Born in Los Angeles, he received his early training there with David Lichine, Tatiana Riabouchinska and Michel Panaieff, continuing in New York with Robert Joffrey, Leon Danielian and Hector Zaraspe.
Mr. Sayette’s link to the great ballets of the Diaghilev era began when he was a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and danced in some of the great ballets of Massine, Fokine, and Balanchine. He continued his dancing career as a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, which was directed by Alicia Markova, and worked with such great choreographers as Antony Tudor, John Butler, Kathryn Dunham, and Alvin Ailey.
He first became acquainted with Bronislava Nijinska in 1969, when he was guest artist with the Buffalo Ballet and danced in her ballet Brahm’s Variations at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
In 1972, became ballet master of the Oakland Ballet, a position he held for 25 years, one of the few companies in the world to revive and maintain some of the great ballets of the Diaghilev repertoire. In 1981, he renewed his acquaintance with Bronislava Nijinska’s daughter, Irina, when she came to Oakland Ballet to stage her mother’s masterpiece, Les Noces, the first American company to do so. Following Les Noces, the company also acquired Nijinska’s Les Biches, Le Train Bleu, Bolero and a section of Chopin Concerto.
For the 2009 celebration of the 100th anniversary of Diaghilev bringing the Russian ballet to Paris, he staged Les Biches for Ballet West, NBA Ballet in Tokyo, and Rome Opera Ballet, and also re-staged Les Noces for the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg and Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.
In addition to the ballets of Bronislava Nijinska, he has staged many productions of Eugene Loring’s Billy The Kid, including a production for American Ballet Theater in 1999, and Ruthanna Boris’ Cakewalk for companies in the U.S. and around the world.
Photo: Marty Sohl