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During this year of celebration of the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the president of our European Federation, John Forsythe, who always consults with his little book of quotes, fell in love with a flaming and moving pioneer of a United Europe – Pierre Defraigne, who had made an appointment with Beethoven and Béjart. The text that follows celebrated the Ode to Joy and loudly proclaims the need for a re-enchantment for European citizens.
John Forsythe wanted to share his excitement by welcoming Pierre Defraigne’s proposals for an emerging beautiful utopia, he who always stood in between dreams and reality. “We, like Pierre Defraigne, always have to believe in a better future because it is the first step towards both personal and collective progress”, said the President of our Federation.
Forest National, this grey concrete monster washed ashore against a hill, surrounded by buildings in complete anonymity. And nowhere to park. And the spectators are converging from everywhere. It is icy cold and the wind is sour and chilly. The blue police lights are flashing, the military men are wrapped up in their khaki coats and the security guards are carefully scanning the area. And then of course, the colossal and graceless quadrilateral. The sharp-edged stairs and the lack of comfort of the fold-up seats. There are probably thousands of people present, but this is not a crowd. It’s an assembly, gathered around an orange and white-striped catwalk sprinkled with circles, radial and straight lines helping the dancers to find their way and place their every move.
And suddenly the spirit of old Béjart is here, soaring above all these happy and numerous heads.
The orchestra starts the first movement of the 9th Symphony and with it, the first dancers appear, like magicians without artifice: grace, strength and raw beauty of each perfect move they perform.
Music and dance had a rendez-vous at Forest National: Beethoven was meeting Béjart. Dance was reading and writing down the sublime music of the German Master. The genius of the old Europe was being carried by dancers coming from the whole world, in a diverse troupe gathering Tokyo’s Ballet and Lausanne’s dancers. Caucasians, Blacks, Arabs. Intense and unique moment of universality and hope for the audience.
The Ode to joy resounded: the same shock, the same might, the same essential feeling, the same cosmic inspiration as always. An endless climax. An ovation capable of turning this graceless hemicycle into a cathedral for the soul and this crowd into a gathering of believers. The unspeakable mystery of beauty reaching its height.
We had gotten back to the car. The weather was milder and the wind had fallen away. The police cars shining in blue were blocking the streets to protect the crowd confidently and gladly flowing out.
I started grousing: the EU, in its dullness and current anonymity – I thought – had the right to take the ending of the 9th as the European anthem. It just has to deserve it in fact. It is our responsibility.
Executive Director of the Madariaga – College of Europe Centre
Honorary Director General of the European Commission
We will do it!