Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why I love Lausanne: Béjart Ballet

A reminder that Lausanne's Belle Epoque magnificence rested on European fortunes from colonies.

     The Béjart Ballet of Lausanne was not on my bucket list. Pure curiosity about the man after whom Lausanne's market pace is name compelled me. Dancer and choregrapher Maurice Béjart was born in Marseille in 1927. He moved the last of his successful companies from Brussels to Lausanne in 1987, and died 10 years ago. 
     I took the funicular, missed a bus connection and descended in a small town in the hills above Lausanne where the Company was giving a last performance before their departure for their tour of Shanghai and Tokyo. The Theatre du Jorat (Jora meaning partially forested area) is an imposing barn-like structure of wooden beams and shingles. The seats, or rather benches, were comfortable, if a bit church like. 
     When the performance began, all awareness of my surroundings slipped away. This was dance as I had never seen it before. It was neither classical ballet, nor modern, in the style of Americans Martha Graham or Paul Taylor or Alvin Ailey. It was, of course, very European. Although Béjart was inspired by dance and music forms from around the world and the company does include a handful of dancers of non-European origin, an awareness of the classical framework transmitted from Russia and France is ever present, even if spoofed a bit. It's avant-garde in a very conservative place, and Lausanne loves it.
     What made it appealing to modern me was that the dancers performed with such palpable joy, expressing common human passions of love, lust, envy and friendship with mind-boggling technique and physicality. I particularly loved the rhythmic and expressive use of hands, something I'd never noticed in great dancing before. 
     The Company will be celebrating what would have been Béjart's 90th Birthday with a sort of multi-media retrospective. I'm looking forward to seeing it on Christmas Eve!

Beaux Art Architecture and
two lovers at Mon Repos, where Voltaire stayed when in Lausanne.

No comments:

Post a Comment