Béjart Ballet Lausanne meets Pierre Henry
For their return to the Opera, Gil Roman and his dancers from the Béjart Ballet Lausanne invite you to a fascinating encounter…
This artistic collaboration as well as the sincere and deep friendship between Maurice Béjart and Pierre Henry, the inventor of musique concrète with his partner Pierre Schaeffer, have left their mark on history. Naturally, the foundational work of the Béjart style, Symphonie pour un homme seul, performed by the BBL at the end of this new program, comes to mind.
“How is time defined for a work recorded on magnetic tape? Pierre Henry asked in his Journal de mes sons (1979). Its rhythmicity is imposed by rigid lengths of time. What I mean by this is that sounds are interrupted by natural and lively textures, edited as we please, by an artificial tempo. I wouldn’t say that we write this rhythm: we think it. We play it. And in order to play it, we use gestures that are emotional, jerky, linear, strong, weak: the very gestures that Béjart invented for dance.”
The encounter is physical, it speaks as much to the mind as it does to the body, provided one approaches it virginly, with eyes and ears wide open. Which connections can link today’s dancer, fuelled by current rhythms, to this music which knocked down codes and influenced artistic currents? For the opening night, BBL seeks its resonance by relying on the dramatic structure of Variations pour une porte et un soupir, a ballet created in Brussels in 1965 to the music of Pierre Henry. The score is performed by the Citypercussion group: the original version is merely echoed in a few sounds and integrated sound effects, mixed into sixteen new compositions played on stage. The plot: seven dancers enter the stage. The choreographer is absent. An established pattern on a huge blackboard, facing the titles of the sixteen pieces to be danced (“Sleep”, “Gymnastics”, “Nothing” …), mentions the number(s) that the artists must draw to perform —as a solo, duo or trio…freely.
The second piece of the evening’s program still remains a search for form. For the launch of the Brooklyn Academy season in New York in 1970, Maurice Béjart caused a sensation when he presented La porte: a pointe solo set for Maïna Gielgud to the music of four of Variations pour une porte et un soupir. In this piece, Gil Roman questions identity by entrusting the role to a male dancer for the first time.
Symphonie pour un homme seul
The program returns to its origins by ending with Symphonie pour un homme seul, sixteen years after its last performance at the Métropole Theatre in Lausanne. This ballet was premiered in Paris before a sparse audience on July 26, 1955, bringing to light a choreographer whose singular personality and talent would revolutionize the art of ballet. This first autobiography of a young choreographer giving free rein to his aspirations is the result of an impromptu meeting between the choreographer and the two Pierre. This original piece reveals his talent to the world.
According to the chronicle, the premiere only caught the attention of the ushers, a few curious people and… Serge Lifar, who stayed in the capital despite the scorching heat of the summer. Anticipating the shift (and torments) of contemporary society, this meditation on modern solitude displays the anxious wandering of a man in an urban environment filled with an anonymous and hostile crowd. It also suggests the urgent need to rise up to survive…
Danced many times since its creation, Symphonie pour un homme seul fascinates and still moves the audience. “Let the modern dancer, without costume or set, be without drum or trumpet, wrote Pierre Schaeffer at the time. To the rhythm of his own heart, if he is sincere, his dance will be truer” …
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