Alternate Title Ballet of the Twentieth Century
Premiere US Premiere
Country of Origin Belgium
Description Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the Twentieth Century appeared at BAM only once, the company’s American debut. In a piece written for the BAM playbill, noted dance critic Walter Terry called Béjart a “wonder-boy,” and characterized him as a classicist who liked to shock. The performance by Béjart’s company connected BAM to another theater, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, where Béjart was then director of dance.
Béjart was roundly panned by American critics. Clive Barnes in The New York Times accused him of “choreographic opportunism,” of borrowing a hodgepodge of ideas from a wide range of other choreographers who’d developed them more thoughtfully and in much more depth. But Belgium’s bad boy of ballet was so popular in Europe that his work was sometimes performed in stadiums. And the BAM run was successful at the box office, luring students and others new to ballet. For his Brooklyn appearance, buttons were distributed that proclaimed, “Béjart is Sexier.” (“Sexier than whom or what?” Barnes asked.) The three-week appearance rotated 13 ballets, including the World Premiere of Choreographic Offering, a Firebird with a male in the title role, and two ballets, Bhakti and Les Vainqueurs, with an Eastern spiritual influence. The run also gave NY audiences a chance to see Suzanne Farrell, in her first major NY appearance after leaving NYCB in 1969.