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Maurice Bejart's latest ballet, Zarathustra, triumphs in Lausanne


Report from Paris by Darius KADIVAR



"Zarathusta is the Coronation of my Career!"
Says Choreographer Maurice Béjart


Béjart probably is the most famous choreographer in France. Like most great artists,  Béjart is certainly a man of contradictions. He's been often criticized for his often bold ballet compositions and many experts tend to think that his best ballets are the ones he did in the 50s and 70s, but most admit that he helped ballet become more popular. His companies included many great dancers such as Jorge Donn, Daniel Lommel, Gil Roman; others, such as Paolo Bortoluzzi or Suzanne Farrell. He was also to greatly contribute to the Persian Ballet Repertoire in the late 60's and 70's performing at the famous Roudaki Hall in Tehran created under the supervision of the former Empress of Iran, Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi. One of the highlights of his contributions to Iranian Ballet was the creation of two consecutive ballets during the Persepolis Celebrations of 1971. One based on the Golestan Sa'adi with Iranian musicians Nur Ali Brumand,  Nourredin RAZAVI Sarvestan & Dariush TALA'I  and another with the same musicians called Farah in tribute to the Shahbanou. The latter was once again used for Béjarts 1995 ballet Scherehazad. (See French review of Farah ). Greatly  influenced by his trip to Iran after which he converted to Islam after meeting a Sufi Kurdish musician which he admits had  the greatest artistic and spiritual influence in his career. This probably explains some of Béjarts initial enthusiasm for the Islamic Revolution of 1979 despite his personal sympathies and friendship with the Iranian Royal Family and Empress Farah in particular. The excesses of the Islamic revolution and the shock of September 11th which has bad named Islam certainly shook the spiritual convictions of the famed ballet Maestro. His spiritual and philosophical quest has led him to the creation of a new Ballet which performed its premiere amidst standing ovation and cheers last December in Lausanne Switzerland.


Maurice Béjart presents new ballet Zarathustra is based on
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's work


Entitled Zarathoustra. Le chant de la danse aka Zarathustra. the song of the dance the scarcely two-hour ballet for 50 dancers is based on works of Friedrich Nietzsche's, particularly his book "thus spoke Zarathustra". Béjart called the work the coronation of his occupation of many years with the German philosopher - the premiere public followed this opinion. When the 78 year old Béjart stepped on the stage, he was cheered by a standing ovation of approximately 2400 spectators which lasted several minutes.


In "Zarathustra" , Béjart seems to have united all constant themes of his work with topics such as  love, death and war. His work moves technically between the classical period and avant-garde. With this piece Béjart considers he has achieved his vision of "total theatre", in which language, music, dance and direction join a complete work flow together.


Little if not nothing to do with the teachings of the historical namesake and religious prophet Zoroaster known as Zartosht in Persian, Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" is considered as a controversial yet important philosophical work of the late 19th century. Scholars are divided as to exact interpretation of Nietzsche's work. Some see him as a promoter of the totalitarian ideas of the 20th century, others consider him as a critic of religious thought.


Zarathustra has also been subject to several other music compositions prior to Nietzsche. The French composer Rameau wrote an opera called "Zoroastre" and the free-thinking Mozart used a variant of the name for his character Sarastro in "The Magic Flute;" Sarastro is the priest of the Sun and Light who defeats the Queen of the Night. But it is certainly the German composer Richard Strauss, who inspired by the Nietzsche work, wrote Also Sprach Zarathustra by Strauss the tone-poem of the same name, which became famous in 1968 as the theme for the Stanley Kubrick's film 2001 - 'A Space Odyssey. '



Maurice Béjart Ballet performs at Roudaki Hall Tehran 1971


But Béjarts claims his work is not only a tribute  to Nietzsche's and the dance, but also an hymn at Richard Wagner and Ludwig van Beethoven. Nietzsche's, and Wagner were friends had the German philosopher praised music as the ultimate art form. "I call Wagner the largest benefactor of my life." Say's Béjart. His ballets also contains works of Italian composer Vivaldi as well as Iranian music pieces.



Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi of Iran and Maurice Béjart
at the Shiraz Festival 1976


Interestingly Maurice Béjart concludes his Ballets, not by quoting Nietzsche, but Beethoven in what looks like also a tribute to one of Persia's greatest Poets Sa'adi.  All  50 dancers closed in line up and member on the stage to meet, the hands towards skies stretched with Beethoven's music composition "Ode to Joy" : "all humans become brothers and sisters on this incredible creation of God."



Author's note:


See Official website of Maurice Bejart Ballet


Future Performances of Zarathustra:

FRANCE: Paris on 2nd - 6th  of May 2006 Palais des Sports Tickets  

BELGIUM: Brussels 11th-14th of May Forest National


Also see History of Iranian Ballet during contemporary era by Nima Kiann founder of Ballets Persans in Sweden.




About the Author: Darius KADVIAR is a Freelance Journalist born to a French Mother and Iranian Father.



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