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Symphony of Psalms. Jirí Kylián

CND ARCHIVE REPERTOIRE 90/11. GUEST CHOREOGRAPHERS

Symphony of Psalms scene with Patrick the Bana as dancer
  • Choreography: Jirí Kylián
  • Music: Igor Stravinsky (Symphonie de Psaumes; Á la Gloire de Dieu)
  • Sets: William Katz
  • Costumes: Joop Stokvis
  • Light Design: Joop Caboort
  • Staging: Hans Knil
  • Premiered by the Nederlands Dans Theater at Circustheater, Scheveningen, November 24th 1978. Premièred by Compañía Nacional de Danza at Teatro Real, Madrid, November 5th, 1999.
  • Praise Ye the Lord
  • Praise Him with the sound of trumpets
  • Praise Him with the psaltery and harp
  • Praise Him with the timbrel
  • And the dance
  • But, why?

For Stravinsky’s work was never intended to be danced, it is a strong and important musical statement in which one of the main injunctions, to praise in dance, was not fulfilled. So, this choreography was made to merely complete the original concept of the text –to praise the Lord with dance. But what is it that must be praised with this physical prayer? It is more a lament for an imperfect and disunited world in which the suffering and uncertainly of each individual are in ironic dialogue with Stravinsky’s religious score.

The dance is structured like one constantly moving, restless body. No dancer makes an entrance, nor exits from the stage until the darkening end of their last slow parting. The dance pulls them often into the ground in sadness and failures. But they rise, and their lines re-groupand form again with geometric austerity. Yet, on this stage of life, there is tenderness and hope too, the rigid patterns momentarily broken by individual loves and desires, all so humanly vulnerable and transient. It is to the treasuring of humanity and care that this dance gives praise.

Kylián has devised a choreography which totally respects the rectangular shape of conventional stages. It is his symbolic gesture, accepting the limitations which life too imposes on us. But these borders do not necessarily represent a negative reality. They often stimulate our creativity to find freedom and fantasy within the space we were assigned to. This austere and angular concept of the choreography is echoed in the shapes and patterns of the hanging carpets which form the background of this labyrinthine world. These carpets found in the flea markets of Holland are renewed by their transfiguration as an essential part of a production which is, at heart, a celebration of the human spirit’s survival over the world’s materialism.

Christian Harvey