Béjart Ballet Lausanne
A company that tours the world, surprises, moves and attracts the most diverse audiences since 1987
A man, a work piece, a company. Béjart Ballet Lausanne is the instrument of a principal choreographer of the twentieth century. His arms, his legs, his head. There are only few examples of such a symbiosis between a choreographer, his repertoire and his cast.
For twenty-five years, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne diffuses Maurice Béjart’s choreography worldwide. Thirty-nine dancers from 15 countries, strongly dedicated to the Maestro’s style, and who, due to hundreds of performances, are experiencing the appreciation from an ever changing audience, receiving applause each year, from country to country, from one theatre to another. La Fenice, the Royal Albert Hall, Bolchoï or Colôn… with a repertoire of about twenty choreographies every season. Piazza San Marco in Venice, Boboli Gardens in Florence, Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Herod Aticus Amphitheatre at…
Dancers, a troop, unity, will power…
Simple and complicated humans, free and tormented… individuals… just like you.
We, names on a blackboard,
We, the joy of Dance, the search for the other in the mirror (that dances), Hope, awaiting in the evening, the Public, see, be seen, anguish, despair… laugh like music, music explodes for Us.
In a flash.
Another anniversary: the centenary of Le Sacre du printemps. BBL is sought after from all sides, starting with the Bolshoi in April. This is because Béjart choreography ranks amongst the most accomplished readings of Stravinsky’s score. Invited by the Opéra de Lausanne, Rudra portrays a stunning version of Cisco Aznar, who himself is a pure product of the school. But one creation gives chase to another, and on the same stage, Gil Roman holds the premiere of his Anima Blues, while a superb album is released outlining his five years of artistic direction (photographs by François Paolini, Éditions Favre).
The Japanese public is the most loyal. Hence a new tour in Tokyo for two programs and eight performances: Dionysos, Syncope, Boléro and Light.
Back in Lausanne in June, 7,900 spectators cheers for the Gustav Mahler program presented in tribute to Jorge Donn, who passed away 20 years earlier. Donn played the unforgettable leading role in Ce que la mort me dit [What Death tells me], Le Chant du compagnon errant [Song of a Wayfarer] and Ce que l’amour me dit [What Love tells me]. Upon the arrival of spring, after a trip to Marseille, European Capital of Culture 2013 (Brel & Barbara, Syncope, Boléro), it is now time to present another series of Light at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. This ballet’s retransmission on Mezzo completes previous editions of Le Sacre du printemps, Cantata 51 and Syncope. So many recordings made public by Arantxa Aguirre whose documentary on the 2011 tour of BBL in China is also available on DVD.
In November, it isn’t easy to follow the dancers… As a guest of a prestigious festival, the BBL flew to Shanghai before travelling to Dakar, birthplace of Béjart’s father. Meanwhile, in Beijing, forty Rudra students and teachers seal a partnership with the National Dance Academy, before giving two performances at Tianqiao theatre. A few months earlier, the school wowed 30,000 spectators in the Nîmes arena in the context of a “Féerie des eaux” which was danced four nights in a row.
The host city of Béjart Ballet Lausanne owed it to offer fans, students and researcher alike complete information on the work of the choreographer. On 4th September, under the auspices of the Swiss Dance Collection, the Maurice Béjart Space was opened, with a permanent exhibition on his life and work with photographies, videos and texts. After four years of absence, BBL returned to Zurich where Gil Roman’s Syncope enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome. “Spannend” (fascinating) read the review in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
A new creation in December in Lausanne: Christophe Garcia, a former member of the company, brought forward a very personal version of Spectre de la Rose, in addition to Anima Blues and Sacre. It was on this occasion that the partnership with watchmaker Jaquet Droz was announced. Jaquet Droz is henceforth a presenting partner of the BBL!
It is time to party. BBL celebrates its quarter century anniversary and Rudra its 20th anniversary. The people of Lausanne are invited to an open day on 8th July. Various areas of the Palais de Beaulieu have been done up – the theatre, of course, where a show of Le Presbytère n’a rien perdu de son charme, ni le jardin de son éclat ( Ballet for Life) is given… but also a large hall with a stage for rehearsals and demonstrations, as well as a large screen for the retransmission of the ballet for those who were unable to find place in the theatre. And then, there are the Staircase of Honour for a Rudra performance, and the gardens… This beautiful summer’s day draws 4,000 spectators from far and wide! This success reflects the solid anchoring of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne Foundation. Photographer Francette Levieux prolongs the celebration with his exhibition of selected pictures of ballets by Maurice Béjart in a much frequented venue: the lobby of the University Hospital CHUV.
It is through a French tour culminated in three performances under the stucco, marble and gold of the Royal Opera of Versailles that this year’s anniversary celebration began. It is continued with invitations to Bilbao and Saint Petersburg, Wolfsburg and Friedrichshafen. The programs reflect the richness and variety of the repertoire available: Brel & Barbara, Cantata 51, Ce que l’amour me dit [What love tells me], Dionysus (suite), L’Oiseau de feu [The Firebird], Le Sacre du printemps [The Rite of Spring], Boléro,… by Béjart, and Syncope, Aria and Là où sont les oiseaux by Gil Roman.
In April and May, the company is hosted at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, and the Maison de la Danse in Lyon. Five performances each time and always the same success. “Seeing the work of the company receiving a standing ovation at this point clears any moments of doubt and encourages us to move forward ,” said Gil Roman. Moving forward is particularly demonstrated with Light, a great success of Béjart in the eighties – finely sculpted classical dance…
In autumn performances in Latin America (Sao Paulo, Bogotá), Belgium (Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels) and then Italy (two weeks at the Teatro Regio in Turin) . December saw performances in Lausanne through the demanding evening ” Music of the Twentieth Century” (Bartok, Webern, Boulez ) and a mixed program with representations of L’Oiseau de feu and Syncope as well as creations by Tony Fabre (Empreintes) and Julio Arozarena (Aguas), two creations performed in tribute to Béjart on the fifth anniversary of his death.
