Angelin Preljocaj©Lucas Marquand-Perrier

Angelin Preljocaj©Lucas Marquand-Perrier

Angelin Preljocaj, choreographer and artistic director of the Ballet Preljocaj – National Choreographic Centre, has been living and working in Aix-en-Provence since 1996. Born in 1957 in the Paris region, he began his career by studying classical dance before turning to contemporary dance with Karin Waehner at the Schola Cantorum. After studying with Merce Cunningham in New York (1980), he joined the Quentin Rouiller Company in Caen and then worked at the national contemporary dance Center of Angers, at that time directed by Viola Farber.

In December 1984, Angelin decided to venture out on his own and presented Marché noir at the Concours de Bagnolet, earning the Ministry of Culture award. He then founded his own company in Champigny-sur-Marne and created Larmes blanches in 1985, À nos héros in 1986 and Le petit napperon bouge in 1987. That same year, Angelin Preljocaj won the Villa Medicis hors les Murs award and left for Japan to study Noh, a form of musical drama. Upon returning he created Hallali Romée for the Festival d’Avignon, the Biennale Nationale de Danse du Val-de-Marne and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, followed by Liqueurs de chair while in residency at the CNDC (National Choreographic Dance Center) in Angers, a piece co-produced by the Théâtre de la Ville (1988). For the Biennale nationale de danse du Val-de-Marne, he presented his vision of Stravinski’s Noces and the duet Un trait d’union (1989).

With many award-winning choreographies behind him, in 2010, Angelin was invited to produce one of his existing choreographies with dancers from the Bolshoi. This collaborative opportunity joined 10 Bolshoi dancers and 10 dancers from his own company to create his newest work And then, one thousand years of peace. The premier took place in Moscow.

Touring in New York, Ann Arbor, and Minneapolis this season, Ballet Preljocaj performs its epic And then, one thousand years of peace, which takes its inspiration from the Apocalypse. Emphasizing revelation—the original sense of the word, rather than impending catastrophe—this impressionistic piece seeks to evoke what is nestled in the innermost recesses of our being (October 30 presented by the University of Minnesota-Northrop at the Orpheum Theater, November 1 and 2 at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s Power Center, November 7-9 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music).

In 2011, he signed, for Air France, the commercial L’Envol based on a duo of Le Parc, with the New York City Ballet French dancer Benjamin Millepied, and Ballet Preljocaj dancer Virginie Caussin. And in 2012, he accepted the invitation of “Suresnes cites danse” and created, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the festival, Royaume Uni, a piece for four hip hop dancers. (Website:

And then, one thousand years of peace. The years of peace do come, in images of purification that wash away the dirt of nations and create a global pasture where God’s creatures may safely wander. But until then, there are 100 minutes of dance that capture the turmoil and schisms that beset mankind and rob us of that peace. His ideas and his choreography compel you to watch, think and reflect, and his dancers excel beyond superlatives.” — Mary Brennan The Herald (Scotland)

And then, one thousand years of peace. His work is never that simple. Preljocaj has explored a more literal meaning of ‘Apocalypse,’ ‘apo,’ to lift and ‘calypsis,’ veil; he means to expose what is buried deep in our existence, our ‘fears, anxieties and hopes.'” — Justine Blundell-Postsdon, EdinburgGuide


AWP: You are the founder and artistic choreographer of the contemporary dance troupe Ballet Preljocaj. What is specifically contemporary in your approach and philosophy?

AP: My writing is rather graphic. My work is a work of writing; my tools are bodies, space, and time. I like to think about the evolution of our societies and how to use the body to express many things that cannot be put into words. In a sense, the body is a reflection of the soul.

AWP: In 1984, you decided to venture out on your own after much experience as a dancer. Why was this the right time?

AP: My training was with Karin Wahner, then Zenna Romett and Merce Cunningham in NY. Later, my experience as a dancer with Quentin Rouillier and Dominique Bagouet (who often drove his dancers to choreography) quickly pushed me to create my own first works and then the founding of the company in 1985.

AWP: Ballet Preljocaj is based in the south of France. What influenced your decision to move the company to the city of Aix-en-Provence?

AP: Actually, we had been invited by the city of Aix-en-Provence to settle the company in there after we left Chateauvallon. It is always a real pleasure to work in this city. More so now with the Pavillon Noir (inaugurated in 2006), a building dedicated to dance where we welcome other companies throughout the year.

