PARIS (AP) — Dancer Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed for the 2010 movie "Black Swan" and is married to its star, Natalie Portman, announced Thursday he's stepping down as dance director at Paris' premier ballet company.
Millepied's efforts to innovate at the storied Opera de Paris have met mixed reactions since his arrival 15 months ago, and French media have reported tensions between him and some of the company's star dancers.
He said in a statement that he's leaving for "personal reasons," and that his role didn't allow him enough time for "creation and artistic expression."
Millepied, who has also danced for New York City Ballet and directed films and music videos, said he would continue to work with the company during this season and the next, and potentially in the years to come.
In addition to his choreography, the 38-year-old Frenchman also performed in "Black Swan," the disturbing story of a young woman's struggle with the psychological pressure of ballet stardom.
He sought to leave the Opera de Paris on friendly terms, appearing Thursday at a news conference with his successor, star dancer Aurelie Dupont, and Opera de Paris director Stephane Lissner.
"I am convinced we've opened up things that are really important," Millepied said. "The future is bright."
"What's important for me is to create, to be inspired by the parts. That's what motivated me in the ballet and today this position (the dance director position) isn't for me, it doesn't suit me," he told a news conference.
Speculation about a possible departure surfaced after a recent documentary in which Millepied said he still wasn't satisfied with the level of dance. In an interview with Le Figaro in December, he said dancers should have more of a sense of entrepreneurship and fundraising — a concept foreign to many in France's more traditionally funded cultural world.
He was also quoted as saying, "To be a dancer is to express oneself, not to resemble a wallpaper pattern."
His predecessor, Brigitte Lefevre, played down any resistance to his unconventional ideas, saying instead that Millepied didn't have the necessary management experience for the job. "Directing a great institution doesn't happen by itself," she said on Europe-1 radio. "You must have competence and energy to manage each post, from administration to rehearsal."