8 February 2011
SPOTLIGHT on Jiri Kylian
"I think, that our task as choreographers is to search the extremities of our souls," says Jiří Kylián. Since the early 1970s, the celebrated Czech choreographer, 63, has created 100 works - three-quarters for the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). His creations draw inspiration from many different sources, combine elements from diverse art forms and defy categorisation.
First smitten with the magic of circus, young Kylián started his studies as an acrobat. But, at the age of nine, he began training as a dancer at the Prague National Theatre ballet school. Six years later, in 1962, he was accepted at the Prague Conservatory and, in 1967-68, won a scholarship to London's Royal Ballet School. There he met the influential choreographer John Cranko, who offered him a contract with the Stuttgart Ballet, and encouraged him to pursue his choreographic career.
Kylián left Germany in 1975 to become the artistic co-director of the Nederlands Dans Theater, for which he earlier created several pieces as guest choreographer. In 1978, following the success of his choreography Sinfonietta at the Festival of Two Worlds in Charleston, South Carolina, he became NDT's sole artistic director. Symphony of Psalms (also 1978) was the second significant creation of this time. This work had a decisive influence on any further development of the company, and on its international reputation. In the mid-1980s, Kyliáns work became more abstract, and is best represented by the series of his Black and White choreographies. His encounter with the Australian Aboriginals, which took place at that time, played a decisive role in his understanding of dance, as an important corner stone of our social structure, and an inevitable facet of our artistic horizon.
Kylián marked NDT's 35th anniversary by creating Arcimboldo (1994) for all three companies of NDT. Each one of these companies employs dancers from different age groups and serves a separate purpose as "three dimensions of dance or three dimensions of a dancers life." This unique (and award winning) three-dimensional company structure encompasses all phases of a dancer's career (between the age of 17 and 70). After a lengthy tenure of 24 years, Kylián stepped down as artistic director of NDT in 1999, and became resident choreographer until December 2009.Venerated for his choreographic work for dancers of all age groups, Kylián has received many honours, including the Nijinsky Award in Monaco, and the Legion d'Honneur of France and in 2008 he was distinguished with one of the highest royal honors, the Medal of the Order of the House of Orange given to him by Her Majesty the Queen Beatrix from the Netherlands. In 2006, he co-created a film, CAR-MEN, which was choreographed and filmed in a devastated landscape of a surface coalmine in the Czech Republic.