Jean Babilée, 90; acrobatic ballet star

NEW YORK — Jean Babilée — who gained instant stardom in French ballet as the violent chair-throwing youth in Roland Petit’s “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort” (“The Young Man and Death”) in 1946 and remained international dance’s great rebel — died Jan. 30 in Paris at 90.

His wife, filmmaker Zapo Babilée, confirmed the death.

Sensational was a word critics applied to Jean Babilée’s dancing His extraordinary technique, soaring leaps, and masculine power were matched by a pantherlike pounce and a jarring poetic presence.


“Angel and demon” was how Nathalie Philippart, his first wife and dancing partner, described him in Patrick Bensard’s film “Le Mystère Babilée” (2000). Rejecting conventions in dance and life, Mr. Babilée occasionally quit performing to travel abroad on his motorcycle, into his 80s. He last appeared onstage in 2003.

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He also choreographed for his company, Les Ballets Jean Babilée, from 1955 to 1959, and acted onstage and in films.

Mr. Babilée was trained at the Paris Opera Ballet school and had perfect classical style. Yet as a member of Les Ballets des Champs-Élysées, founded by Petit in 1945, he was an experimental dancer, his career emerging from the creative ferment in French ballet.