Punk Rocker and has expanded into exploring many genres of music, with an keen interest in art, fashion, photography and writing. He shoots celebrity events and red carpets for PR Photos, Photoshot and The Photo Access/Corbis. His images have been published in Vanity Fair, People Magazine and The Los Angeles Times. He's very engaged in life. You can follow him on his Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/billybennightartist
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