For the 1923 Ballets Suédois production (premiere Paris). Choreography by Jean Börlin. Music by Darius Milhaud. Scenario by Blaise Cendrars, based on an African legend
This work exemplifies the way Léger and other artists associated with Cubism made use of African sculpture for their own pictorial, compositional, and narrative ends. Along with the ballet's jazz–inflected score and frenzied choreography, these designs shed light on the fascination with the "primitive" so in vogue in Paris at that time.
These drawings depict Nzame, Medere, and N'kava, the ballet's deities of creation, who emerge from chaos and oversee the transformation of flora and fauna from an undistinguished mass into an organized dance. According to the ballet's composer, Léger rejected several early designs he deemed "too bright and 'pretty-pretty,'" and he was "never satisfied that his sketches were terrifying enough."
Gallery label from Stage Pictures: Drawing for Performance, March 11–August 24, 2009.