Home News World pays final respects to dance legend Bejart

World pays final respects to dance legend Bejart

Published on 05/12/2007

Hundreds of people paid their last respects to the legendary choreographer Maurice Bejart in Lausanne, Switzerland Monday ahead of a private ceremony for close friends and colleagues.

His open coffin was on display from Sunday afternoon at La Metropole, the art deco 1930s theatre which he campaigned to have restored in the 1990s and where his works had often been performed.

The man who revolutionized dance choreography died last Thursday. He had been in and out of hospital for several weeks suffering from heart and kidney problems.

Born in Marseille in France in 1927, he had a long association with Switzerland launching his Bejart Ballet Lausanne in 1987 and making the city of Lausanne his home for the last 20 years. He had been granted the honorific title "honorary citizen" in 1997 and was formally accepted as a Swiss citizen just this year.

The Bejart Ballet Lausanne said in a statement the choreographer had always valued his relationship with the public and it was fitting that this "faithful public" should be able to pay homage.

His coffin was placed on a raised platform draped in black as classical music played in the background. A large black and white photograph of the 80-year-old, much of his face hidden by two kittens he was holding, was placed nearby along with other canvases featuring his work.

People of all ages had begun queuing quietly in the street even before the doors opened Sunday. As they filed past the coffin, some placed a rose as a mark of respect and almost all signed the two books of condolences placed at the entrance.

Upon his death, the ballet company had stated: "We have lost the choreographer who revolutionized twentieth century dance," adding it had lost a "great friend" as well as "an artistic visionary and humanist."

A private ceremony was to be held later Monday. Bejart’s ashes were expected to be scattered along the Belgian coast, according to his last wishes.

The documentary B comme Bejart, which shows Bejart creating a new show in 2001 and directed by Marcel Schuepbach is to be screened daily this week at the Capital cinema in Lausanne.

DPA 2007