Virtual HD Screening & Live Talk
The Paris Opera & Ballet

Choreography by Alexander Ekman
Music by Mikael Karlsson

Virtual HD Screening
Monday, March 8–Sunday, March 14, 2021
Online • NY, NJ, CT Only

Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 12:30pm ET

Online • In English

Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, for his first commission from the The Paris Opera & Ballet, created the aptly titled Play.

Set to Mikael Karlsson‘s original score, this joyful exploration of movement turns the Paris Opera stage into a giant playground where dancers emulate loping deer, dive into a pool of 40,000 green balls, and push the boundaries of the form. Brimming with humor as well as depth, Play reacquaints us with our inner child in a profound examination of the human spirit.

FIAF, in collaboration with the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet, brings you exclusive access to watch the performance from Monday, March 8 to Sunday, March 14, and takes you behind the scenes with the creative team on Thursday, March 11 at 12:30pm ET.

On March 11, Alexander Ekman, a sparkling personality on the contemporary dance scene, and his long time acolyte, Swedish composer Mikael Karlsson will discuss their creative process behind the conception and realization of Play, as well as their long-standing collaboration. In conversation with New York Times theater critic Laura Cappelle, they will also consider specific challenges of this production—their first joint project presented at Palais Garnier—and look forward to future projects.

Performance: 2 hours
Talk: 45 minutes with Q&A

Watch the Trailer

Alexander Ekman

Alexander Ekman is an international choreographer/director creating pieces for theatres, opera houses and museums.

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    • He also directs films and creates live performances/events in pop up locations around the world. Ekman has created and collaborated with around 45 dance companies worldwide including the Royal Swedish Ballet, Cullberg Ballet, Compañia Nacional de Danza Goteborg Ballet, Iceland Dance Company, Bern Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance, Ballet de l’Opéra du Rhin, The Norwegian National Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Sydney Dance Company, The Royal Ballet of Denmark and Vienna Ballet.

      Ekman’s 2010 work Cacti has become a worldwide hit and has been performed by 15 dance companies including Sydney Dance Company. In 2012 he collaborated with Alicia
      Keys and incorporated her into his work Tuplet. In 2014 Ekman created his own version of Swan Lake, a new take on the most famous ballet of them all. A Swan Lake received enormous attention worldwide. In 2015 Ekman created his own version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Swedish Ballet. In September of that year he received the Swedish Medea Award for “Inventor and renewer.” In 2016, he received the German theatre award “Der Faust” for his ballet COW for the Semperoper Ballet.

Mikael Karlsson

Mikael Karlsson is a Swedish composer based in New York City.

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    • Mikael Karlsson lives in Harlem, NYC. He moved to New York from Sweden in 2000. Mr. Karlsson’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, Lincoln Center, MoMA, Park Avenue Armory, Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Paris Opera, Oslo Opera House, Royal Swedish Opera House, Semperoper in Dresden, Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, Ingmar Bergman Center at Fårö, Joyce Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and at new music festivals and opera houses across the world. His first opera, The Echo Drift, premiered at the PROTOTYPE Festival in NYC in 2018. Mr. Karlsson’s enjoys an ongoing working relationship with celebrated choreographer and director Alexander Ekman. Since they first started working together, in 2012, the two have presented 9 stage works – among them Play (Paris Opera Ballet, 2018), Tyll (Royal Swedish Ballet, 2012; US premiere in 2015 by the Joffrey Ballet), A Swan Lake (Norwegian National Ballet, 2014), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Swedish Ballet, 2015), COW (Dresden Semperoper, 2016) and Rooms (Norwegian National Ballet, 2017). Karlsson composed an electronic version of the “Flocking” section from Alexander Ekman’s A Swan Lake for envelope-pushing fashion designer Henrik Vibskov’s SS15 at Paris Fashion Week and at Copenhagen Fashion Week. In 2014 Mr. Karlsson founded his own production company, Rough State Sound.
      Since 2014, Mr. Karlsson collaborates on his orchestral scores with orchestrator Michael P. Atkinson.

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Laura Cappelle

Laura Cappelle is an arts writer and sociologist who lives in France.

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    • She is the Paris-based theater critic for the New York Times and covers dance for the Financial Times. Additionally, she writes a monthly column, “France/Dance,” for Dancing Times, and has contributed to the Guardian, Pointe, Dance Magazine and The Globe and Mail, among other publications. Laura Cappelle earned her PhD in sociology at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 in 2018, with a doctoral thesis about the creation process in ballet companies. She was the dance consultant for the BAFTA-nominated 2015 docudrama Rudolf Nureyev – Dance to Freedom, directed by Richard Curson Smith. In 2020, she edited a new French-language introduction to western dance history, Nouvelle histoire de la danse en Occident (Seuil).

The Paris Opera & Ballet

The Paris Opera & Ballet is a world cultural treasure with a rich history that underpins an innovative, vital present.

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    • The Paris Opera traces its beginnings to King Louis XIV of France, who established a formal academy of music and dance at court in 1669. Over the centuries, the company has undergone many transformations as a public institution. Today the 430-member company of musicians and dancers, led by general director Stéphane Lissner, ballet director Aurelie Dupont, and music director Philippe Jordan, collaborates with acclaimed directors, choreographers, and singers, and enjoys a position as one of the leading opera and ballet institutions in the world. In 2019, it celebrated its 350th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of the opening of the larger of its two theaters, the Opéra Bastille.

      Learn more at

American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet (AFPOB)

Incorporated by Rudolf Nureyev in 1984 and based in New York, the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet (AFPOB) is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization that raises funds to support the Paris Opera and promote French-American artistic exchange.

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    • AFPOB invites individual, foundation and corporate donors to become members or sponsors and enjoy access to exclusive benefits and events both in France and the United States, as well as significant tax advantages. Thanks to the active support of its Trustees, donors and members, AFPOB has supported numerous US tours and guest appearances, developed educational programs and created funds that support young and talented artists through scholarships. AFPOB contributes to underwrite productions at the Paris Opera featuring leading American artists, such as Jerome Robbins, Trisha Brown, William Christie, Peter Sellars, and Robert Wilson.

      Join us! Learn more at

Cast & Creative Team

Choreography and Sets: Alexander Ekman
Music: Mikael Karlsson
Costumes: Alexander Ekman and Xavier Ronze
Lighting design: Tom Visser

Stéphane Bullion, Danseur Étoile
Muriel Zusperreguy, Première Danseuse
Vincent Chaillet, Premier Danseur
and Corps de Ballet of the Paris Opera

Presenter: Aurélie Dupont, Paris Opera’s Director of Dance

Gospel singer: Calesta “Callie” Day
Piano: Frédéric Vaysse Knitter
First violin: Amanda Favier
Second violin: Pauline Fritsch
Viola: Benoît Marin
Cello: Eric Villeminey
Double bass: François Gavelle
Saxophone soprano: Christian Wirth
Saxophone alto: Géraud Etrillard
Saxophone tenor: Adrien Lajoumard
Saxophone baritone: Pascal Bonnet
Percussion, Marimba: Adélaïde Ferrière

Film Director: Tommy Pascal
Presented by FRA Cinéma

Co-produced by The Paris Opera & Ballet, Bel Air Média, and SVT
With the participation of France Télévisions
With the support of the CNC