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Béjart's Lumière: A Sentimental Wallow
in Nostalgia or a Bad Attack of Indigestion?

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 18 November 2001 - Maurice Béjart and the Ballet of Lausanne's latest creation, Lumière, at the Palais des Congres begins with Mr. Béjart giving a reading from the book of Genesis. "In the beginning God created heaven and earth ", he tells the audience, continuing with the fact that it was only on the fourth day that God created the sun, the moon, and the stars. Light, he reminds us, came last, "And God said: Be light made. And light was made". While many might well be wondering if this is indeed a ballet they have come to see, or some sort of indoctrination process, there's a bang and a wallop, and his latest show takes off.

Before it ends with him leading Saint Exupery's Little Prince on stage reciting passages from France's best-selling book of all time, we have a hotch-potch of empty tableaux to the throbbing, emotion-filled voices of Jaques Brel and Barbara, with even Faust getting his word in. Every time the dancing begins, it is interrupted by more pontificating by Mr. Béjart ensuring that even the village idiot understands what's happening and why.

Nevertheless, by moments I almost believed dance might win, particularly when five couples were waltzing on a stage lined with three giant mirrors to Brel's immortal "Ne me quitte pas", but the powerful music and personality of Brel were much too strong for the lightweight and repetitive choreography, always interrupted by the archi-present Mr. Béjart. Not even lovely Christine Blanc nor the admirable Gil Roman, try as they might , could save the evening.

What might have passed at the open-air festival, "Les Nuits de Fourvière"in Lyon for which it was created didn't have a hope at the solidly enclosed Palais des Congress.

The best way to enjoy this programme was to settle comfortably back in your seat, close your eyes, and let yourself be carried away by the music of Barbara and Brel, who, if you were tempted to open your eyes for a peek, also dominated the stage with their giant-sized, blown up portraits.



Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.

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