On the road again… Greece, Spain, France… The Zénith tour includes a stop in Marseille, the birthplace of Béjart, where 3,500 spectators attend Dionysos (suite) and Aria in only one evening. Then heading for Poland where the BBL hasn’t been since 1995. In May a reprise of Le Sacre du printemps seems to be a must…
In Lausanne, this masterpiece of Béjart is accompanied by Figures of Thought, a creation of the famous American choreographer Alonzo King. If the basic vocabulary is quite classical, grammar is absolutely contemporary. A real challenge for the performers who have only one month to learn this variation of disequilibrium, elasticity and extension of movement. With this series of performances in Lausanne and one Gala Show including two soloists of the Tokyo Ballet the BBL managed to gather 128,000 Swiss francs for the tsunami victims in Ishinomaki.
In July, the BBL is invited for the first time to the prestigious music festival in Verbier where the company performs Le Sacre du printemps, L’Oiseau de feu and Webern Opus V.
Six weeks later it is time to start a big tour to Asia: Korea und China. In Beijing, Gil Roman presents for the first time Là où sont les oiseaux, a ballet inspired by a poem by Chen Shenglai. Creaky music of the duo Citypercussion alternating with the Prelude of Parsifal, who reminds of humanity’s Grail Quest… a quest without success. The human being has to accept his sort. It is born and it dies, and is reborn in this surprising, red sculpture by Marta Pan.
The agreement with the city of Lausanne is renewed for a period of three years. The company has the guarantee to stay in Lausanne until the end of the 2013-2014 season.
With an early season split between Spain and France, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne completes a a triumphant tour in Japan with the Tokyo Ballet and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta.
In December the company presents a rich new program. Two creations, Syncope by Gil Roman and Aliziam O-Est of guest choreographer Sthan Kabar-Louët. The Lausanne public also rediscovers Maurice Béjart’s famous ballet Dionysos (continued).
2010 is also the year of the documentary Béjart – Le Coeur et le Courage. A few months after the Maestro passed away, film director and writer Arantxa Aguirre totally involves in the Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Her work is awarded at the South African International Documentary Festival with the Public’s Choice Award.
Zurich Film Festival (Switzerland),
Warsaw Film Festival (Poland),
Ghent Film Festival (Belgium),
Semana Internacional de Cine de Valladolid (Spain),
Sao Paulo International Film Festival (Brasil),
Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano (Cuba),
Festival de Cine Español de Málaga (Spain),
Spanish Film Festival (Australia),
just to mention a few. Commercial distribution takes place on a global level and the documentary is shown, amongst others, in Japan, Czech Republic, China, Russia, Canada, Switzerland and France.
Photographer François Paolini finalizes a retrospective of his ten years of collaboration with the Béjart Ballet Lausanne at the Clinique de la Source (Lausanne).
What future can be imagined for the company? Reflexions…
It should of course keep the repertoire that has made it successful.
But dance can not only live in the past. New choreographies should support to keep up the momentum of the dancers. For the holiday season of 2008. Gil Roman re-stages Béjart’s Tour du monde en 80 minutes and programs an evening uniting two of his own creations – Aria, followed by Le Casino des esprits, in reprise, including two duets.
In Fauves, by Jean-Christophe Maillot, Bernice Coppieters is Gil Roman’s partner; in The Place, by Mats Ek, Mikhaïl Baryshnikov faces Ana Laguna. This starry night wins public support. The company got its act together. And well together!
Chaired by Peter Berger and directed by Gil Roman, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne Foundation is dedicated to the company, while the Maurice Béjart Foundation – chaired by Gil Roman – now handles the choreographic legacy of the Maestro. The agreement between the two institutions is not difficult to establish…
For spring 2009, it is decided to re-stage Le Concours, a policeman ballet created in 1985, subsequently showcased by the Opéra de Paris, the Staatsoper in Berlin and the Australian Ballet, but which the Béjart Ballet Lausanne represents for the first time.
Jean-Pierre Pastori / March 2009
End of April 2007, Béjart celebrates another famous Russian composer: Stravinski. He had created several famous choreographies based on Stravinski’s works: Pulcinella, Renard, L’Histoire du soldat, Les Noces, Pétrouchka, Concerto en ré, Le Baiser de la fée… And in particular Le Sacre du printemps and L’Oiseau de feu. These two masterpieces, supplemented by a few short pieces he re-staged in favour of a Stravinsky evening sparkling with vigour and musicality.
Remembering Gianni Versace… Twelve ballets in common and thirteen years of friendship come to a sudden end by a gunfire from a mentally deranged person, in July 1997.
On the scene of la Scala, ten years after the tragedy, Béjart offers a choreographic showcase to costumes that Gianni Versace designed for him in the past. Those of Dionysos , Souvenir de Léningrad, Chéreau…, Pyramid … A patchwork of solos, duos, trios, ensembles… with his own comments on stage. Supported by the charm, amongst others, of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Karl Lagerfeld and Missoni.
And of course standing ovation! Between two tours, in autumn, rehearsals for Le Tour du monde en 80 minutes. If the choreographer revived the idea of traveling around the globe so dear to Jules Verne, he then moved on to insert his own memories of the countries he had visited with his dancers. But his health, ailing for several years, is deteriorating. Alternating rehearsals and hospital stays, Béjart hands over to Gil Roman, who finalizes the ballet. It is in bed (that he no longer left), that he discovers the beautiful photo album that his friend Marcel Imsand dedicated to him under the title Béjart secret (éditions Favre): a series of photographs taken in private, over the past four decades.
On November 22, 2007, Maurice Béjart departs, and his dancers and students become orphans. A moving tribute is rendered by the Lausanne public which comes in vast numbers to meditate at his coffin at the Métropole, the theatre he helped restore.
Gil Roman fully takes over. The Show must go on…
In spring 2008, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne resumes L’Amour – La Danse, vibrant hymn to the joy of love. Maurice Béjart had demonstrated this collage art he mastered so ingeniously, Matisse like, juggling with space, rhythm, light and colour.
