Maurice-Jean Berger (Béjart) was born in Marseille, France on January 1, 1927. The son of the French philosopher Gaston Berger, Bejart is of Senegal, Kurd and Catalan descent. His heritage - a veritable melting pot - as well as his searching and restless nature, likely played a role in forming the diverse body of work Bejart was to produce in his later years.
Maurice started taking ballet classes at the age of 13, following the advice of a doctor who thought that the sickly boy could benefit from the exercise. In just three years, Maurice was performing at Opéra de Marseille.
Bejart studied under a multitude of illustrious teachers including Mathilde Kschessinska, Madam Rousanne (Sarkissian), Léo Staats, Madam Lyubov Yegorova, Vera Volkova and Olga Preobrajenska.
Between 1948 and 1952, he worked with Roland Petit, Inglesby International Ballet, Cullberg Ballet and Royal Swedish Ballet.
Bejart also founded a number of ballet companies - Ballet de l'Étoile (1954-1957) and Ballet du XXe Siècle (1960-1987) - eventually moving to Lausanne, Switzerland and founding Béjart Ballet Lausanne in 1987.
While dancing with the Royal Swedish Ballet, Béjar started venturing into choreography: he re-constructed a pas de deux from “The Nutcracker” for the Royal Swedish Ballet and choreographed an excerpt from Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” for a film.
1955 marked Bejart’s formal debut as a choreographer: he choreographed “Symphonie pour un Homme Seul” to Pierre Henry’ electronic music.
His major breakthrough, however, came in 1959 when, at the request of Maurice Huisman, the director of the Theatre de la Monnaie, Bejart staged Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du printemps”.
Bejart’s illustrious career spans several decades. His most famous work, popular to this day, is “Bolero”.