Former Laureates

Maurice Béjart

Maurice Béjart


The 1974 Erasmus Prize was shared by two artists: the British dancer and artistic director Dame Ninette de Valois and the French dancer and choreographer Maurice Béjart.

Maurice Béjart was awarded the Erasmus Prize for his creations in the field of modern dance. Born in 1927 he made his début as a dancer in his native city of Marseilles. In 1945 he settled in Paris where he worked for Roland Petit’s Ballet des Champs Elysées. In 1954 he founded Les Ballets de l’Etoile, since 1957 known as the Ballet Théatre de Paris. As of 1961 he led his Ballet of the 20th Century in Brussels, where he also founded his own ballet school Mudra in 1970 (closed in 1988). In 1977 he founded Mudra Dakar. In 1987 Béjart moved to Switzerland where he founded the Béjart Ballet Lausanne and the dance school Rudra. Béjart’s frequently symbolic, modern forms are strongly influenced by the free and modern dance-style of Rudolf von Laban, who chiefly emphasized personal movement and expression, and also by modern American ballet. The way in which he expressed the multitude of human emotions in movement and gesture led to a renewed consideration of the art of dance. Some of Béjart’s ballets are written to new music, others to famous classical compositions (varying from Mozart to Boulez and his favourite composer Wagner) and others take the form of what he described as a ‘Spectacle total’. Béjart’s best known ballets include Symphonie pour un homme seul (1955), Le Teck (1957), Le Sacre du Printemps (1960), the Firebird (1970), the Nutcracker (2000) and his last ballet Le tour du monde en 80 minutes (2007). Maurice Béjart died in 2007.

Maurice Béjart devoted half of his Erasmus Prize to his ballet and movement school Mudra in Brussels. This was a centre for higher education and research for theatrical performers. Students received grants for their living expenses (lessons were free). It also became possible to attract specialists to teach courses, and to bring students into contact with other cultures.