Bhakti and ballet accessibility, or lack thereof

Choreography: Maurice Béjart

Music: Hindu music

Debut: Ballet of the Twentieth Century, 1968

Watch video footage online from Bhakti:

Google “Bhakti + Béjart” and the results will include actual video footage – several versions! – of this ballet. Unfortunately, such access to ballet is rare. One of the unforeseen challenges I have in writing this blog, which was intended to capture my reflections on great ballets as I observe them, is accessing the actual ballets, live or on video. If I, an amateur dancer and dance lover actively searching for ballet, can find only rare glimpses of the work I seek, how can the uninitiated possibly discover it? I, perhaps naively, maintain hope that ballet companies will set aside intellectual property concerns and embrace the era of online video technology. Otherwise, Jennifer Homans’ conclusion that ballet has seen its last heyday may be sadly accurate. One need only to observe the drastic migration of music to inexpensive, easily downloaded digital formats to understand the critical role of the internet in attracting prospective new ballet audiences. 


Viewings of Bhakti online reveal several colorful interpretations, all of which reflect a decidedly Twentieth Century approach to dance. Created in late 1960s, Bhakti is an experiment in eastern influenced art, a successful blend of classical steps with eastern traditions. Its three-part “plot” in some ways echoes another important Twentieth Century ballet: Balanchine’s classically inspired but altogether modern Apollo. Bhakti introduces not just one, but three gods or incarnations of gods – Rama, Krishna and Shiva – who, like Apollo, dance with the women who are at times their wives, lovers, muses and students.

Béjart said, “Ballet is popular art of the twentieth century…But for the large public, ballet must change as much as music and painting have.” Surely the choreographer would be proud to see so much of his work available widely online today – and would support efforts by others to make more ballet accessible to the “large public.”


Additional resources

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