Why Jaquet Droz’s Support Of The Béjart Ballet Is Important In The Larger Scheme Of Things
There are many watch brands that support excellent initiatives in areas spanning charities, cultural events, and the arts. Generally, these are larger brands that may even have foundations behind them with very deep pockets. Rolex is an excellent example of this with its sponsorships of various arts, artists, and artistic endeavors.
Other larger brands like Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and Montblanc support the arts as well with initiatives going to respectively benefit the New York Ballet, Art Basel, young artists, etc., even though they can hardly boast an organization with pockets the depth of Rolex’s Hans Wilsdorf Foundation behind them (see Art Basel 2015: Synchronicity And Resonance Characterize Audemars Piguet Installation With Robin Meier and Audemars Piguet Partners Art Basel Miami And The Locomotive Strandbeests By Theo Jansen).
Now I know that 99 percent of the time support of any event, art, or charity falls under a haloed section of “marketing expenditure” for watch brands, but I sometimes fail to see how much extra attention such niche partnerships bring to a brand and whether the return can really be worth the money spent.
And this is when I start to think that perhaps, just perhaps, somewhere in the backs of the minds of executives in charge there is a place that understands that supporting art and giving to it just for the sake of ensuring that another art form or young artist remains alive to create beauty for the sake of creating beauty is the end game. And that’s a thought that I like to engage in here – particularly when I contemplate the fairly dog-eat-dog world of corporate marketing and market share on retailers’ shelves.
This train of thought began for me as I sat in the audience of the elegant Beaulieu Theater in Lausanne as the guest of Jaquet Droz enjoying the spectacular performance of the Béjart ballet troupe as it performed a quartet of dances called Corps-Circuit including Swan Song, Anima Blues, and the ultra-famous Boléro choreographed by the late Maurice Béjart and danced to perfection by Julien Favreau (the music, of course, is Maurice Ravel’s sensuous Bolero).
Why the Béjart Ballet
Jaquet Droz announced its support of the Béjart Ballet in 2014. At the time, I really felt this was an astonishingly good fit on an artistic level, as this Swiss brand has a distinctive cultivated spirit.
Back in 2014 when the collaboration was announced, I had the chance to ask the Swatch Group’s Marc Hayek – who was at the time CEO of Jaquet Droz as well as Breguet and Blancpain – how the partnership came about (the present Jaquet Droz CEO is Christian Lattmann).
Hayek admitted at the time that he thought it would have been a better fit for Breguet at the beginning, but says he discovered a natural side to this partnership – like that which grew between Blancpain and Italian exotic car manufacturer Lamborghini (see You Are There: Blancpain Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals At Sebring).
Indeed, he surprised himself by making this particular gut decision, only then to find out how much of a good one it was.
“Sitting in the audience, watching the dancers go by one is reminded of the tradition, creative spirit, and sheer novelty of the body in motion,” Hayek said at the time. “It’s not long before the thought process turns to Pierre Jaquet Droz with his moving robots [androids] . . . ”
If you think that either Jaquet Droz or the Béjart ballet is old-fashioned, you would be sadly mistaken. Hayek, a passionate motor sport fan, elaborated this point. “There is a spirit that is much more alive than I have ever experienced before with classical music,” he said. “I saw these young dancers – who are not at all old-fashioned – and I said, ‘Whoa, that’s so Jaquet Droz!’”
And what he meant by this is human nature as he continued to explain: “When you’re young, modern, you don’t watch [something like ballet] because you have this heavy idea of history and tradition and old passion. So, it took time for me to see a side that is just absolutely outstanding, modern, and young yet respectful of the same sort of tradition that I found in Jaquet Droz.”
The Béjart Ballet is based in Lausanne, though the company comprising a fully international troupe primarily tours the world. “That is something that has importance in important markets for us, like Russia, Japan, and China,” Hayek added.
I had the extremely good fortune to be guest of Jaquet Droz at a stunning Béjart Ballet performance in Tokyo in late 2014, where I became a huge fan of the extraordinary troupe (see Béjart Ballet Glissades Its Way Onto The Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute In Tokyo). And here it also became very apparent to me just how revered this troupe is in Japan, which is a culture mindful of art forms at the highest level.
What is the Béjart Ballet?
The artistry of the Béjart Ballet is awe-inspiring, but if you came to a performance looking for traditional tutus and Nutcracker passages, you’d be sorely disappointed.
The Béjart Ballet is to the art of ballet what Jackson Pollack was to painting: it is the modern evolution of traditional dance – much like Jaquet Droz’s own art form, which represents a twist on traditional horology.
This Swiss national treasure was founded in 1987 by the late Maurice Béjart, a famous French dancer, choreographer, and opera director who was posthumously awarded Swiss citizenship after passing away in 2007 at the age of 80.
Béjart is largely credited with forming a vision of twentieth-century ballet that mixes classical ballet technique with spiritual – and, yes, sensual – dance forms originating in traditional Indian, African, Chinese, and Japanese dances. His performances also included the spoken word, sometimes in the form of dialogue and sometimes monologue.
His works were immensely theatrical and conceived to be performed in both grandiose settings (like Versailles, see below) and more intimate settings (like Lausanne’s Beaulieu Theater). The Guardian’s Bill Harpe wrote an amazing obituary on Béjart, which no fan of ballet or this troupe should miss out on reading.
I am very glad that Jaquet Droz continues to support this unique art form, and I hope the two entities remain partners for a long time to come. For their sake and for the sake of art.