La Compagnie M de Maurice Béjart

February 1, 2013

La Compagnie M de Maurice Béjart staged Mère Teresa et les enfants du monde with Marcia Haydée as Mother Theresa.
François Paolini, courtesy La Compagnie M de Maurice Béjart

La Compagnie M de Maurice Béjart
Graf Zeppelin House
Friedrichshafen, Germany

November 7, 2002

Reviewed by Horst Koegler

Ballet Béjart Lausanne Artistic Director Maurice Béjart, now 76, has established La Compagnie M. It consists of fifteen youngsters, from all over the world, who have just finished their studies at L�Ecole-Atelier Rudra Béjart in Lausanne, where they debuted on October 18, 2002 with Mère Teresa et les enfants du monde (Mother Teresa and the children of the world), starring Marcia Haydée as Mother Theresa. Their subsequent tour came to Germany, where I caught their seventy-five-minute intermissionless performance, which was feted with standing ovations.

As he has often done, Béjart exploited an Eastern source for his inspiration�this time the writings of Mother Teresa. Anybody afraid that the 64-year-old Haydée (who just starred in an Mlike Callas show in Stuttgart) would turn into an Indian nun, skipping and galloping about the stage, surrounded by a horde of dirty and ragged street children from the banks of the river Ganges, was surprised to find her a dignified, even elegant woman of unmistakable authority, wearing on her shapely robe just a small cross.

Undoubtedly the center of the thirteen scenes were the writings of Mother Teresa�Haydée declaimed short sentences about life and death, God and the Devil, love and friendship, paucity and wealth, tenderness and cruelty, and the eternal longing for a world of peaceful nations. As the Calcutta-based nun, Haydee seemed more like the sister of St. Francis of Assisi (who had been a spoiled, wealthy child who felt called to a life of preaching, penance, and total poverty), than the poor and care-worn sister of an Indian religious order. In fact Haydée danced very little, and made small gestures, which seemed to derive from the vocabulary Béjart had invented years ago for his homage to Isadora Duncan. Shortly before the end of the piece was a solo, to an excerpt from the allegretto of Beethoven�s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, in which Haydée exorcised some of the ghosts of her former existence as prima ballerina of the Stuttgart Ballet by using some of the steps and gestures one remembers from her former dancing days. She held the audience spellbound with these gestures.

She had the same effect on the fifteen youngsters who surrounded her, lithe and lissome girls and boys in white tights (the boys occasionally with bare torsos), mostly barefoot, but with some girls on pointe shoes. The youngsters were obviously well-schooled�sometimes they danced solos, other times they performed as a chorus, heeding Haydée�s commands and breaking into song. They were accompanied by canned traditional Indian music, the Harmonic Choir led by David Hykes, Sufi soul sounds, percussion clatter, and pieces from Bach and Mozart. The simple dances and rituals illustrated the story more effectively than the spoken text. Although the movement didn�t show off the dancers� obvious virtuosity, it did convey a sense that they were children of the world rather than members of warring communities. It was a truly heartwarming spectacle, maybe somewhat simpleminded and naive, but fueled by the unshakable belief in the basic goodness of men, and incredibly beautiful to look at in its youthful ardor.