chapter
7 Spain, machines and sexuality: Boléro
Pages 34

This chapter marks the compositional conclusion of Ravel's dance–destruction trajectory that first appeared in Daphnis and continued under the guise of La Valse. Attention is given to three very different balletic interpretations of Bolero: the initial flamenco-inspired Rubinstein productions of 1928-34; the 1941 Leyritz/Lifar realization inspired by Ravel's ideas; and the abstract, sexually-charged and regendered creations of Bejart, dating from 1961 onwards. Their success refutes a sensational claim of 'Le Bolero, tombeau des choregraphes', and proves the interpretative versatility of Ravel's music in its most famously packaged and disseminated form. Love it or loathe it, the iconoclastic showman's art of the uncompromising Marseillais Bejart has brought Bolero and Ravel into the modern era, demonstrating the interpretative scope afforded by the music and the potential benefits of not being pinned down by one definitive scenario. Bolero's status as a masterpiece is not in question, but Ravel's apparently flippant explanation of its success belies his highly perceptive insight.