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Maurice Bejart at the Opera and Elsewhere


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I peeled off this digression from one of the New York City Ballet threads to create a new thread dedicated to Bejart at the Opera and elsewhere:

On ‎9‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 12:27 PM, Quiggin said:

Didn't she afterwards dance with Bejart for several years

Yes, Farrell danced with Bejart's company for four seasons and continued to make appearances with the Bejart company even after she returned to the New York City Ballet. (At one point, when the Bejart Company and City Ballet were performing in New York at the same time, she did double duty with both companies.)

On ‎9‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 12:47 PM, Helene said:

While her years at Bejart were much mourned, it's arguable that having to dance for Bejart=career killer is a very NYCB- and US-centric argument.

It's a very US-centric argument. Love it or hate it, the Bejart company was huge in Europe during the 1970s. Farrell herself has talked about how the company performed in large venues to enormous, enthusiastic audiences. So, being a member of the Bejart troupe at the apex of its success wasn't exactly a "career killer". Now, there's a reasoned argument to be made (and has been made) that Farrell and Maurice Bejart's highly theatrical style were a mismatch and that what was essentially a men's company (with Jorge Donn as the star male dancer) wasn't ideal for Farrell either. But that's a different argument altogether than saying she died a kind of death during her time in Europe.

On ‎9‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 3:00 PM, dirac said:

 By all accounts Farrell benefited from her time with Bejart

Farrell herself has said that she benefited from Bejart:

"We worked together for four years, and many of the things I learned with him I could never have learned anywhere else."

"We often performed in huge arenas with the audience surrounding us on all sides. It was great training to learn how to 'play' to them from every angle - this 360-degree awareness both enhanced and broadened how I danced."


Edited by miliosr
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My memories of Farrell with the Bejart company are all positive, not a mismatch at all.  She looked good with male star Donn and one of my keenest ballet memories was sitting almost alone in a Belgian theatre as they rehearsed Sonate pas de deux, not a run through but a complete uninterrupted performance.  I think Bejart understood her uniqueness and cast her where she could be admired to greatest advantage.

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I agree that he did, Mashinka.  IIRC, Bejart said of her, in that documentary Helene mentions, "I knew she was from Balanchine and would go to Balanchine, but I could see the music in that body," or words to that effect.  I think some indication of what he saw in that body may be seen in the 1966 video, pretty well shot by Italian television, of Bejart's Romeo et Juiliette (to the Berlioz score); just now, there are 10 or 15 minutes of excerpts of it on Youtube, and the whole thing has been for sale on Amazon.  Personally, I have a good time with that video, the first two acts of the music long having been a favorite, although the third act, not so much.  (Similarly, Bejart, as you may hear on that sound track.) 

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2 hours ago, Jack Reed said:

 IIRC, Bejart said of her, in that documentary Helene mentions, "I knew she was from Balanchine and would go to Balanchine, but I could see the music in that body," or words to that effect.  

Thanks for giving me an excuse to go back and rewatch Elusive Muse - Bejart says that "she's like a violin, the music comes out from her body." The interview with him in the documentary is quite lovely. 

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I bought the May 1974 issue of Dance Magazine on eBay. It covers the 1974 Dance Magazine awards, which were given to Maurice Bejart, Gerald Arpino and Antony Tudor.

Interestingly, Violette Verdy introduced Bejart at the ceremony. I never realized their paths had crossed but, apparently, they had known one another from a young age. (And Tudor's speech is great. He wisecracks that Dance Magazine is giving him the award for not doing anything for 25 years!)

Elsewhere in the issue, there's a short interview with Bejart where he discusses a new work he's creating titled The Triumphs of Petrarch (or For the Sweet Memory of That Day.) It premiered in July 1974 and starred Jorge Donn, Suzanne Farrell and Rita Poelveorde.


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I saw Farrell dance with Bejart's company on many occasions,  and would agree with all that miliosr and Mashinka say above.  During the 1970's, the company had some exceptional, world-class dancers who knew how to project, and the arena-ballets, such as Le Moliere Imaginaire and Notre Faust, were tremendously exciting events.   

I also have fond memories of Rita Poelvoorde's dancing and saw her regularly on the Brussels metro - it is nice to have her name mentioned above.   

Edited by Josette
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Recently, I bought the photographic volumes Celebration and Celebration II, which Dance Magazine published (respectively) in 1971 and 1972. The 1972 volume contains 3 photos of Suzanne Farrell and Rudolf Nureyev dancing together in Bejart's Le Scare du Printemps. I never knew that Farrell and Nureyev had performed together. Interesting pairing -- I'm not sure for good or for ill.

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Farrell's autobiography HOLDING ON TO THE AIR mentions her 1984 performance opposite Nureyev in APOLLO for a Pennsylvania Ballet gala, at the suggestion of Peter Martins, then Pennsylvania Ballet artistic adviser, but makes no mention anywhere on its pages of her dancing w/ RN in Bejart's SACRE. Tamara Hadley and Debra Austin were the other muses.

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I recently bought some back issues of Dance Magazine from 1967. This interesting tidbit was in the 'News' section of the April issue:

"Maurice Bejart announces he's staging a modern-dress version of Othello, starring Brigitte Bardot."

Did this ever come to fruition???

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The Royal Swedish Ballet (dir: ex-POB star Nicolas Le Riche) premieres its revival of Bejart's Rite of Spring tomorrow night on an all-Stravinsky bill which also includes Angelin Preljocaj's Noces and George Balanchine's Agon.

The Tokyo Ballet premieres its revival of Bejart's Rite of Spring on Saturday on a triple bill with Saburo Teshigawara's new work, Remains of a Cloud, and George Balanchine's Serenade. 

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"The Show Must Go On" commemmorated not only Freddie Mercury but Donn as well. RIP.


The song has another strong emotional resonance in the history of Queen. Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon performed the song live for only the second time at the opening in Paris of Maurice Béjart’s ‘Ballet For Life’. Created by legendary choreographer Maurice Béjart in collaboration with Gianni Versace, both now sadly departed, ‘Ballet For Life’ celebrated the life and work of Freddie Mercury and Béjart’s former principal dancer, Jorge Donn, who also had died of AIDS.


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While her years at Bejart were much mourned, it's arguable that having to dance for Bejart=career killer is a very NYCB- and US-centric argument.

I would say it's less a US-centric argument than an aesthetic one. Bejart not only didn't kill Farrell's career, he likely saved it, since no one else dared hire her. By her own admission she learned a lot from Bejart and committed herself to his work, but it's not necessarily pleasant to think of what might have happened to her as an artist had Balanchine not taken her back for what became the greatest phase of her career.

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On 9/12/2021 at 2:12 PM, dirac said:

By her own admission she learned a lot from Bejart and committed herself to his work,

To her credit, Tobi Tobias had this to say in Dance Magazine (April 1975) regarding Farrell's return to the New York City Ballet:

"Her Bejart schooling has helped her, most specifically, in developing a beautifully sinuous use of the arms and hands. Their movement is fluid, rich and heavy, motivated from the back, a corrective contrast to the flailing and clawing, the just plain frantic sketchiness so often criticized in the New York City Ballet's tossaway ports de bras."

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