Maurice Bejart

My ballets belong to my dancers and to the public. They can do with them what they will. I’m not an abusive father, or possessive. Anyway, I have no sense of property.

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From Les Ballets de l’Etoile in Paris in 1955 to the creation of the of the Bejart Ballet Lausanne in 1987, the choreographer has marked dance for ever.

Maurice Béjart (French; 1 January 1927 – 22 November 2007) was a French-born dancer, choreographer and Opera director who ran the Bejart Ballet Lausanne in Switzerland.

He developed a popular expressionistic form of modern ballet, talking vast themes. He was awarded Swiss citizenship posthumously.

Maurice-Jean Berger was born in Marseille, France, in 1927, the son of French philosopher Gaston Berger. Fascinated by a recital of Serge Lifar, he decided to devote himself entirely to dance. In South France days, he had studied under Mathilde Kschessinska.

In 1945, he enrolled as a corps de ballet at the Opera de Marseille. From 1946, he had studied under Madam Rousanne Sarkissian, Leo Statts, Madam Lyubov Yergorova and Olga Preobrajenska at “Studio Wacker”, etc. in Paris.

In 1948, he also trained with Janine Charrat, Yvette Chauvivre, and then with Roland Petit, in addition he had studied under Vera Volkova at London.

In 1954, he founded the Ballet de l’Étoile company (dissolved in 1957). In 1960 he founded the Ballet du XXe Siecle in Brussels (dissolved in 1987).

In 1973, with the Ballet du XXe siecle, he premiered “Golestan”, on a poem by Sa’di, based on Iranian traditional music. The ballet was commissioned by the Shiraz-Persepolis Festival of Arts where it was premiered. The first performance of “Improvisation sur Mallarme III” with music by Boulez also took place at that Festival in 1973. “Farah”, also based on Iranian traditional music was the Ballet’s own commission, premiered in Brussels in 1976 and brought to the Shiraz-Persepolis Festival that same year. The 1976 Festival also witnessed the first performance of “Heliogabalus”, based on a poem by Artaud. The Festival’s patron was Farah Pahlavi, the former Empress of Iran, with whom Béjart kept strong ties to the end.

In 1987 he moved to Lausanne in Switzerland, where he founded the Bejart Ballet Lausanne.

Among his works is a thoroughly revised version of The Nutcracker, presumably inspired by his own life story, which he staged in 2000. It still uses Tchaikovsky’s original score, but completely scraps the original plot and characters, instead supplying a new story about a boy’s efforts to re-connect with his mother. We also are given a look into the boy’s strange sexual fantasies. The production design is full of erotic images — some of which are most likely shocking to many, such as wombs and vaginal openings. One of the characters is Marius Petipa who becomes Mephisto. Another character is called Felix the Cat, presumably after the famous cartoon character. The production has been issued on DVD.

For more see Bejart Ballet Lausanne.

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