Fri, Mar 04, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Back to basics with Bejart

The world-renowned dance company brings its esoteric combination of history, music and art to Taipei's National Theater this weekend

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Bejart Ballet Lausanne will make its second appearance in Taipei this weekend, a little more than three years after its debut here.

Established in 1987, the Bejart Ballet Lausanne is the third of its founder Maurice Bejart's companies, after the Ballet de l'Etoile in Paris, founded in 1955, and the Ballet du XXe Siecle (Ballet of the 20th Century), which was founded in 1960 in Brussels.

The 36-strong company -- currently wrapping up a three-week tour of Asia which has taken it to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Daejon, South Korea -- has some new faces and some familiar ones.

The last time it was in town, the company presented Bejart's paean to his former premier danseur and great muse, the Argentinean Jorge Donn and the rock star Freddie Mercury, both of whom died of AIDS at 45.

Le Presbytere N'a Rien Perdu De Son Charme, Ni Le Jardin De Son Eclat or Ballet for Life for short was an interesting piece of theater. It was vintage Bejart, who is renowned for his sexed-up takes on classical ballet, where theatrical spectacle often overshadows the actual choreography -- not too surprising really, given that Bejart is not only a famous choreographer but a well-known director of theater and opera.

Tonight through Sunday afternoon the company is presenting a mixed program that combines one of Bejart's more recent creations with a ballet from the mid-1980s and one of his signature pieces from the 1960s.

The diversity of the program is a reminder of just how long the 78-year-old Bejart has been a force in the dance world, although the decades have transformed the one-time enfant terrible into revered icon.

The program begins with the hour-long Brel and Barbara, Bejart's homage to two French-language singers and songwriters, the Belgian-born Jacques Brel and the French chanteuse known simply as Barbara, a long-time friend of the choreographer. The ballet is a reminder of another recurring motif of Bejart's work -- homages to artists who died relatively young.

Brel and Barbara has its origins in Bejart's 2001 dance Lumiere, created for the Roman theaters of Fourviere in Lyon, France and was inspired, according to the company's press material, by the Bible's Book of Genesis, the Koran, Antoine de Saint Exupery's The Little Prince, the invention of the cinema and the imagined encounter between Johan Sebastian Bach, Brel and Barbara -- in other words, the usual esoteric combination of history, music and art that feeds Bejart's fertile mind.

While many European critics hailed Lumiere as yet another Bejart masterpiece, the choreographer himself was not satisfied with it.

"He took the best suites from the larger piece to create Brel and Barbara," the company's general manager, Emmanuel De Bourgknecht, said at a press conference at Taipei's National Theater on Tuesday.

"He left the bad pieces out and kept only the best," De Bourgknecht said, who only smiled when asked if that meant that Bach was bad.

The featured soloists are principal dancer Elisabet Ros, who dances the role of Barbara and Thierry Deballe as Brel, De Bourgknecht said, although there are times that Ros dances to Brel's music and Deballe dances to Barbara's.

The second ballet on the program is The Seven Greek Dances, created in 1986 and set to music by Mikis Theodorakis. Among the featured soloists are Victor Jimenez and Ruth Miro in the first cast and Igor Piovano and Baptiste Bahon in the second cast.

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