Béjart Ballet Lausanne

May 26, 2005

Béjart Ballet Lausanne in
Rumi. Photo by BBL–François Paolini

Béjart Ballet Lausanne
Palais des Sports, Paris, France

May 26–June 5, 2005

Reviewed by Carol Pratl


The most moving moment of “The Best of Béjart, a tribute honoring Maurice Béjart, came when the 78-year-old choreographer hobbled onstage, teary-eyed, for the curtain call, with Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” blaring in the background. This two-hour celebration gave audiences a sampling of the prolific, Marseille-born choreographer’s 50 years of achievement in dance.

Béjart’s been called everything from an unrivalled choreographic genius and idealist (based on the missionary themes of some productions), to a narcissistic monster and slave driver. He’s been the mentor and creative inspiration for many a student and a dream breaker for others who couldn’t meet his artistic demands.

The well-balanced program included excerpts from 12 diverse works, starting with Béjart’s powerful Le Sacre du printemps. This piece, better than any, demonstrated his unique style, utilizing complex group formations and blending classical, modern, and contemporary movement. Repeatedly flexed hands with fingers splayed and flexed feet (a Béjart trademark) are like punctuation marks—exclamations, full stops, and suspensions.

Two excerpts from Romeo and Juliet were the only bad dish on the show’s menu. Unconvincing choreography, sets, and costumes (especially if you’ve seen Nureyev’s sumptuous version) made the zestless pas de deux even more unpalatable.

Excerpts from four other works, performed mainly by the men in the company, reflected Béjart’s passion for other lands and cultures. Rumi, with costumes reminiscent of Arabian Nights, was the most exotic, with hypnotic, whirling movement. Entre Deux Guerres (Between Two Wars), with its forceful movement, alluded to the Iraq crisis, and in 7 Greek Dances masculine rivalry fueled stage-devouring leaps, then gave way to brotherhood-inspired folkloric dancing. Two supple dancers in Heliogable (set to traditional music of Chad) mirrored each other in kaleidoscopic formations.

By far, the highlight of the homage was Brel and Barbara. Set to well-known songs by Jacques Brel and Barbara, Gil Roman (the company’s étoile and assistant director) and Elisabet Ros alternated solos, weaving a strange metaphysical relationship between two people who rarely see each other. Roman’s technical virtuosity and theatrical skill have made him one of Europe’s most renowned dancers.

Maurice Béjart continues to teach, choreograph, and tour with his company. The show must—and will—go on as long as he’s around.

For more information: www.bejart.ch