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Arts & Culture ... ...
    Bejart ballet comes to Beijing
Chen Jie
2005-02-02 06:14

The year 2005's first thrilling news for dance fans in Beijing is Bejart Ballet Lausanne is returning and Maurice Bejart himself will tour with the company. It is the legendary choreographer's first visit to China.

Chinese audiences should not forget Bejart Ballet Lausanne's Beijing debut in November 2001.

Then they performed "Ballet for Life," an intensely moving work which draws inspiration from the lives of Freddie Mercury, member of the famous band Queen and Bejart's former principal dancer, Jorge Donn, both of whom died of AIDS.

Bejart's score is drawn from Queen hits, and opens to "It's A Beautiful Day" with the complete dance troupe appearing, as if in the clouds, behind white sheets.

The ballet conveys a series of emotions - love, fear, hope, humour and loss, amongst many others. Not only are these emotions clearly interpreted but they are easy to relate to.

Bejart's talented dancers will come back to Beijing with two shows at the Exhibition Hall Theatre (Beizhan Theatre) on February 25 and 26.

Bejart brings a mixed programme of four pieces including "Seven Greek Dances," "Adagietto," "Firebird" and Bolero." These are well put-together, marking different aspects of his art and spanning over 40 years of his long choreographic career.

"I know many Chinese people love 'Ballet For Life' after they saw it in 2001 while some hold different opinions. 'Ballet For Life' is one of my works and cannot therefore display all of my approaches to and concepts of ballet," Bejart said.

"My ballets, ahead of anything else, encounters music, love, and people whose creative achievements and past find a radiant embodiment in me.

"This time you can see a programme of diverse styles in my career and some are from the beginning in the 1960s and 70s."

One of Bejart's most popular works, "Bolero" was produced in 1960 for his then Brussels-based Ballet of the 20th Century. It is amazing what you can achieve with three dozen bare-chested men, one accommodating woman and a table.

For Beijing's two shows, Bejart himself will hold an audition to choose 20 dancers from local dance companies and dance schools to join "Bolero."

"Firebird" is a 1970 production that features an allegorical tale of rebellion and revolution, of catharsis and of rebirth.

Bejart's interpretation of Stravinsky's score "Firebird" aims to translate the famous music in a different way, giving a new language of gestures, as well as an insight into the cultural origins of the Russian music.

Indeed, Bejart portrays aspects of the Russian revolution and communism in his choreography, recasting the firebird as a phoenix, who is the male leader of a group of revolutionary partisans.

Adapted from Mahler's Fifth Symphony, "Adagietto" is an extract solo from a longer piece "La Muette" (1983) - a serious, emotional piece, full of anguish at times.

"Seven Greek Dances" (1983) is a charmingly accessible piece to traditional Greek musical themes by Mikis Theodorakis. Ballet based, it echoes and parodies in the nicest sense of traditional dance. A big ensemble, 32 dancers are dressed simply in practice clothes.

Without question, Bejart's company is one of the most talented collection of dancers in the world. Wonderfully gifted and superbly trained, each member of the troupe is a delight to watch.

Three years ago, "Ballet for Life" has convinced Chinese fans that they are very attractive, and what they dance makes them look even more beautiful.

People are likely to show more interest in the 78-year-old choreographer given this is his first visit and that he says he loves Chinese culture.

Born in Marseille in 1927, Bejart danced with the French choreographer Roland Petit and in various companies when he was young.

In 1953 he formed the Ballet of the 20th Century in Paris and the company turned out to be one of the best in the world. In 1960 the troupe moved to Brussels and the curtain came down in late June 1987. Six weeks later, Bejart and his dancers began rehearsals in Lausanne to become the now famous Bejart Ballet Lausanne.

Bejart's productions are notable for their flamboyant theatricality and innovative reworking of traditional music and dance materials, often in an unusual and controversial fashion.

No matter how innovative his ballet, Bejart uses classically-trained ballet dancers while drawing on the choreographic effects of both modern dance and acrobatics.

His company performs in untraditional settings, appearing in front of large crowds in sports arenas or circuses. He often adapts grand theatrical effects in his choreography such as multi-media. Many of his works have emphasized male dancers.

Bejart and the late fashion designer Gianni Versace were good friends. Versace designed costumes for a number of Bejart ballets such as "Ballet for Life."

Bejart is the son of Senegal philosopher Gaston Berger, which explains his interest in ideas and social issues, and his desire to express them through the medium of dance.

Bejart is a master at turning text, pictures and concepts into movement - and adding all the dimensions of sentiment so that meditations on poverty, loneliness, hunger, love, and the silence required for wisdom shine through.

Also influenced by his philosopher father who studied Chinese culture and history, Bejart has revealed that he has great interest in exploring the mysterious land of China.

(China Daily 02/02/2005 page14)


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