Wherever the company performs, it is greeted with enthusiasm by tens, hundreds of thousands of loyal fans who estimate the loss that the choreographer’s disappearance represents.
The seasons that pass is immutable. Rehearsals, creation, travels.
In the year 2006, marking the tenth anniversary of Presbytère, Maurice Béjart got this ballet’s ovation up and running in London, Buenos Aires and Montreal. Lausanne also hosted the 300th representation!
Meanwhile, a French tour moves the company from Zenith to Zenith before its comeback at the Palais des Sports in Paris. Invitations to Italy, Spain and Belgium. Trip to Japan.
And new biographical project: La vie du danseur raconté par Zig et Puce. Approaching his eighty years, the choreographer remembers his past by taking pleasure in encrypting it.
On the Four Poster show, a 8 year old boy rubs a dancer of 28 and a choreographer of 48. The fourth photograph shows a Béjart with a rounder face, but we cannot guess he is almost octogenarian. Four images, four parts of life, inside out. On stage, the Boléro picture is not just the ballet, and when the time of L’Oiseau de feu sounds, they are different from those usually supported by the choreography! Borrowed from a comic of his childhood, Zig and Puce accompany the dancers in this remembrance dance.
A few days from his birthday, punctuating the last Lausanne performance, a gala dinner is given in honor of Béjart. Stars enhance brightness: John Neumeier, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell, Maina Gielgud… not to mention the great performers of the past – Tania Bari, Duska Sifnios, Germinal Casado – and friends near and far: the former emperess Farah Pahlavi, Julia Migenes, Nana Mouskouri and Jean-Claude Brialy, to name but a few.
Never two without three Les Méfaits du tabac and Notebooks, Maurice Béjart concluded the Tchekhov triptych for students of the Rudra Béjart School by Tchekhov au bois dormant. A proven fact: the playwright and Tchaikovsky, the composer of La Belle au bois dormant were both in St. Petersburg, the same month of the same year. It doesn’t takes more to ignite the imagination of the choreographer who staged their possible meeting. Out-of-tune!
To celebrate the golden ceremony of the choreographer and a company which is successively called Ballets de l’Etoile, Ballet theatre of Paris, Ballet of the 20th century and Béjart Ballet Lausanne, a grand gala is given at the Zenith of Lille.
From Duska Sifnios, the first interpreter of the Boléro, to Jean Babilée, who interpreted Life, so many artists come to express their friendship for Béjart. A new film is dedicated to him. Director Serge Korber shot in the catacombs of Palermo, Cadaqués and Tokyo. Béjart? Vous avez dit Béjart? is back and forth between yesterday, images of support archives, and today.
In April 2005, at the Métropole in Lausanne, the Jacques Brel Editions produces the film Brel et Barbara, which is enhanced with documents from the archives and topped off by a portrait of Béjart, captured for the rehearsals’ benefit of this ballet. These productions are available on DVD, as B comme Béjart, feature film which Marcel Schüpbach shot in 2001 when the choreographer was setting up Lumière.
In 2005, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne crisscrosses Europe (Belgium, France, Italy, Slovenia), the Middle East (Lebanon) and Asia (Korea, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei). Seven different programs that should be repeated of course, at the expense of the creations. The company has no choice. Its financial balance is dependent on lucrative tours. This is why Maurice Béjart proposes – following the example L’Amour – La Danse – a suite of extracts from ballets invoking the feeling of love: Roméo et Juliette, Brel et Barbara, Souvent la musique me prend…, etc.
The end of the year is occupied by setting up Zarathoustra, le Chant de la danse; obvious reference to Nietzsche, one of the choreographer’s top authors. The companionship of Béjart and Nietzsche has already attracted many ballets, such as Messe pour le temps présentand Dionysos. This new opus thus affirms typical Béjart features, with this strong symbolism of the triangle and the square, the four elements, the eternal couple, and mythical creatures. Not to mention the thunder and the staging effects: after the violence of twilight warriors, the sweetness of the flower maidens.
A few months later, under the double hallmark of Maurice Béjart and Michel Robert, Actes Sud edition published Ainsi danse Zarathoustra, a result of interviews of which Nietzsche is Ariadne’s thread.
From Marseilles to Palermo, Genoa to Lisbon and Tokyo, the first half of 2004 of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne will be very international. Personally, that of the choreographer Maurice Béjart will not be less successful. La Scala restages his Sacre … Sacre…, l’Opéra du Rhin resumes Le Marteau sans maître (based on Boulez’s music), the Ballet de Berlin is requesting his Ring um den Ring (Wagner), and the Tokyo Ballet performs Le Mandarin merveilleux (Bartók).
As regards the substantial copyright arising from this revival, they contribute to the Foundation’s funds to assist the training of young dancers.
In Lausanne, in spring, Béjart presents a rich anthology including in particular La Flûte enchantée and Bhakti (full version, 1968). In response to the sixties when many yielded to the temptation of the East, Bhakti connected the choreographer’s distant past with the present where he embodied modernity by breaking all codes.
By combining the Bharata Natyam vocabulary to the Western classical dance grammar, performed for long in the world, Moscow and its Bolchoï, this ballet cult finally found the spotlight. Fittingly, this is the time for reunion. In December, Bejart pays tribute to hois longtime partner, the composer Pierre Henry.
Since Symphonie pour un homme seul (1955), about ten creations concluded their collaboration. For this Pierre Henry gala evening, Béjart chose the inevitable Symphonie, sur Batterie fugace and Variations pour une porte et un soupir.
And the choreographer renders another tribute, this time to his fetish performer Gil Roman, at his side for 25 years! Under the title Six personnages en quête d’un danseur, , Béjart features six roles that have marked Gil Roman’s career: Hamlet, Faust, Brel, Chaplin, the whirling dervish of Golestan and le Manteau.
The Béjart catalogue contains so many gems it would be absurd not to retrieve them from time to time.
In spring 2003, Lyon welcomes the resumption of La Flûte enchantée (1981), celebration of gender complementarity and unity in bliss, which will also enlighten evening galas in Paris.
