Still considered one of the top dance companies in the world, Béjart Ballet Lausanne gives its end-of-year spectacular at the Théâtre de Beaulieu from 19 to 23 December. Director Gil Roman introduces innovation with dances by young choreographers alongside Béjart classics. But celebrity does not guarantee funding so he is offering prestige international visibility to potential sponsors. the world.
Béjart passed away in 2007 and fears were expressed that his legacy would not remain. But Gil Roman, one of his star dancers, was entrusted with the responsibility of keeping Béjart’s works alive.
“I don’t however conceive the BBL as a mausoleum since the best way to serve Maurice’s memory, in my opinion, is to introduce novelty. A dance company that does not create cannot progress, nor can the dancers” says Roman.
The five-night programme starting on Saturday presents “What love tells me” one of Béjart’s grand compositions based on Mahler’s Third Symphony and named after the last movement of the symphony.
The programme is completed by two world premieres by choreographers who both started as dancers with Béjart. Joost Vrouenraets, who directs a company in Holland, creates ‘Ex Orbis’ with a cast that includes the stunning Ukranian dancer Kateryna Shalkina and Tony Fabre, who now directs the Spanish national dance company in Madrid presents ‘Ismaël’.
“It’s important to give other choreographers a chance” says Roman, whose own “Aria” met with rapturous applause last year. “By allowing dancers to become more liberated and imaginative in different choreographies, they actually give better performances in Béjarts’s works” the director adds.
There are currently 40 dancers in the company and because they share roles the activity between revivals and creations is always intense. Furthermore, they travel several months a year, giving more than 90 performances on prestigious stages throughout the world, more recently to Japan, Hungary and Belgium. Only 15 percent of their shows are given in Lausanne.
Fabien Ruf, director of the Lausanne culture department recognizes that BBL is “a feather in Lausanne’s cap” that he will continue to support, but he would like to see a higher level of collaboration with local venues.
Although the company receives more than four million francs in subsidies a year, Peter Berger, president of the Fondation Béjart Ballet Lausanne, stresses that unlike other large ballet companies, BBL is not part of a subsidized institution and must therefore rent its venues when it performs.
The Paris Opera Ballet, for instance, is part of the Paris Opera house which means that the decoration and costume departments are shared and that a stage is available at no extra cost.
“The independence of BBL comes at a cost” indicates Berger “which is compounded by the fact that, unlike other countries, Switzerland does not have a federal culture ministry or national airline that, for the sake of state prestige, fund the touring costs when the company goes abroad.”
In addition, unlike Zurich and Geneva that are home to luxury industries, Lausanne does not have many options when it comes to attracting sponsors. “And yet the city owes part of its recognition abroad to Béjart’s company” adds the president.
In appreciation to Béjart’s contribution to Lausanne, the main station of the recently opened M2 metro was named after the choreographer.
On the other hand, recognizes Berger “Lausanne has arguably one of the most abundant and extraordinary cultural offers of any city its size. We are very grateful for their continued support.”
Roman says that he is currently pursuing the idea of working more closely with other local groups. The Rudra Ballet school attached to the BBL already frequently performs on the occasion of various events, including at the Olympic Museum.
“My first duty is towards the public. I want people who come to our shows to feel transformed by what they have seen and experienced” says Roman.
The two first evenings at Beaulieu are full, but places still remain for the later performances.