25.10.2023 #art

Serge Laurent

Van Cleef & Arpels’ Director of Dance and Culture Program

“ Through dance, we uphold three fundamental values of the Maison: creation, transmission, and education”

As the Dance Reflections Festival by Van Cleef & Arpels premieres in New York, we interview its director in the French Capital. The jeweller tells us about the path that led him to dance and the important place this artistic practice has held in his heart since the 1940s.

Where did your professional path begin?

Just like that of any other Art History student, at the École du Louvre. I was fascinated by Ancient Egypt, a civilisation with quite a fondness for jewellery! At the time, although I was far from considering a career in jewellery, I joined the Fondation Cartier. It was the early 1990s, and I had the crazy idea of reuniting the famous The Velvet Underground from Andy Warhol’s Factory. After this first success, I launched the Nomadic Nights at the Fondation Cartier, an initiative bringing together multiple art disciplines: painting, sculpture, animation, choreography… It was then that I began developing a taste for dancing. After meeting Jean-Jacques Aillagon, my path brought me to the Centre Pompidou, where I was in charge of promoting live performances. In 2015, Van Cleef & Arpels became a patron of the Centre Pompidou, right when we were focusing on dancing.

What’s the Maison’s relationship with dance? 

The story goes back to the 1940s, when Louis Arpel’s passion for dancing translated into the ballerina becoming one of the Maison’s emblematic symbols. By the end of the 1940s, it was his nephew Claude Arpels who further strengthened the bond with dancing, as he met the famous choreographer George Balanchine. This meeting led to a collaboration in Balanchine’s three-act ballet “Jewels”, which premiered in New York in 1967. Later on, in 2012, Benjamin Millepied partnered with the Maison to launch his L.A Dance Project training programme. Contemporary dance is a complete art. It is devoid of all artifice and magnifies movement, just like our jewellers do with jewellery. In 2015, when I met Nicolas Bos (Van Cleef & Arpels President), we quickly found dance to be a natural field of expression.  

What is the initiative “Dance Reflection” about? 

It’s a contemporary dance festival that was first launched in 2020, and that we are presenting in different cities. We’ve been to London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong… and New York at the end of October. The programme is built on three core values: creation, transmission, and education. We aim to remove inhibitions, introduce dance to new audiences, and potentially destigmatize it. To do so, we invite everyone to become active participants. This is undoubtedly one of the fundamental differences between contemporary and classical dance: Classical dance can be quite intimidating, while contemporary dance, although equally demanding artistically, has shed its constraints.  Contemporary dance, on the other hand, while it is just as demanding artistically, has gotten rid of the straitjacket. It allows for everyone to come and “experience” this choreographic art form and enjoy it. There is a place for everyone, regardless of their physical shape, to discover their own body and its amazing capacity to dance.

Which institutions support you? 

Through the forty or so partnerships that we have forged across the world, we support conservatoires, theatres and dance classes for those who can’t afford them, as well as offering all kinds of dance-related online content available to everyone. “Dance Reflections” is supporting the Paris Autumn Festival for the fourth year running. The programme includes twenty-two dance performances among the eighty on offer in over seventy venues in Paris and the surrounding area. Our spectrum is extremely broad, ranging from contemporary ballets from the 1970s to La Horde, a three-artist collective created in 2019, which operates under the direction of the Ballet National de Marseille. To sum up, I see my role as that of a supporter of contemporary creation in the broadest sense, which I do through dancing. To achieve that, I’m lucky enough to count on the support of a company that shares my vision. 

Marseille. 31 mars 2021. Theatre de La Criée. Representation du Ballet National de Marseille x (LA)HORDE x Childs, Carvalho, Lasseindra et Doherty.


Interview by Nicolas Salomon
Photos: Jean Picon

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