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Maurice Béjart

AKA Maurice Jean Berger

Born: 1-Jan-1927
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: 22-Nov-2007
Location of death: Lausanne, Switzerland [1]
Cause of death: Kidney failure
Remains: Cremated (ashes scattered at sea)

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Gay
Occupation: Choreographer

Nationality: France
Executive summary: Innovative ballet choreographer

Maurice Béjart's best-known choreography included "Songs of a Wayfarer" danced by Rudolf Nureyev in 1971, and "Piano Bar" performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1997. In his latter years he staged works inspired by Mother Teresa, Richard Wagner's Ring cycle, the films of Federico Fellini, and a memorial tribute for his murdered friend Gianni Versace. Born Maurice Berger, he took his stage name from Molière's wife, Armande Béjart. He first became interested in dance in his early teens, when it was recommended as suitable exercise for a boy with a "delicate constitution" by his family's doctor.

He was trained at the Marseille Opéra Ballet before moving to Paris, where he founded the Ballets de l'Étoile in 1953. Moving to Brussels in 1960 he established the Ballet of the Twentieth Century, and in Switzerland he founded Béjart Ballet Lausanne in 1987 and the Rudra Béjart Ballet School in 1992. Famed for large-scale dance spectacles, his company was among the first to use multimedia, and he often sought to create dance of popular culture, working with musique concrète (abstract music) in the 1950s, mystical sounds in the '60s, and everything from arena rock 'n' roll to almost open sexuality in the decades that followed. He once staged Oscar Wilde's "Salome" with a male dancer in a skirt playing the title role. His stylized ballet garnered Béjart scorn from some more traditional-minded critics, but also brought him a large and enthusiastic following and sold-out performances on frequent tours.

[1] University of Lausanne Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Father: Gaston Berger (educator, b. 1896, d. 1960)
Mother: (d. 1934)
Sister: Claudette Berger
Boyfriend: Jorge Donn (Argentine dancer, d. 1992)

    University: Marseille Opera Ballet, Paris, France

    Kyoto Prize 1999
    French Academy 1994
    Order of the Rising Sun 1986
    Erasmus Prize 1974 (with Ninette de Valois)

Official Website:

Author of books:
Mathilde ou Le Temps Perdu (1963, novel)
Béjart by Béjart (1979, memoir)
Le Ballet des Mots (1994)
Dance (2005, with Bruno Réquillart)

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