Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Maurice Bejart dies at 80


The French choreographer Maurice Bejart has died aged 80, after a career of pushing the limits of contemporary dance for over half a century, while making ballet accessible to the widest possible audience.

Bejart's company in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he worked for 20 years, said the choreographer had died, without giving any further details on the circumstances.

Bejart was hospitalized in the city last week to undergo cardiac and kidney treatment.

Bejart rose to prominence in the mid-1950s, declaring that classical ballet was "cut off from the masses" and promoting both contemporary music and strongly individual performances by his dancers.

He was born Maurice Berger in 1927 in the French Mediterranean city of Marseille; his father was the prominent philosopher Gaston Berger.

The young man discovered dance at age 14 when it was recommended by his doctor for a delicate constitution.

The choreographer's highly physical style, and the autonomy he gave his dancers, were not to the taste of many French critics, and 1959 saw him move to Brussels and its Royal Mint Theatre, more commonly known as La Monnaie.

For all his success and international acclaim, Bejart never forgot the frosty reception and lack of support he first received in his native France.

"I never received a cent from the French government," he said.

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