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Meeting Pierre Henry
Choregraphies by Maurice Béjart
Béjart Ballet Lausanne
Season 2021-22
Duration: 1h
No intermission

For their return to the Opera, Gil Roman and his dancers from the Béjart Ballet Lausanne invite you to a fascinating encounter...

The artistic collaboration and deep friendship between Maurice Béjart and Pierre Henry, who is also known for inventing concrete music with Pierre Schaeffer, have made history. Symphonie pour un Homme seul is the founding work of the Béjartian style, and will be performed by the BBL to complete this new programme.

“What is time in a work on magnetic tape ?” asked Pierre Henry in his diary Journal de Mes Sons (1979). It is a rhythmic quality imposed by rigid durations. What I means is, through live, naturally textured, intersecting sounds, arranged according to our will, we create an artificial tempo. This rhythm, I wouldn’t say that we write it so much as we devise it. We play it. And to play it, we perform emotional gestures, jerky, linear, strong, weak : the very gestures that Béjart invented for dance”. The encounter is a physical one. It speaks to the mind as much as the body as long as it is approached without prejudice, with eyes and ears wide open. What is the link that connects the dancer of today, surrounded by contemporary rhythms, to this music which overturned the cultural landscape and influenced all subsequent artistic trends ?


Based on the dramatic structure conceived by Maurice Béjart for Variations pour une porte et un soupir Premiere Opéra de Lausanne, November 27, 2020

At the opening of the evening, the BBL finds resonance by drawing on the dramatic structure of the ballet Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir, created in Brussels in 1965 to the music of Pierre Henry. Although here, the score is entrusted to the group Citypercussion. The original version is present in the form of echos and integrated sound effects, mixed into the sixteen new compositions. Seven dancers enter the stage. The choreographer is absent. The title of each of sixteen pieces is written on a huge blackboard : Sleep, Gymnastics, Nothing… each title has number that the artists must draw at random and interpret freely in improvisation, as a solo, a duet, or in any combination.


La porte
Première Brooklyn Academy, New-York, 1970

The second part of the programme is also exploratory, but this time it’s an exploration of form. In 1970, for the launch of the Brooklyn Academy season in New York, Maurice Béjart caused a sensation by presenting La Porte, a solo en pointe set for Maïna Gielgud to the music of four of the Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir. Here, Gil Roman poses questions about identity by entrusting the role to another dancer for the first time.


Symphony for a single man
Premiere at the Théâtre de l’Étoile, Paris, July 26, 1955

The evenings ends with a beginning, with Symphonie pour un Homme Seul, performed now, sixteen years since its last performance at the Théâtre Métropole in Lausanne. The piece was created in Paris in front of a sparse audience on the 26th of July 1955, and at that time, it unveiled a choreographer whose unique personality and talent would revolutionise the art of ballet. Born from an impromptu meeting between the choreographer and two Pierres, this is the definitive early work of a young choreographer that displays the breadth of his aspirations. It is the unusual piece that introduces him to the world.

If the chronicle reports that the first one held only the attention of the ushers, of some curious people and of… Serge Lifar, who remained in the capital despite the scorching summer, this meditation on modern solitude presented on a bare stage, the anxious wandering of a man in a city universe teeming with an anonymous and hostile crowd, announces the tipping point (and the torments) of contemporary society. And suggests the imperative need to rise to survive…

Many times danced since its creation, Symphony for a Single Man still fascinates and upsets the audience. “Let the modern dancer, without costume or decor, be without drums or trumpets, wrote Pierre Schaeffer at the time. To the rhythm of his own heart, if he is sincere, his dance will be truer”…

Jean Ellgass

Executive director of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne

Photo © BBL – Marc Ducrest

Pierre Henry
Gil Roman
Maurice Béjart
Maurice Béjart
Gil Roman
Sound samples / Music
Pierre Henry
Thierry Hochstätter
jB Meier
Henri Davila
Dominique Roman