Fernand Schirren was born in Nice on January 21, 1920. When he was three, his family moved to Brussels. He had boundless admiration for his father, the painter Ferdinand Schirren. By watching him paint, he gradually became aware of what it means to be an artist and what rhythm represents. He left school early and immersed himself in books. Under his mother’s influence, he took music lessons and then discovered the drums. It was a revelation.
In 1961, he was hired by Maurice Béjart as percussionist in “Les Quatre fils Aymon.” It was to be the start of a long collaboration. In 1970, Béjart created Mudra, a multidisciplinary training school for dancers. Schirren taught rhythm for eighteen years, until the school closed and Béjart moved to Lausanne. At Mudra, Schirren played a fundamental role in the training of dancers and choreographers, and was a true master for many creators.
He had a profound influence on generations of dancers and choreographers including Maguy Marin, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Michèle Anne De Mey, José Besprosvany, Pierre Droulers, François Hiffler (Grand Magasin), Diane Broman, Nicole Mossoux, Michèle Noiret and Hervé Robbe, as well as musicians such as Thierry De Mey. Schirren also teaches at the Studio Herman Teirlinck in Antwerp, directed by Alfons Goris, at the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine in Angers, at the F.E.D. (Formation d’Enseignants en Danse) in Louvain-La-Neuve, and at the Lilian Lambert School of Dance and Music in Brussels. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in turn invited him to teach rhythm at her school, P.A.R.T.S. He trained dancers there between 1995 and 1999.
A musician, composer, percussionist and teacher, he also accompanied silent films at the Musée du Cinéma on the piano.
He died in Brussels in August 2001.
Read his book “Le rythme primordial et souverain“, published by Editions Contredanse.