Benjamin Millepied is an inspirational figure in the lively backstage documentary Reset, despite his troubled 2014-6 tenure as Dance Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. By emphasizing the creative process of choreography and downplaying their subject’s managerial responsibilities, directors Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai portray Millepied as a dynamo transforming the rigorous institution into an innovative company. That energy and enthusiasm enliven the corps de ballet dancers he recruits for Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward, his vigorous, demanding piece that’s worlds away from their classical repertoire.
As a young dancer, Millepied turned to ballet after seeing a program about the prestigious French national company, and Reset often seems like Demaizière and Teurlai’s attempt to indoctrinate a new generation. Their glorious recruitment film espouses individual expression and athletic grace, while also pinpointing the limits of star power.
Watching Millepied move is electrifying, especially during hands-on rehearsals when he takes on multiple roles, and he was a celebrated principal dancer at the New York City Ballet before reaching a new level of fame choreographing Black Swan (and marrying Natalie Portman). A key word for Millepied is “pleasure,” and he encourages his dancers to express their individual joy every time they perform, whether in contemporary ballet or traditional roles.
Reset captures how his rule-breaking leadership can simultaneously triumph and fail. Millepied lacks the diplomatic finesse of an administrator, and his attempts to change an entrenched culture weren’t universally welcome, but the spark that illuminates him lit a few creative fires that continue to burn in his absence.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on January 13, 2017 by FilmRise
First published in The Village Voice, 2017.