Sunday, November 25, 2007
Dancing into the light
The choreographer Maurice Béjart, who died in Lausanne last Thursday at the age of eighty, was the son of a celebrated philosopher, Gaston Berger [1896-1960], inventor of an early form of futurology [forecasting the future] known in French as prospective. When asked to describe the circumstances in which he became a choreographer, Béjart often referred to his fascination for the musique concrète conceived and composed by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. One of Béjart's most fabulous ballet creations was based upon the haunting rhythm of Boléro by Maurice Ravel [1875-1937], in which a solo dancer—either male or female—moves like a great graceful bird upon a raised red circular platform, surrounded by a small group of companion dancers. An outstanding performance of this work starred the great Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who was a couple of years older than Béjart.
Béjart was inspired by the pioneer Russian dancer and choreographer Serge Lifar [1905-1986], who started his career in the troupe of Serge de Diaghilev. A long time ago, back in Paris, Albert Richard [founder of La Revue musicale, in which I had done some writing] once invited Christine and me to a dinner evening with the aging Lifar, whom he had known for ages. My brief contacts with the exciting universe of contemporary music appear to me, today, as quite ethereal, particularly since many of the individuals I encountered at that time—such as Iannis Xenakis [1922-2001], for example—are no longer alive. But I never imagine any of these artists and intellectuals as having moved into darkness. The earthly existence of Maurice Béjart, above all, was spent dancing into the light. The legendary light of the first day of Genesis.