Maurice Bejart: ‘People were born to dance. It is part of their nature’

Though he claims that his life story is nothing but a moment in the life of someone else, his work and his personality are interwoven with the history of dance. At the age of 75, Maurice Bejart is one of the most important choreographers and teachers of our time. As the great master enters the new millennium with the wisdom gained from life and dance, his most profound feeling remains that everything changes and that the only thing that matters is the present. More than a quarter of a century after the establishment of the «Ballet of the 20th Century» (in Brussels in 1960), Bejart moved to Lausanne in 1992, where he established the Bejart Ballet Lausanne. What makes his work so unique is the coexistence of so many disciplines: ballet on point; elements of jazz; traditional African rituals and Indian dances; Martha Graham’s technique and the power of expressionist dance. New works, old venue This week, Maurice Bejart returns to Athens and the theater at which he has received numerous standing ovations over the years. On June 6, 7 and 8, the Bejart Ballet Lausanne will perform at the Herod Atticus Theater, presenting two new works by Bejart, which are based on the music of Mikis Theodorakis («Seven Greek Dances») and Manos Hadjidakis («Manos»), as well as a choreography based on flamenco («Juan y Teresa»). On June 6, the performance is dedicated to the Elpida Association of Friends of Children with Cancer, with the proceeds going toward the establishment of the first oncology hospital unit for children in Athens. In the low-key manner which characterizes all great artists, Bejart talked to Kathimerini in a telephone interview from Lausanne. Your work has marked the history of dance in the second half of the 20th century. How do think the company’s future will unfold in the 21st century? All my life I have worked for each day, each month, as they come. I never think about what lies ahead in five, 10 or 20 years. I take care of the daily things. These days, for instance, I’m working on three performances: one for the Ballet Lausanne, one for the dance school and one is a theater production. When I work, I don’t think of the future, I only think of the present. Manos and Mikis The program you are presenting in Athens includes works based on music by Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis. You have already choreographed works by both composers. Why did you choose them again? First of all, they were dear friends of mine, secondly, they are Greek and, thirdly, they are geniuses. I met Manos Hadjidakis many years ago and our friendship was a truly unique experience. On the other hand, my works on Mikis Theodorakis’s music have traveled the world, with tremendous success, from New York to Tokyo. Why do I choreograph their music again? I thought that for my return to Greece – which I’m thrilled about – it would be nice to bring along memories of people I loved dearly, like Manos, a beloved artist who is not with us anymore. Has the way in which you choreograph changed over the years? It has changed, everything changes, our bodies, the food we eat, our lives, the world surrounding us. I am not the same man I was 20 years ago. I like to live in the present, neither in the past nor in the future. Do you feel that classical ballet’s techniques can express the soul of Theodorakis’s works? Classical ballet is like music. When you’re a great composer like Theodorakis or Boulez, you can interpret Mozart, or play Mozart’s music. While techniques change, our body will always have two arms, two legs; a violin will always be a violin and a bouzouki will always be a bouzouki. These things will never change. The key to solving the problem is to grasp the inner path of creation, which goes beyond technique. Theater and dance What do you think of the mix of contemporary dance and dance theater, which is increasingly observed on stage these days? What you refer to as dance theater is what I did about 40 years ago. Back in Paris in 1958 – before moving to Brussels – my first company was the Ballet Theatre de Paris. I was the first one to have dancers speak on stage, to make them act. The idea of mixing theater and dance is nothing new to me, but one of the first ideas I had. In your biography you wrote that you would not live for anything else besides dance, for it to spread, for it to exist and to find its rightful place. Does society need dance today? Dancing is like breathing. When a small child stands on its feet for the very first time, it is dancing. Our education often stops us from dancing, sometimes it is not seen as fit for the occasion, or perhaps the time is not right… Yet people were born to dance. It is part of their nature. The Bejart Ballet Lausanne is at the Herod Atticus Theater, Dionysiou Areopagitou Street (tel 010.323.2771, 010.323.5582) on June 6, 7 and 8. Tickets are on sale at the Athens Festival’s central box office at 39 Panepistimiou, tel 010.322.1459 and at the theater itself, Monday-Friday at 8.30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. – 2.30 p.m.

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