Inspired by the freewheeling title of choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s One Thing Leads to Another at the Dutch National Ballet, we asked the polymath performer about his collaborative improvisations with composer Nico Muhly and the Rodarte sisters, and that sublime moment when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Where did the title One Thing Leads to Another come from?
Nico [who provides the ballet’s musical score] gave that title. Looking at the progression, musically, it made a lot of sense. And it really made sense for the dance because I followed the score and its journey—it had a lot of different parts and was relentless and very beautiful.
You and Nico have worked together a few times now. What about him appeals to you?
I think we have a definite closeness in our collaboration. I mean, I love his music to begin with, but he also knows what triggers me and is able to deliver the kind of score that inspires me. This is the second orchestral score we’ve done—he had done one for me a couple of years ago which was really good, but he has obviously had more experience writing for orchestra since. This piece was just stunning.
And what led you to call in the girls from Rodarte?
Well, I had seen them work on Black Swan [Darren Aronofsky’s forthcoming film in which Millepied stars], and I was blown away. The costumes were so beautiful and elegant and otherworldly, I thought, “Wow, this is something.” The girls are really inspired, but they also researched. A lot of fashion designers don’t look far enough. Plus, I got to spend a little bit of time with them, and I could go on and on about how wonderful I think they are.
Did you give them specific direction?
I let them go with the flow… [laughs.] They developed an idea for a look that wasn’t the minimalism I would usually choose––because it’s safer. It worked with where I was going, so I thought, “Let’s go for it.” Once we got on stage we had some challenges, because fabric never looks the same up close as it does from a distance, so I ended up getting a white floor. I really felt on opening night that you were looking at something so cohesive––I was thrilled. The costumes had taken me to a place I had never thought of. Finding the right people who are true artists who can deliver for your work is just the best––that’s the dream.