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Recently launched L.A. Dance Project brings new work plus Merce Cunningham classic to Mondavi

The LA Dance Project under the direction of Benjamin Millepied will perform at the Mondavi Center on Saturday, Jan. 26.Courtesy photo

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From page A7 | January 23, 2013 | Leave Comment

One of the newest sensations in the field of modern dance — the L.A. Dance Project — visits the Mondavi Center at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, as the recently formed company continues a tour that began last September with a premiere at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

The L.A. Dance Project is an artist collective founded and led by artistic director and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, who was born in France, and did his early training there. He danced with the New York City Ballet and was promoted as principal dancer in 2001, a role he held until he retired in October 2011.

Millepied has created works for many dance companies and artists, including the New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Mariinsky Ballet, Geneva Opera Ballet, the Lyon Opera Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. In addition, in 2010, Millepied choreographed and appeared in Darren Aronofsky’s feature film “Black Swan.”

L.A. Dance Project’s goal is to create new work and to revive seminal collaborations from influential dance makers. The Mondavi Center performance will feature William Forsythe’s “Quintett,” a 26-minute work from 1993, premiered in Germany, which Forsythe described at the time as “a love letter” to his young wife, who was dying of cancer; Merce Cunningham’s “Winterbranch,” a 23-minute work, with parts performed on a darkened stage, which premiered in 1964, and is now being performed in full for the first time since 1976; and “Moving Parts,” a new work by Millepied featuring music for organ, clarinet and violin by Nico Muhly and a bold set design by Christopher Wool.

The new company is not large, featuring only six dancers.

“We want to start small and keep as much artistic flexibility as possible,” Millepied told the New York Times last fall. He is also keen to build an audience on the West Coast.

“How is it possible that here is this huge city (Los Angeles), and it doesn’t have a big ballet company? There has to be a way, but it has to be done differently. (Los Angeles) is a city rich with intellect and culture, but you can’t present dance like you would in New York or Paris,” Millepied said. “Let’s bring dance to people who might not come to a formal setting. Let’s touch on different aspects of culture and pull people in.”

Since the premiere at Disney Hall in September, the company has performed at The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall presented by White Bird Dance in Portland, Ore.; The Imperial Theater as part of The Westobou Festival in Augusta, Ga.; and Montclair University presented by Peak Performances in Montclair, N.J.

The Mondavi Center performance is the first stop in a tour that will include the French cities of Cannes, Toulouse and Paris, as well as the Turkish city Istanbul.

The company’s future plans include a collaborative project that will integrate modern dance with a contemporary opera.

Saturday’s 8 p.m. performance in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall will be preceded by a 7 p.m. pre-performance talk by Ruth Rosenberg, who was artistic director of her own modern dance company in Sacramento for several years, prior to joining the Mondavi Center staff. There will also be a post-performance question-and-answer session.

Tickets are $25-$49 general, $12.50-$24.50 students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8055.

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