But as soon as the Béjart Ballet Lausanne has left the Palais des Congrès, the Opéra de Paris curtain opens on a programme exclusively Béjart, danced as it should by the corps de ballet, the soloists and the principals of the company.
Besides a creation for Manuel Legris, this program aligns these three masterpieces namely Le Mandarin merveilleux (1992), L’Oiseau de feu (1970) and Webern Opus V (1966). And as every year, the company toured the main cities: Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam…
Not being available on the desired date to receive his Benois dance prize at the Bolshoi, Maurice Béjart is honoured shortly after in Lausanne. The trophy is then handed him by its creator, the sculptor Igor Ustinov.
Part of a Lausanne retrospective marking the 10th anniversary of Fellini’s death Ciao Federico at the end of October at the Palais de Beaulieu, is the tribute of a giant on stage to a giant on screen. Béjart, who shared a bond of friendship with the filmmaker and his regular composer Nino Rota, could titrate this show Amarcord (I remember this in the local dialect of Rimini).
For the same gala, Gil Roman synchronises Echographie d’une baleine on various pieces of Rota, starting with the Piano Concerto.
And meanwhile, choreographers and dancers repeat the year-end program; program under the double invocation of the sea and death. The sea, symbol of life - La musique souvent me prend comme une mer; death that haunts Vier letzte Lieder of Richard Strauss (Could this be death 1970), and one that will descend on Saint Jean-Baptiste when Salome will be stripped of her seventh veil in Iokanaan.
Baden Baden, Amsterdam and Budapest punctuate the first months of the year, as well as Paris for an outstanding representation of the company at Unesco, in tribute to Léopold Sedar Senghor. The Béjart Ballet Lausanne then travels to Japan, where it stays for 5 weeks. A tour under the banner of the sun concludes the season: Athens, Cyprus, Nîmes, Palermo, Verona and Rome.
Autumn is marked by two events.
On one hand, Maurice Béjart, amazed by the quality of graduates of his Ecole-Atelier Rudra, forms a junior troop: the Compagnie M. The performance he creates for these fifteen young artists and for Marcia Haydée, Mère Teresa et les enfants du monde, is heading off for a long tour around the globe, including Brazil and Argentina.
On the other hand, the choreographer set up a program devoted entirely to Stravinsky for his Bejart Ballet Lausanne. Presented in Lausanne first, followed by St Petersburg and Moscow, the highlights of this program are certainly the Concerto pour violon and L’Oiseau de feu.
The Béjart Ballet Lausanne begins the year with a tour in Canada where the company goes for the first time since fifteen years. The performance of the inusable Presbytère…! at the Théâtre Maisonneuve in Montreal: a global success.
Then performances in France, Madrid and Brussels follow before the Lausanne season in the month of May. On this occasion, Maurice Béjart resumes elements of his repertoire such as La Route de la soie and Boléro. More importantly, he presents the choreography outline of a huge performance that was requested by the Conseil général du Rhône in Lyon.
Created a month later in the monumental ancient theatre of Fourvière, Lumière turns out to be a game of letters, words and scenes. B as Béjart, Barbara, Brel, Bach … Unity arises from disparity. Barbara, faithful friend of the choreographer, who used to tell him “I am the black light” and who disclosed Brel’s song La lumière jaillira to him. And Bach …because Bach enlightens transcendence.
Play on words… Lumière, is also a display of such transcendence as a wink to the film and to its Lyon inventors, the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière, the first represented as le clown blanc, the second as auguste du cirque.
Screening of the film La Sortie des ouvriers of l’Usine Lumière (1895), a series of movies, the young Belgian designer Jean-Paul Knott’s costumes, Yves Saint Laurent’s ex-assistant. This set of sceneries where all dancers find their appropriate roles are frantically applauded by a total of 15,000 spectators. They are re-staged in July in Genoa after the company queued a series of Presbytère…! in Barcelona.
In early autumn 2001, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne is invited to Paris for a new series of representations of Presbytère…! and of Sacre du Printemps.
Follows a tour in Asia: Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei which reserved a hero’s welcome to the company and to Presbytère…!
December is reserved for a series of performances in Lausanne.
L’Enfant-Roi: this command of the national Domain of Versailles will be showcased in the Gabriel theatre, 600 seats with gilded Corinthian columns, crystal chandeliers and the grand curtain with the Fleur-de-lys hallmark. We are aware of the value that Maurice Béjart attributes to the spirit of places! Three Enfant Roi appear on stage: Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV.
Strong images collide: breakdance with minuet in the background; deus ex – machina of the Sun King (le Roi-Soleil), hangers down; final parade of dancers armed with a violin in tribute to this other Enfant-Roi, Mozart, king of music… Mythological and historical characters enter the dance: Psyche, Madame de Montespan, Madame de Maintenon, Lully, Jupiter. All counterpointed with Hugues’ compositions, Le Bars and texts approved by Bossuet, Saint-Simon, Corneille and Molière. In the aftermath, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne increased with École-atelier Rudra exhibits three dazzling patchwork performances in the gardens of Versailles entitled La Lumière des eaux.
On a vast stage mounted on the Neptune Basin, a reinterpretation of the Great Century festivities deploys its splendours. This “ballet of ballets” combines fragments of the current Messe pour le temps présent, from La Route de la soie, to Adagietto and L’Oiseau de feu applauded by some 25,000 spectators.
It is in London that Maurice Béjart opens his season, a city he had got acquainted with in his youth and with which he has an ambiguous relationship. Spectators praise him while critics still express serious reservations.
This tour is no exception to the rule: re-staging Sept danses grecques and Boléro (with Sylvie Guillem) is immensely popular like the UK premiere of Presbytère…!. But the press sticks to its positions.
Afterwards, they head to Bucharest where the Romanian public experience a double discovery: Queen and Béjart! Then a three-week tour in Brazil, where the company finds a loyal and enthusiastic audience. Whether in Rio, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador de Bahia or Belo Horizonte, the company receives standing ovations. Back to Lausanne, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne presents Seven Greek Dances and The Miraculous Mandarin.
