Michaël Denard, the etoile who triumphed with Bejart, has died

He was 78 years old. For the principal dancer of the Paris Opéra the choreographer created the show ‘The Firebird’ by Stravinsky

Michaël Denard, great protagonist of the French ballet, former principal dancer of the Paris Opéra, who shone on international stages distinguishing himself in the show “The Firebird” by Igor ‘Fëdorovič Stravinsky with choreography by Maurice Béjart, died at age of 78. The announcement of the disappearance of the refined and virtuosic dancer was given by the Opéra.

Born in Dresden (Germany) on November 5, 1944 to a French father and a German mother, Michaël Denard began practicing ballet very late, at the age of 18. He made his debut in 1962 with the Toulouse Ballet, later appearing at the Paris Opéra-Comique as a guest. Thanks to a meteoric rise determined by the predilection of Bejart, from 1971 to 1989 Denard was étoile at the Paris Opéra. After retiring from the stage, he was ballet director of the Berliner Staatsoper from 1992 to 1996. He also appeared in American Ballet Theater as a guest as well as in Béjart’s Ballet du XXe siècle.

It was the decisive meeting with Maurice Béjart that boosted Denard’s career: fascinated by the dancer, the choreographer created his version of “The Firebird” for him, a role usually played by female dancers. “This role has become like a second skin,” the dancer told the newspaper in an interview in 2009. The premiere at the Palais des Sports in Paris in November 1970 was a triumph, and the newspaper “Le Monde” reported that, in front of “an audience whose average age was just 25”, Michaël Denard, “handsome as a god of the revolution”, had earned “the ranks of great interpreter”.