AWP: Your first choreographed work Marché noir, at the Concours de Bagnolet, obtained the Ministry of Culture award. In what way did this recognition help launch your company forward?

AP: I had the chance to present this work in a context where dance didn’t have the consideration that it has today. Marché noir was well received and it was the beginning of our fantastic story. 

AWP: What sparked your interest in dance?

AP: When I was a child, I saw a picture of Rodollf Nureyev beaming. The legend is that he was “transfigured” by dance and I was fascinated by this art that was able to make someone so beautiful.

The body and movement have always attracted me. As a child, I practiced judo a lot, then I came to dance, classic dance first. I discovered contemporary dance with Karin Waehner at the Schola Cantorum and realized very quickly that everything was possible with contemporary. I was totally shocked and decided to devote myself to it.

AWP: Ballet Preljocaj is directed by you and includes 26 permanent dancers who are joined by other dancers to collaborate on large-scale works. Who are these dancers in Ballet Preljocaj? What countries are represented?

AP: The dancer is my partner. Each of my creations is a reflection of the dancers who are involved. They all have a high technical level, but, over all, they are performers, characters, and individuals. They come from all over the world: USA, Argentina, Japan, Spain, Italy, Brazil, and Russia. Working with them is very enriching and exciting! Most of the time, I mark a movement and they know where I am going.

To renew myself, I like to work with other artists because we can influence each other and exceed our own limits.

AWP: Does Ballet Preljocaj also organize dance workshops offering certain technical aspects of contemporary dance? What is the aim of these workshops? Who participates?

AP: Yes, we often get the chance to give Master classes during our tours in France and abroad to share our way of working and our creation process with young professional dancers. We also organize many workshops with amateurs.

AWP: Can you share the creative inspiration behind your new work And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace?

AP: The piece is about the emotions experienced in the reading of the Apocalypse of St. John, from the book of Revelations. The production is not an illustration of the New Testament and, most importantly, it won’t depict the end of the world. For me, what’s important is to ponder the present times and the society we live in. The world moves back with intolerances, blockages, and tensions that scare me.

AWP: Describe your own “Aix-en-Provence.”

AP: I love walking the streets of this city, and walking at the Mountain Ste Victoire. The lights amaze me; it is not surprising that Cézanne had shown his talent here. 

Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the following people for helping to make this interview possible: Angelin Preljocaj, choreographer and artistic director of the Ballet Preljocaj – National Choreographic Centre; Cari Hatcher, director of marketing and publicity Northrop, University of Minnesota; Megan Kiecker, assistant to Cari Hatcher, Northrop Dance; and Natalie Ehalt, Bilingual Music Specialist at Hiawatha Leadership Academy, Minneapolis, MN, and senior editor for A Woman’s Paris. 

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, French Impressions: Johan Amselem on the joy and optimism of dance. Johan worked for five years with dancer Laura Scozzi as her choreographic assistant on tour on “Platée”, an opera-ballet produced by Opéra de Paris – Palais Garnier. Johan works with Opéra de Paris on pedagogic programs for schools.

French Impressions: Brooke Desnoës on dance, the finest expression of freedom. Brooke Desnoës discovered dance as a student of Sonia Arova, a former partner of Anton Dolin of the Royal Ballet and in 1987, after graduation from high school, joined the Scottish Ballet under the direction of Alexander Bennet. In 1990, she obtained a diploma as a professor of classical dance, while dancing in the Georgetown Ballet in Washington D.C. In 1997, Brooke returned to France and founded the Académie Américaine de Danse de Paris. 

Ballet Flats in Paris: And God made Repetto, by Barbara Redmond who shares what she got from a pair of flats purchased in a ballet store in Paris; a feline, natural style from the toes up, a simple pair of shoes that transformed her whole look. Including the vimeos “Pas de Deux Coda,” by Opening Ceremony and “Repetto,” by Repetto, Paris. (French)

French Impressions: Marilyn Yalom’s “How the French Invented Love” a tradition of courtly and romantic love that reaches back into the 12th century. Marilyn Yalom’s latest book, How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance, shares condensed readings from French literary works—from the Middle Ages to the present—and the memories of her experiences in France.  

A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre

We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Text copyright ©2013 Angelin Preljocaj. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.