The Choreographer tends to hold the Symphony for One Man only (1955) for his Opus no. 1: he suddenly has the desire to bring it again ton stage. For many viewers, it is a discovery (just as is Pierre Schaeffer’s empirical music).
Another experiment: under the title Elton – Berg, Béjart offers the same choreography, staged by the same dancers on two different music: Alban Berg and Elton John. You really have the impression to see two completely different ballets!
As he has often done in the past, Maurice Béjart wants to reach a wider audience than the one that has the means to afford a ticket. A representation is thus given outdoors, in Mexico, in front of tens of thousands of spectators.
A new project has taken shape, matured by the choreographer for a while now. La Route de la soie, world premiere presented in Lausanne on June 9, allows him to close the loop. This ballet combines fragments of previous choreographies inspired by the East (Turkey, India) and new scenes in the same spirit (Mediterranean, Mongolia, China).
Painted in the colours of the Rainbow – indigo for the Mediterranean, blue for Iran, etc.-, La Route de la soie places Béjart where he feels best: at the crossroads of great civilizations. For Maurice Béjart, holidays means… less work.
In August, returning from a major French tour and Carthage where the company caused a sensation, he is devoted to a new creation. The premiere of his vision of Ukrainian writer Gogol, whose bitter humor he tasted, is programmed in Kiev on September 23: Le Manteau.
The Béjart Ballet takes up its winter quarters at the Châtelet, in Paris for three weeks, performs in Italy and in several French cities before returning to Lausanne where it stages Esquisses pour un château, foreshadowing (without costume and scenery) its great creation to come: L’Enfant-Roi.
The round of tours is revived: Italy, France, Belgium and Russia. After twenty years of absence at the Bolshoi, Maurice Béjart discoveres one of the most famous scenes in the world.
It was to create MutationX, a kind of fable in which the choreographer depicts a group of survivors of a nuclear catastrophe about to leave Earth – or what remains of it – on board the last rocket available. The blossoming of a flower on the ruins of what was, in relation to the current situation, a true Eden, appears as a sign of hope. “MutationX is an optimistic ballet on a subject that is quite the opposite” Béjart comments.
In the aftermath, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne dances Le Presbytère…! in the vast Kremlin Palace where Queen’s music and the evocation of Jorge Donn deeply moves the 6,000 spectators who occupy even the last seat.
In St. Petersburg two theatres welcome the Lausanne company. The Mariinsky, ex-Kirov, powerhouse of inspiration for classic dance (Petipa, Ivanov) seems to be under the effect of an electroshock: MutationX multiplies the nods to musical comedy … As for Viborski theatre, it is more resistant to Freddie Mercury’s vibration…
At the end of a triumphal tour, but far from being easy, Maurice Béjart launches a new challenge: uniting about 30,000 spectators in 11 performances, in a new venue in a Lausanne suburb.
The choreographer plays an easy hand taking up Le Sacre du printemps, L’Oiseau de feu and Boléro – three evergreens that the public demands unceasingly. For the time of two performances, Sylvie Guillem brings the famous scene to glow, while at the latter, the Rudra school students, male and female dancers together, surround a moving Octavio Stanley. The erotique loses what psychology wins.
Bolero, twice in a row, first with the company and with school … Can you imagine a better finale?
Yet far from being satisfied with these values, Maurice Béjart completes this triptych Stravinsky – Ravel creating Dialogue de l’ombre double, with Pierre Boulez’ music in the background, and thus he affirms his on-going artistic taste for adventure. Gil Roman’s and Christine Blanc’s dialogue with gestures, before the mischievous gaze of a lion and its image. Complemented by repetitions of the Sacre this duo is released jointly by the Switzerland Romande Television and the cultural TV channel Arte.
In the aftermath, the entire company flies to Japan where a major tour awaits it: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Takamatsu, Tokuyama, Hiroshima…
After the summer break, Béjart begins his twelfth season in Lausanne on a high note. He has less than a month to achieving the creation commissioned by the Dance Festival of Turin: an unusual Casse-noisette which is in line with the Gaîté parisienne and Arepo. This means that the memories of his childhood are happily thrown into a fantastical fairyland.
For the choreographer, Ivanov’s and Tchaikovsky’s ballet is the opportunity to evoke the memory of his mother, whom he knew so little – he was only 7 when she passed away – and dreamed of so much… The maternal figure also dominates the show through a huge statue of a pregnant woman pivoting on her axis, revealing a cave sheltering a Madonna and child.
Explicit reference to his accordionist godmother, Maurice Béjart calls Yvette Horner, Empress of this “piano on straps”, whose appearance in Valse des flocons de neige, dressed in white tutu by Jean Paul Gaultier, shall forever be remembered…
Also ordered to be created in Turin and filmed by the Italian television, L’heure exquise is devoted to Carla Fracci. The Italian prima ballerina assoluta‘s partner is Micha van Hoecke, a former soloist with the Ballet of the XXth Century, formerly Director of Mudra School in Brussels.
In this piece, spoken and danced, freely inspired from Beckett’s Oh les beaux jours, , the divine Fracci embodies a dancer struggling with her memories – her first ball, her first kiss – her melancholy, her loneliness. “Fracci il tutù come la vita” said the La Stampa critic.
The following month, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne dedicates to the maintenance of that repertoire. It is the Casse-noisette in Lausanne, in December, as well as MutationX and Le Presbytère…! at the Palais des Sports in Paris the following February.
In January 1997, the premiere of the Parisian Ballet Le Presbytère…! is further enhanced by the participation of rock stars live. For the finale, the curtain rises on John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen and Elton John who sings “the Show must go on” accompanied by cheers and ovations of an amazed audience.
The success of the show is such that after a tour in Latin America Le Presbytère…! is the subject of a film by Serpent Films and produced by Queen Productions Ltd. The establishment of a National Centre for Dance is announced by Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French Minister of Culture.
