Jiri Kylian

(21 March 1947)

Worlds Beyond - Jiri Kylian Nasjonalballetten 2008 Falling Angels Foto: Erik Berg
Worlds Beyond - Jiri Kylian
Nasjonalballetten 2008
Falling Angels
Foto: Erik Berg
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Jiří Kylián, born in Prague, is a Czech former dancer and contemporary dance choreographer. He started his dance training when he was nine years old at the ballet school of the Prague National Theatre. From the age of fifteen he studied at the Prague Conservatory.
In 1967 Kylián went to the Royal Ballet School in London with a scholarship of the British Council. Here he came into contact with the most important developments in choreography – ballet as well as contemporary dance. Consequently, John Cranko, a major choreographer of this period and director of the Stuttgart Ballet, offered him a dancer’s contract and encouraged Kylián’s ambition to create his own dance works.
In 1973, following a first choreography for Nederlands Dans Theater, an artistic relationship between Kylián and the well-known Dutch company began which brought about the creation of almost 50 dance productions for this group. From 1975 on, Kylián is responsible for NDT’s artistic policy.
1978 brought a decisive international break-through with Sinfonietta, his choreography to the music of compatriot Leoš Janáček at the U.S. Spoleto Festival in Charleston N.C. After 1978, Charleston established Kylián’s reputation as one of the most ingenious choreographers with dance works such as Symphony of Psalms, Forgotten Land, Overgrown Path, Svadebka, Stamping Ground, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, to name only a few.
Since the mid eighties, Kylián’s artistic view and style have changed considerably towards abstraction and surrealistic images, examples begin with his Black and White Program, with works such as No More Play, Petite Mort, Sarabande, Falling Angels, Sweet Dreams, Whereabouts Unknown, or his dance production reflecting on a Japanese fairy tale entitled Kaguyahime.
Having created a unique and very personal style in the course of the years, Kylián’s choreographies defy academic categorization, blending elements of many sources. There are always new inspirations to be explored, new challenges and boundaries to be overcome. Profoundly based on musical reading, there is something in his work deeply penetrating into the mystery of the human being itself, unveiling hidden traces through his dance.
For 20 years now, Kylián’s artistic vision has blended with the image of Nederlands Dans Theater into a unique symbiosis. Today, the world famous main group (NDT 1) is complemented by a young, experimental company of 17 – 22 year old dancers (NDT 2), and a group of mature dancers/performing artists past the age of 40 (NDT 3), each of which has its own repertoire reflecting the specific qualities of a certain lifetime. Together, they constitute the organization called Nederlands Dans Theater: “Three dimensions of a dancer’s life”, as Jiří Kylián likes to refer to them.
In April 1995, NDT celebrated its 35th anniversary and Kylián’s 20 years of artistic directorship with the big theatrical production Arcimboldo in which NDT-1, NDT-2 and NDT-3 participated. On April 13, Jiří Kylián was honored with the Dutch “Orde van Oranje Nassau” by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for his complete choreographical work and his contribution to Dutch dance.
In 1999, Kylián passed the artistic direction to the new generation. He stays connected to the company as a choreographer . In the years between 1973 and today, he has created 72 ballets for NDT. His entire body of work counts 92 creations. Besides creating for NDT, Kylián has made original works for the Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera, Swedish Television and the Tokyo Ballet.
He has worked with many creative personalities of international stature – composers: Arne Nordheim (Ariadne 1997), Toru Takemitsu (Dream Time 1983) – designers: Walter Nobbe (Sinfonietta 1978), Bill Katz (Symphony of Psalms 1978), John Macfarlane (Forgotten Land 1980), Michael Simon (Stepping Stones 1991), Atsushi Kitagawara (One of a Kind 1998), and Susumu Shingu (Toss of a Dice 2005).
In the Summer of 2006, together with regisseur Boris Paval Comen, Kylián created a film entitled CAR-MEN. It was choreographed “on location” in the surface brown coal mines of the Czech Republic.
In the course of his career, Kylián has received many international awards including Officer of the Orange Order – Netherlands, an Honorary Doctorate from The Juilliard School, three Nijinsky Awards – Monte Carlo (best choreography, company and work), Benoit de la Danse – Moscow and Berlin, Honorary Medal of the President of the Czech Republic, Commander of the Legion d’honneur – France, and many others.
Kylián’s creations are danced by more than 80 companies and schools worldwide.