Home News Final curtain falls on the life of ballet genius Bejart

Final curtain falls on the life of ballet genius Bejart

Published on 05/12/2007

Family members, close friends and colleagues said a final farewell to ballet genius Maurice Bejart Monday - appropriately, at a theatre in Lausanne.

Bejart’s final scene was a tightly choreographed piece using music, light and film to define the life of the man credited with shaping 20th Century ballet.

It was held at La Metropole, the Art Deco theatre that Bejart had worked to help restore and where he had staged much of his work.

The Belgian writer and close friend of Bejart, Francois Weyergans, said the choice of the theatre was appropriate.

"His one religion was the theatre," he said which had enabled him to attain something sacred.

During the ceremony, an eclectic collection of objects set round the coffin was slowly illuminated. One by one they were revealed as though shedding light on different aspects of Bejart’s life: a copy of an armchair in which Moliere died on stage, a kitchen stool, a clown’s costume.

Those who gathered illustrated Bejart’s broad significance including politicians and artists.

The French ambassador to Switzerland Jean-Didier Roisin and the speaker of the Belgian Senate Armand De Decker were in attendance.

Sandro Versace, the sister of the late designer Gianni Versace, was present. Bejart was a good friend of her brother and they collaborated on more than ten ballets. Also there was President of the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge.

Bejart had been born in Marseille in France in 1927 but had lived in Lausanne in Switzerland since 1987 when he launched his Bejart Ballet Lausanne.

He had made the city of Lausanne his home and had been granted the honorific title "honorary citizen" 10 years ago. He was formally accepted as a Swiss citizen earlier this year. He died Thursday.

He had been in and out of hospital for several weeks suffering from heart and kidney problems.

The Mayor of Lausanne, Daniel Brelaz had opened the ceremony saying: "The Swiss lose a friend and an ambassador in the world." Then the curtain rose to reveal the coffin.

Weyergans revealed that Bejart was working on his next project during his final days despite his illness, a ballet inspired by the German actress Marlene Dietrich. A film of her performing "I get a kick out of you" was played to the gathering.

The ceremony was the final act for Bejart. His coffin had been on display since Sunday allowing several hundred members of the public to file past and write their messages in the books of condolence.

DPA 2007