Maurice Béjart is offered the Presidency of the artistic Council of this new establishment planned in Pantin, with working studios, library, media library and exhibition space. At the same time he accepts the artistic direction of the Festival de danse in Turin for the future edition 1998.
In April 1997, the beginning of a major tour in Latin America – Argentina, Brazil, Chile. In Buenos Aires, Jorge Donn’s birthplace, Le Presbytère…! is a great success. At the Luna Park theatre, dancers have the impression of being in a football stadium, a World Cup evening gala…
Three exceptional dancers go to Lausanne, in spring. Struck by their talent, Béjart starts setting up creations. He stages Racine cubique for Sylvie Guillem on Raul Garello’s tangos.
Alternately sensual and hieratic, the star beautifully translated the moods of a woman caught between dream and reality. Not virtuosity, but an outburst of legs launched upwards bewilders even the most jaded spectators.
Maurice Béjart offers Piano Bar to Mikhail Baryshnikov. Without major effects, but not without emotion, the Russian dancer evokes memories of loved women with an understated elegance; memories that revive a few objects that belonged to them, hat, shoes, a rose….
Marie-Claude Pietragalla, principal (étoile) of the Opéra National de Paris, and Gil Roman are the objects of the duo Juan y Teresa. In the style of picaresque Cervantes novels, these two beautiful dancers depicted two visionaries who think they are Saint-Jean de la Croix and Sainte Thérèse d’Avila … A subject Béjart has magnified in La Nuit obscure (1968).
On June 25, 1997, in the Renaissance showcase of the Boboli gardens in Florence, Maurice Béjart and Gianni Versace join forces to create Barocco- Bel Canto, an event that melds a dance show and a fashion show.
In tune with Aris Christofellis and Ewa Mallas-Godlewska whose stratospheric vocals enlighten Baroque Arias, the company artists soar like birds flying above the stage. From Solo to Pas de trois, from Pas de six to Pas de sept or together, these jubilatory dances are only interrupted under the effect of premonitory gunshots. Three weeks later, on July 15, Versace was murdered on the steps of his house in Miami.
On 22 September, opening the New International Dance Festival of Paris, Maurice Béjart pays tribute to his friend Gianni. Before the curtain, he announces that some scenes in Barocco – Bel Canto will be very painful to dance. With gazelle legs barely covered by a pink sequin dress, Naomi Campbell points a gun at Gil Roman, and – as in Florence – shoots him. Premonition or by chance?
Inspired by the 17th Sura of the Qur’an, it traces the journey of Muhammad – from Mecca to Jerusalem – mounted on his magical horse, and his climb to the seventh heaven. On the original music by Kudsi Ergüner, Béjart excels in punctuating these noble visions with striking twists.
Two reprises complete the picture: an idea of Charlie Chaplin, La Crucifixion (1992) with Annie Chaplin, who places the Passion of Christ in a nightclub, and Dibouk (1989), a sort of Roméo and Juliette in the ghetto, which continues to bewitch.
The 10th anniversary of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne is marked, a few weeks later, with the publication of a book by Jean-Pierre Pastori, richly illustrated with many press extracts – Béjart Ballet Lausanne: 10 ans de création.
But no need to dwell on the past! Béjart proposes Not yet entitled, the invocation of femininity by exhibiting style for a dozen of dancers. On the other hand, Gil Roman directs manly and symbolic Reflections on Béla for him and for the four boys who surround him in the twilight of mystery.
By punctuating 3 months of intensive work with two circus specialists from Moscow, the new show of the Rudra Bejart School will emphasize acrobatics. No wonder that, in Le Funambule of Jean Genet, somersaults, wheels, trims, large gaps on the wire, hammered rhythms and replicas thrown to the winds intersect!
Coincidence or assertive desire?
1996 is the year of revivals. At the request of the Opéra National de Paris, the choreographer revives his Neuvième Symphonie based on Beethoven’s work; a grandiose spectacle designed at a time – 1964 – where he committed himself to the Palais des Sports, winter circuses and other arenas, affirming himself as the mediator par excellence of an art still dedicated to happy fews.
The success of this Parisian production corresponds to the extent of the work: 80 dancers including 8 principals, 90 choristers, four vocal soloists and a symphony orchestra. “I do not return to my works” writes Béjart. “I turn them over, as clothing was turned over during the war.”
It is in this spirit that he also sets up Messe pour le temps présent (1967), a kind of dance ceremony to which Buddhist, Bible and Nietzsche texts provide a philosophical commentary. The bet is risky: does a forerunner ballet in May 1968 retain its sense thirty years later?
After reflecting, Béjart said he was convinced. For him, the coldness with which this Messe is received at the Recklinghausen Festival mainly derives from the scene entitled Mein Kampf.
But other projects – new creations – already monopolize his imagination. And denying various rumours behind the scene, Maurice Béjart signs a new three-year contract with the City of Lausanne.
A few days ahead of schedule, in December 1996, the world of dance celebrates the 70th birthday of the choreographer. Le Métropole in Lausanne welcomes his most loyal spectators for the event, as well as an exceptional bunch of artists.
Ruggero Raimondi, Annie Chaplin and Mikhaïl Baryshnikov are in the audience… Sylvie Guillem, Carolyn Carlson and Larrio Ekson, Jean Babilée, Patrick Dupond and Jean-Claude Brialy, amongst others, are applauded on stage.
But December is also the opportunity to preview an exceptional setting: Le Presbytère n’a rien perdu de son charme, ni le jardin de son éclat, the title arbitrarily borrowed from Gaston Leroux. Beautiful illustration of Béjart’s humanism, this celebration of youth and life however talks, indirectly, about disease and death.
Having enjoyed the exercise, he repeats it in February 1995, but this time for Sabine Kupferberg, Gary Christ and, again, Gérard Lemaître. This is Ich stehe im Regen und warte.
