Birth of a Ballet "Béjart Style"


This photograph is from the series "The choreographer Maurice Béjart." It was taken in 1978 by Leonid Zhdanov (1927−2010) during the Moscow performances of Romeo and Juliet by the Brussels-based company, Ballet of the Twentieth Century. Set to music by Berlioz, the ballet was performed at the State Kremlin Palace of Congresses only twice. Ekaterina Maximova (1939−2009), a ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater, performed the role of Juliet at the invitation of choreographer Maurice Béjart (1927−2007). Romeo was danced once by Vladimir Vasiliev, a principal dancer of the Bolshoi, and once by Jorge Donn, a leading dancer of Ballet of the Twentieth Century. Although this required the dancers to learn the ballet for only one performance, this creative experiment was a success. Maximova later recalled: "The ballet begins with a prologue that takes place in the present. During a rehearsal in a hall, where a group of dancers get together, a quarrel begins and turns into a fight. Suddenly, Béjart, the ballet master, appears on the stage from the auditorium. A quick gesture of hands, a snap of the fingers and everyone is back in their places. At the same time, a boy and girl, who were not seen before, come out from the back of the stage. They did not participate in the fight. They have the same costumes as everyone else, but white. They are still regular dancers, but the ballet master sees them as Romeo and Juliet. At this point he becomes a Creator and the audience feels that mysteriously an idea is born and that the choreographer, like the Creator−Demiurge, passes it on to the dancers." The moment when Béjart chooses Juliet is captured here by the photographer. Zhdanov, a Bolshoi dancer and then a professor of choreography for 50 years, was a professional photographer for most of his career. His pictures are spontaneous and capture on film the movements, moods, and emotions of the unposed dancers. The Reborn Art Foundation in Moscow holds this image and the rest of the Zhdanov archive.

Last updated: February 3, 2015