Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
In 1975, as a very young choreographer, I was invited (while on lay-off from New York City Ballet) to Brussels by Maurice Bejart to choreograph a ballet for his company the Ballet of the 20th Century. While there working with the dancers during the day, the company was performing at night. I was taken to an arena of 8,000 people where the company was performing Bejart’s 9th Symphony to Beethoven’s beautiful music. You can’t imagine the thrill I felt when the curtain came in at the conclusion of the performance and all those people, in European fashion, stomped their feet as well as applauded for this amazing work.
Maurice Bejart was a great force in European contemporary ballet and someone for whom I had great respect for his mind and his innovations. Nevertheless, he was not strictly speaking a classical choreographer. I came away from the performance of his interpretation of Beethoven’s masterpiece thinking what it would have been like if a classical choreographer had used that music. No one to my knowledge has choreographed the 9th Symphony since Bejart. After listening to the music on and off for 36 years I decided to attempt an interpretation of my own.
I began choreographing the ballet during our summer residency last July, and I have worked on the piece whenever I have had a chance over the last ten months. I have found the music to be a great inspiration, with each movement being a ballet in itself. The music has many moods culminating in the last movement dubbed the Choral Symphony, which features the famous “Ode to Joy.” —Robert Weiss