As he had done for A-6-Roc, the choreographer recalls that he is also a performer and returns on stage. As he had done for A-6 Roc, the choreographer recalls that he is also a performer and returns on stage. By the way, more often than he is used to, but he has no choice, Igor et moi being regularly scheduled for the tour. Italy, England, Poland, Greece, Spain, Germany, Belgium, France of course… The first 6 months of 1995 are rich in travels.
But they are especially marked by Maurice Béjart’s invitation to the chair of the much-missed Paul-Louis Weiller under the dome of the Institut de France on March 29, 1995, Béjart is the first dancer to become a full member of the illustrious Academy of Fine Arts.
It is not without emotion, dressed in green uniform, that he talks about his childhood and the Marseille memory of his father Gaston Berger who was a member of the nearby Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. He once more obtains the “assent” of the Midi to thank Caesar of the sword he carved for him; a sword enhanced by the engraved tiny ballet slippers and medals of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the tutelary saint of Marseille.
But another large project already retains his full energy: a choreography for the Berlin Staatsoper Ballet, which he sets up at the same time for his Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Asia caught between tradition and modernity, offers a grid of reference on this À propos de Shéhérazade, for which the choreographer chooses Rimsky-Korsakov’s Symphonic Sequel, the melodies of the homonymous composition of Ravel, as well as Iranian music. These hundred minutes are all Béjart. Bursting with imagination, twists, multiple references to previous productions, his fascination for the Orient of yesterday and today, a rigorous plan where solos, duets and ensembles are perfectly arranged, and a taste for the dissociation of characters, rendering Scheherazade dual, both woman and man.
“Pure happiness, flawless work”… critics praise the show Pourquoi pas Prévert? which the Ecole-atelier Rudra sets up again in the spring of 1995. A colourful programme, rhythmic, spirited, where some strong personalities feel comfortable as they recite poems, sing songs and, of course, interpret the choreography. In autumn, Maurice Béjart returns to his headquarters at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, where he creates the second chapter of his Journal; chapter dedicated to his “lifetime companion”: Richard Wagner.
But while he used the first person before in Igor et moi, here he pairs a musician with a poet: Charles Baudelaire. That is between Charles and Richard that Maurice slips in discreetly. For this new parisean season, the choreographer revives a collaboration which began thirty years ago with Jean Babilée.
In Vita Nova, he offers the eternal young man of 72 years the opportunity to prove that time is an illusion. Two other stars are showcased: Maya Plisetskaya and Patrick Dupond in Kurozuka , a duo especially set up for them and which Béjart created in 1988 for Jorge Donn and the famous kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo.
Factional squabbles are of little interest to Béjart, who asserts himself as a rallying person, complementing his own programme with works signed by his friends Maguy Marin, Mats Ek and Jiri Kylian.
King Lear-Prospero holds, on the other hand, the Shakespearean exegesis. Darting his laser eyes about King Lear and The Tempest, the choreographer emphasizes what unites and distinguishes the two sovereigns. Like the great master of the stage that he is, he makes tragedy a dance of death and magical comedy a circus show.
It is also time for honors: Maurice Béjart, already Grand Officer of the order of the Belgian Crown, is elected in June 1994 to the Académie des Beaux-arts of the Institut de France.
In automn, he heads for Paris where the Théâtre national de Chaillot offers him an annual three-week residency. This is where he unveils the first chapter of his Journal. A journal for two voices since he staged Igor et Moi. Stravinsky – via a record – revives a passage, corrects the Orchestra. And it is Béjart who shows a step, details accounts, stresses an accent… He thus found Jean Vilar’s House, his ‘spiritual father’.
And the theatre where, arriving from Marseille, he started his Parisian debut at age 20… Maurice Béjart is aware however that there is no age to dance. This is why he agreed to set up a ballet for Luciana Savignano and Gérard Lemaître, two members of the senior group of Nederlands Dans Teater. This is La Voce, according to Cocteau’s La Voix humaine.
Sylvie Guillem, whom Béjart revealed at the Opéra de Paris in Mouvement-Rythme-Etude with Eric Vu An, inspires a sumptuous Sissi – L’Impératrice anarchiste where the sovereign appears as a “friend of the people, artists and poets”.
Rejecting the “prêt-à-porter” Béjart, as we know, is devoted to “sur mesure”. It is for Marcia Haydée – his chosen performer in Divine as well as Wien, Wien, nur du allein and Les Chaises – that he imagines Amo Roma, motley fresco where the city of Romulus and Rémus, Fellini and Nino Rota deploys its magnificence.
In form of an anthology of some highlights béjartiens, L’Art du Pas de Deux offers a general view of the Maestro’s work.
After a lot of dramatic ballets where dance is reduced to the bare minimum, this spring 1993 programme reconnects with pure choreography.
Mudra, the multidisciplinary school in Brussels, had not survived the departure of Béjart. In addition to resizing his company, and conscious of this lack of vocational training possibilities, opens the Ecole-atelier Rudra Béjart in Lausanne, where comparable two years’ training is provided.
Culminating the collective work of the first part, a show Autour de Faust, spoken, sung, danced and even juggled, repeatedly gives the urge to exclaim, as Goethe’s character: “Stop, instant, you are so marvellous!”.
Theatre man and choreographer in equal parts, Maurice Béjart then adds a vocalised opus to his work: A-6-Roc, in which one could see a scenic poem, spark of the comedy of the absurd.
M,, the abounding show that Béjart sets up in summer 1993, when invited by the Tokyo Ballet, meanwhile holds an exploded portrait. That of Yukio Mishima, the famous Japanese author and playwright, already visited in Cinq Nô modernes and in Chapman – Mishima – Perón. Thanks to the close relationship of Béjart and the Japanese company as well as the impact of his own tours, in 1986 he is elevated to the Order of the rising Sun. Seven years later, he will win the Imperial Praemium that some people consider the Japanese Nobel Prize in Arts.
The Béjart Festival 1993 with the Tokyo Ballet paves the way for a new Japanese tour of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in the following spring. The multiplicity of interests led him to set up two totally different works in quick succession between 1993 and 1994. The Ballade de la rue Athina seems to be a scenic transposition of a song cycle by Manos Hadjidakis.
