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Bejart's "The Firebird"will be danced by Alvin Ailey this fall


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 03:11 PM

I think it's safe to say that M. Bejart is, and has always been, very controversial. Doing a ballet about Mother Theresa taking barre didn't help :beg: There are some who adore Bejart, and in his heyday he was considered by many The Great Choreographer (I have a dance encyclopedia from the mid-70s that list many more Bejart ballets than Balanchine ballets, for example.) And there are just as many who would agree with Leonid. (Re Joanna, it always fascinates me when we have someone zoom in to post a very strong opinion on someone and is never heard from again...... I hope she comes back to join the discussions.)

#17 bart

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 06:18 PM

I guess Arlene Croce was one of the prime nay-sayers when it came to Bejart. For Croce, the name "Bejart" often goes hand in hand with words like "Eurotrash," "cheesy," or -- in one memorably cutting example -- "polyester." As to his choregraphy, Croce wrote in the 70s:

People speak of Bejart as if he were a choreographer. He is, rather, a purveyor of sensation, like the movie directors Russell and Fellini, and ballet is just one of the glutting effects he uses. And yes, he uses dancers -- hollows them out and consumes them.

Ouch! The argument may be ad hominem, and unsupported either by description or analysis, but it hurts all the same.

I just had another look at some YouTube clips of Firebird, Afternoon of a Faun, Rite of Spring, Nutcracker, and something called Bakti (Kirov: Vishneva/Kolb). Firebird -- although the clip is brief -- was my favorite, both for the way Bejart relates movement to music (not always his strength) and for the eerie quality of Ramon Flowers' performance. I wish I'd seen Paris do it. Thanks, Estelle, for your post on that.

#18 cygneblanc

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 05:15 AM

Well, personnaly, I'm not very fond of most of his works, but his thought is most interesting. I don't know if his books have been translated in English but if they are it's worth the reading. I would say that somewhere, they're more interesting than his choregraphical works. In Europe, he's still a myth, including among POB's school students. His work I like the most is Don Giovanni's Variations. I really enjoyed it but I guess that must be his most classical choreo...

#19 bart

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 07:10 AM

Has anyone seen Bejart's version of The Nutcracker? Sections are on YouTube. The Sugar Plum Fairy pdd seems quite conventional, and conventionally danced. The Act I variations seem to be taking place in a circus, with a couple of people on bicycles.

#20 rg

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 07:31 AM

this NUTCRACKER was on released on videocassette & perhaps may now be on dvd. i haven't checked on line but i suspect it may still be 'in print'.

#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 08:07 AM

...there are a lot of magnificent solists like (...), Catherine Zuasnabar,(...)

:cool: Wow, you never know when and how one will come across a forgotten name. She was one of the young promises of Ballet Nacional de Cuba more than 10 years ago, and suddenly dissapeared. Also, one of our many black dancers. (Specially remember her Godmother Fairy in BNC/ Strauss's "Cinderella") Anyways, back to Bejart...

#22 cygneblanc

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:31 AM

The Nutcracker Dvd can be found here:

http://www.amazon.co...4...x=15&Go.y=3

#23 Gina Ness

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 10:14 PM

I danced the role of a partisan in Bejart's Firebird. Jan Nuyts staged the work for SFB during the 70s. It was very satisfying dancing, as I recall...extremely intense and athletic. Men and women shared this athletic and visual equality in the ballet (and in our blue jumpsuits, as well...). I like the fact that the Firebird is male. I can only imagine how wonderful Paolo Bartolucci must have been as the Firebird. The music (Stravinsky) is just so fabulous...and dancing to a live orchestra...fantastic!

#24 bart

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 07:01 AM

Thank you for that memory, Gina. I am always fascinated to hear from dancers what it feels like to perform certain works. Sometimes, knowing how much a particular role or choreography has challenged and rewarded the dancer helps me to look at it differently. This frequently means: appreciating it more.

I also like the option of having the Firebird danced by a man. Malakhov would be wonderful, I should think. The role (separate from the steps) seems to transcends gender . I've watched only two excerpts of the male version of Firebird -- in each case, the berceuse, which is essentially a solo. What I have not had the chance to see, is how Bejart handles the persuit of the Firebird by the Prince (or equivalent). How is this done? Or is it omitted? If it is part of Bejart's version, how are the pdd's handled?

#25 Gina Ness

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 12:21 PM

Yes, I agree that Malakhov would be perfect for the role. Bejart's Firebird character needs to be an exceptional dancer with flexibility; impeccable line with great fluidity and clarity. There is no Prince character. The ballet begins with the partisans searching for something...you sense rebellion, perhaps a resistance movement. One of the partisans casts off his clothes to reveal himself in red as the chosen one. The partisans are in awe and follow his every move. The theme is rebellion, revolution, war (the firebird is slain), then rebirth with the appearance of the Phoenix (who is dressed exactly the same as the Firebird). The only pas de deux might be some symbolic partnering of the Firebird and Phoenix (one lifts the other aloft...or, holding each other tightly, arms stretched allongee, hips connected, etc.) It was a long time ago that I performed this ballet, but the "partisans" had a lot of technically challenging choreography which required an intensity of focus and emotion. I'm trying to remember if there were more "red suits" coming on at the close of the ballet....many more Firebirds...I'm a little foggy here. The ending is very triumphant/victorious, which reflects the score beautifully. I liked this ballet.

#26 chrisk217

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 12:32 PM

Well bart, being as it is a depiction of a revolutionary group there are no princes or enchanted creatures anywhere in the vicinity. There's a group - they move around - Firebird strips to the red pants - he falls for the common good and is then resurrected. Bejart uses one of the Firebird Suites, which is an abbreviated version of the ballet's music.

I would hate that anyone's first experience with Bejart would be the Nutcracker. He is acclaimed in middle/southern Europe and consequently allowed a certain degree of self-indulgence in later life. But for someone who knows nothing about him the focus on his person in the Nut will seem annoying and plain weird (esp if one expects the standard children at Christmas, classical dancing affair).

The main barrier between the somewhat detached english/american audiences and Bejart is, I think, the lack of irony in Bejart's works. He takes on grand (or grandiose) themes and he is literal and earnest which can often translate as being naive, kitchy, lacking self awareness and/or intellectual rigor. In this respect he is a very non-postmodern artist (despite abundant references left and right to other works).

But whatever the english speaking world may think of his peculiar blend of ballet, theater and various dance styles, he is a capable choreographer. There are many memorable moments of dance in his work (of which as a kid in the 80s I saw tons on tv)

It is also unfortunate that much of his work reflects the climate of the 60s-70s so well (idealism, leftist tendencies, narcissism, experimentation etc) - naturally it now seems dated. But it was exactly that resonance that put people (esp young men) in the theater in the first place. I know a number of older men, now in their 40s-50s, whose first experience of dance as a vital art was Bejart.

edited to add that I was posting at the same time as Gina Ness - she describes it much more vividly. Gina you remember correctly there are about 10 dancers dressed in red in the end.


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