1999Arts and PhilosophyTheater, Cinema
Maurice Béjart photo

Maurice Béjart

  • France / 1927-2007
  • Choreographer
  • Director, Béjart Ballet Lausanne

A Choreographer Who Has Contributed the Dance to Regain Its Status as Fine Art through His Major Performances such as the ”Sacre du Printemps” and the ”Bolero”

Mr. Béjart, one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, has elevated ballet, a genre of performing arts, to the level of an art form that can express thought. He revived at a stroke the primitive power that dance originally had, but that had long been lost. Because of these achievements, he has profoundly influenced not only the world of dance, but also other art forms, literature, and even philosophy.
*This category then was Category of Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.


Brief Biography

Born in Marseilles, France
Starts lessons in ballet at 14 years old
Makes debut his first choreography at Marseilles
Founds Ballet de l' Etoile in Paris
Choreographs "Symphonie pour un Homme seul" and starts as a choreographer
Creates "Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)" and establishes his reputation as a choreographer of global fame
Founds Ballet du XXe Siecle in Brussels
Stages "The Kabuki", a composition based on "Kanadehon Chusingura" in Tokyo
Moves his base to Laussanne in Switzerland, and founds Bejart Ballet

Selected Awards and Honors

Chevalier Art et des Lettres (France)
Prix Erasme de la Dance
The Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)
Grand Officier de la Couronne (Belgium)
Praemium Imperiale (Japan)
Memmber, Academie des Beaux-Arts

Major Works


”Symphonie pour un Homme Seul (Symphony for a Lonely Man)” (music: Pierre Henri, and other)


”Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)” (music: Stravinsky)


”Bolero” (music: Ravel)


”IXe symphonie (Ninth Symphony)” (music: Beethoven)


”Le Chans du Compagnon Errant (Song of a Wayfarer)” (music: Mahler)

”Nijinski, clown de Dieu” (music: Tchaikovsky)


”The Kabuki” (music: Toshiro Mayuzumi)


”Ring Um Den Ring (The Ring of the Nibelung)” (music: Wagner)


”M” (music: Toshiro Mayuzumi and others)


A Choreographer Who Has Contributed the Dance to Regain Its Status as Fine Art through His Major Performances such as the ”Sacre du Printemps” and the ”Bolero”

Mr. Maurice Béjart has not only elevated ballet, a performing art, to an art form that expresses thought as well, but he has also revived at a stroke the primitive power dance originally possessed. He has thus profoundly influenced the world of dance and, at the same time, other art forms, literature, and even philosophy.

In 1955, Mr. Béjart’s choreography of Symphonie pour un Homme Seul(Symphony for a Lonely Man), a piece steeped in existentialism, convincingly launched his career as a choreographer. He then created a worldwide sensation in 1959 with his Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). Departing considerably from the original tale of a virgin sacrificed to the gods of spring, Mr. Béjart emphasized the power of sex and reproduction through a corps de ballet comprising seemingly naked men and women clad in leotards — truly innovative choreography that shook his audience to the core. At the same time, his choreography revealed the power that was inherent in primitive dance. Mr. Béjart, abandoning symmetry to tap the primeval power of rings and circles, overcame the limitations of the conventional dance stage and dramatically altered the course of mainstream classic ballet throughout the world. In the years since, Mr. Béjart’s Le Sacre du Printemps has continued to exert an immeasurable impact on dance everywhere.

Mr. Béjart subsequently produced IXe Symphonie (Ninth Symphony), Boléro and numerous other works, drawing in his audience by demonstrating the primeval power of dance through a direct appeal to all five senses. One of these masterpieces, Boléro, was famously included in the Claude Lelouche film Les Uns et les Autres, creating a dramatic climactic scene, and Mr. Béjart’s works have undeniably succeeded in bringing dance closer to the general public. He has also helped to develop succeeding generations of artists by establishing the Mudra School, an institution dedicated to the performing arts, a great many of whose graduates are active today as dancers and choreographers.

Mr. Béjart made the dance performance an occasion for contemplation and the stage a space for thought. Deep in the heart of his approach is love, and his objective is to link people together across racial and ethnic barriers. A motivating force behind the surging new spirit which seeks through dance to think more deeply and feel more strongly about the human condition, Mr. Béjart is leading dance into the 21st century. For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to bestow upon Mr. Béjart the 1999 Kyoto Prize in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.


Abstract of the Lecture

Dance and Civilization

To dance is above all to communicate, to unite, to join together, and to touch others on a fundamental level of existence. Dance is union; union of one human being with another, one person with the cosmos, one human being with God. The spoken language remains within the dominance of delusion. Words, although seemingly easy to comprehend, can hide images that deceive and lead us into a never ending labyrinth of Babel-like semantics. Extended conversation more often leads to argument than to concord among people.

To dance is also to speak the language of animals, to communicate with stones, to understand the song of the sea and the message in the wind, to discover with the stars, to approach the heights of existence itself. To dance is to transcend our poor human condition and to join fully Man, at the dawn of any civilization, furiously beat the ground with his bare feet. Rhythm came to life, then sound and space, and trance. In the union with invisible forces, the Dance is born.

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Béjart by Béjart

Nov. 12, 1999 13:20-17:30
Kyoto International Conference Center
Maurice Béjart
Coordinator and Moderator
Masashi Miura, Member of the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee; Critic


Greetings Toyomi Inamori
Managing Director, The Inamori Foundation
Shuji Takashina
Chairman of the Kyoto Prize Committee
Director, National Museum of Western Art
Béjart Talks about Dancers
Introduction of Laureate Masashi Miura
Film: Le Danseur In this documentary, directed by Béjart in 1968, the young Jorge Donn,the supreme exponent of dance who died aged 45 in 1992, is reborn into vital life.
Béjart talks about dancers
Béjart Talks about His Works
Film: Ballet for Life The film of a ballet first staged in 1997, which explains Béjart, ”I choreographed after being stimulated by the artistry of Freddie Mercury and Jorge Donn, is a salute to those artistes who died so young.”
Béjart talks about his works
Questions and Answers