The only seventeen dancers of Tod in Wien announce the metamorphosis of Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Tired of large shows designed for giant venues, the choreographer intends to focus on an even more personal work with a resized company – twenty-five dancers, from Summer 1992.
This desire for renewal, however, does not mark any break with the past – Stimmung (1972), Notre Faust (1975) or Héliogabale (1976) did not call for more performers. At the same time the large company disperses, Jorge Donn, its emblematic figure, disappears. Deeply grieving, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne, new formula, proceeded to a cascade of creations. The film lover Béjart celebrates the 7th art.
He adds to this big tip of the hat sent to Charlie Chaplin, to Mr C., a Crucifixion developed from an idea by Charlot. His tribute to Pasolini takes the form of a diptych: Opera where lyric theatre and theatre danced are summoned; and, almost liturgical face-to-face episodes of Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire.
The choreographer dedicates La Nuit, to Jean-Luc Godard, an album of vivid images. But it was his Mandarin merveilleux, with shadows and lights of Fritz Lang’s em>Metropolis and M le maudit, which made history. Disguised as a bait-girl, Koen Onzia appears to him to have got out of an Otto Dix painting.
After this picture book, generated by the circumstances since originally intended to be created in the shadow of the Sphinx, Bejart returns to his first concerns. In La Mort subite, he wonders about his art, like Godard in his films. The themes that run through his work are treated here in the form of variations. All illuminated by the radiant presence of Ute Lemper, La Mort subite is less a ballet itself than a ballet on ballets.
The celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation turn the choreographer’s attention to the father of the “psychology of the depths”, the Swiss Carl-Gustav Jung. La Tour then presents itself as one of these fascinating collages in art of which the choreographer has become a master. Collage which is both musical – Chinese chants are mixed with an alphorn… – and theatrical, with its duplication of characters, its juxtapositions of travels.
Set up around Gil Roman, La Tour, as dark as it may seem at times, is lined with flashes of genius in scenes of childhood, initiation and death. This triple theme is revived in the automn of 1991 in Tod in Wien, ballet created for the bicentennial of Mozart’s death. Embedded in the sumptuous sets and costumes by Dominique Borg, the dance unfolds between night and light.
A biography of the composer? Béjart denies it. A great initiation ceremony, yes; a trip between death and rebirth.
Tirelessly, the choreographer sculpts monumental works of art. In March 1990, it is the work of a life time that takes form at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin: Ring um den Ring, based on Richard Wagner’s ring cycle.
Taking the risk of staging the Anneau des Nibelungen in five hours was challenging. Béjart succeeds. Far from depleting the myth, he enriches many ramifications. His ballet has an internal logic that is admired by the Wagnerians. As to Béjart lovers, they see an outcome, both choreographic – citations referring to previous works and renewed gestures – as philosophically with a poignant highlighting of the time flying by and the inevitable end of all things.
At the Opera of Cairo, two months later, the Egyptian grandeur is celebrated. Like an oriental suite, Pyramide – El Nour narrates the journey of mystic Dhû-I-Nûn through time and space. From the construction of the pharaohs’ tombs in Gizeh to modern Egypt, symbolized by the legendary Oum Kalsoum. Show of a great formal beauty that accentuates Gianni Versace’s resplendent costumes.
In line with its international vocation, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne travels around the world: Israel and Japan, but also Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Brazil, Egypt…
Some 120 performances are guaranteed each year.
And the 41 gala evenings showcasing La danse en révolution, in the spring of 1989, attract nearly 150,000 spectators at the Grand Palais in Paris. Arguably, no other company has as intense activity. Economic necessity – indeed weighty – as much as the desire to respond to the (very strong) demand: Béjart Ballet Lausanne SME with 80 employees!
Disgruntled souls say the choreographer is tired. The vitality as evidenced by these creations as well as the following inflicts them the most scathing denials. Again, Béjart displays an astonishing eclecticism.
The lively and light Souvenir de Leningrad created at the same time as, especially, the very oneiric Patrice Chéreau (devenu danseur) règle la rencontre de Mishima et d’Eva Peron, dressed, too, by Gianni Versace. “I feel more in tune with Hugo than with Mallarmé, in that I need to create extensively. When I’m creating three or four ballets at once, there’s the chance that one of them will be good.”
Piaf, L’Impromptu de Hambourg – for John Neumeier’s company, Bugaku – for the Tokyo Ballet, À force de partir, je suis resté chez moi… the choreographer does not draw back. Mieux, il multiplie les risques. Better, he multiplies the risk. Is a tour planned in Israel? He decides to create Dibouk, fascinating ballet in black, white and grey colours of the cabal and the tragedy according to Chalom An – Ski, in Jerusalem; though without hesitation to stigmatize the Shamir Government’s policy in the occupied territories.
In the autumn of 1988, another perilous adventure: a four-week tour of Japan brings the Béjart Ballet Lausanne and the Tokyo Ballet together on stage, as well as Jorge Donn, Patrick Dupond and Bando Tamasaburo, the famous Kabuki actor. In Kurozuka, Dupond portrays an old bloody witch… while Tamasaburo, hes potential victim, appears dressed in a Fred Astaire tail coat.
End of June 1987 in Brussels, the curtain falls for the last time on the Ballet of the XXth Century. Six weeks later, the vacation end and the Béjart Ballet Lausanne begins its rehearsals.
Change within continuity… “In two months, backbreaking work was accomplished“, explains Maurice Béjart. “We had to set up temporary studios, start the construction of definitive studios, prepare the tours, revivie former ballets, create new ones… all this is also a shock. It shows that life makes a point of shaking us up from time to time.“
Stimulated by this flash move, without even having the time to catch his a breath, Maurice Béjart embarks on a cascade of creations: Souvenir de Leningrad, Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune, …Et valse, Cantique.
In a gym, first, then in the ballroom of the Palais de Beaulieu, the dancers sweat blood and water. This is the price to pay for the success of this first show by the Béjart Ballet Lausanne.