“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 has created more than 100 works – most of them for the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). His creations are inspired by many different sources, combine diverse art forms and defy categorisation.
First smitten with the magic of circus, young Kylián started his studies as an acrobat. At the age of nine, he began to train at Prague National Theatre ballet school. Six years later, in 1962, he was accepted at Prague Conservatory and, in 1967, won a one-year-scholarship for London’s Royal Ballet School. There he met the influential choreographer John Cranko, who not only offered him a contract with Stuttgart Ballet but also encouraged him to embark in a career as a choreographer.
In 1975, Kylián left Germany to become artistic co-director at Nederlands Dans Theater, for which had created several pieces before. After the successful premiere of Sinfonietta (1978) at the “Festival of two worlds” in Charleston, South Carolina, he was given full responsibility for NDT’s artistic direction. Symphony of Psalms (also 1978) was the second significant creation of this time. This work had a decisive influence on the further development of the company and its international reputation. In the mid-1980s, Kylián’s work became more abstract as can be seen in the Black and White choreographies. This was due to an encounter with Australian Aboriginals that shaped 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 the three companies of NDT. The three-dimensional structure of the NDT is unique. Each company employs dancers of a different age, making the NDT one of the most diverse ensembles in the world. Unfortunately, in 2006, NDT III, which was for dancers older than 40, had to be closed due to financial shortages.
In 1999, Kylián resigned from his position as NDT’s artistic director but kept on working as resident choreographer until 2009.
In the course of his career, Kylián received many international honors, including “Officer of the Orange Order”, a doctorate at Juillard School New York, three Nijinsky Awards (Best Choreographer, Best Company, Best Work), the Prix Benoit de la Danse, the Honory Medal of the President of the Czech R Republic, and “Commander of the Legion d’honneur”. In 2008, he was distinguished with one of the highest royal honours, the Medal of the Order of the House of Orange, given to him by Her Majesty the Queen Beatrix from the Netherlands.
In 2009, Kylián created Zugvögel for Bavarian State Ballet. Three years later, in 2012, the ensemble will perform another work of the Czech choreographer: Gods and Dogs which premiered in November 2008 with NDT.